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Portrait of an American innocent. In 1955, Bettie Page (1923-2008 ) waits to testify before a Senate subcommittee investigating the effects of pornographic material on American adolescents and juveniles. In flashbacks, we see her childhood in Tennessee, a brief marriage, a gang rape, and her going to New York City in 1949. There she takes acting lessons, models for photos, and acts in short films for adults, earning the nickname, "The Pin-Up Queen of the Universe." We see her relationship with merchants Irving and Paula Klaw, photographers John Willie and Bunny Yeager, boyfriends, and the public. Through it all, she is wholesome, sporting, and forthright - Eve before the fall. Written by
Hugh M. Hefner, a good friend of Bettie's, held a private screening of this movie for Bettie Page and a small group of friends. Bettie reportedly liked the movie and remarked that 'Gretchen Moll' was much prettier than she was. Her only complaint was the films title, saying "I was NEVER notorious!" See more »
In an early scene, a parked 1947 De Soto sedan is seen wearing modern narrow-whitewall tires which were not available until the early 1960s. See more »
[Bettie reacts angrily when John sings a ribald song during a bondage photo shoot]
What's the matter, Bettie?
[John pulls the gag from Bettie's mouth]
It's your language, Mr. Willie.
Oh, it's just an old army ditty to help keep our spirits up while fighting the beastly Hun. Do you approve?
I believe in Jesus.
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craft service - Grover Cleveland, craft service assistant - Benjamin Harrison See more »
One of the great pioneers of Pre-XXX exploitation cinema, David Friedman, has often said that one of the main keys to his success (particularly in regards to his sexploitation films) was that he always teased the audience. Show them just enough to lure them in (and give them some of what they want), but not enough so that were satisfied and didn't have to come back (but leave them asking for more).
Certainly, Bettie Page and the Klaws knew how to tease their audience when they did their photo and film shoots. Unfortunately, the same could be said for this film and it disappoints for that reason. Harron's film is all surface and tease (and well done in that regard), but we never learn that much of the person behind the bondage.
For a low budget film Harron is quite deft in combining stock footage, set decoration-wardrobe and film stock manipulation to bring the era to life. The recreations of Bettie Page's career are handled with care and attention to detail. Were the same only able to be said about the screenplay which is banal and...ahem...only skin deep.
Judging the acting is more problematic in that Harron has chosen to go along with what seems to be the prevailing technique current filmmakers have when portraying characters of the 1950's - They seem to smile, grin and leer in a bizarre ritualistic way as if they were the members of a cult who can communicate with one another through their teeth and eyes! Mol does her best within this construct, even if she's too thin to realistically depict the voluptuous Page as she was (fortunately, Harron was wise enough to find a suitable actress without anachronistic implants).
It's not quite correct as many have contended that the film doesn't tell a linear narrative story (many have argued that it's just a slice of her life, nothing more). There IS an arc to the story. What's crucially missing are the thoughts and feelings of Bettie herself. Surely, a girl with such a strict religious background (which she returned to), would have believed something more strongly about the sexual nature of her work than "Adam and Eve were naked". When the film gets more serious towards the end, both it and Mol's performance are harmed because the audience has gotten used to the winks and the smiles, and haven't been given reason to think any more deeply than that.
In the end, it's like that glossy magazine you see on the newsstand, all bright, shiny and alluring, but you suspect that inside it will be a teasing disappointment.
P.S. Just a note on the Black & White photography. Pity that better care wasn't given to the film stocks used for the release prints. They seem to have blue tint to them, so you don't get the full dark blacks and bright whites of true B&W film stock. Hopefully, this will be corrected on DVD.
Also, because Page is such an icon, there's an odd sense that you don't WANT to know the details behind the image (even when they are so superficial as here). Of course, recent biographies and a recent L.A. Times interview with Page herself have sort of let the cat out of the bag prior to this film.
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