April 14th, 2006

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

GOOD FRIDAY - My notorious interview with the Director of "The Notorious Betty Page"

“The Notorious Betty Page” opens in most urban markets
this Good Friday. While one could make an Easter
comparison between a Playboy Bunny and the Easter
Bunny, the core of Betty Page, the individual,
is her Christian beliefs. Director Mary Harron tackles these
conflicting morals in her new movie,
“The Notorious Betty Page;

“Religious people may feel it is too nice…the fetish
people might not think it is rough enough. Cast as a religious
minister, John Cullum commented on these different points of view.
The fetish people might think the movie is really easy on the religious
culture. Yet, this is the southern culture, they
skinny dip and were more acceptable of Betty Page.“

A Betty Page biopic has been in the works since the
early 1990s. Mary Harron and her screenwriting
partner Guinevere Turner had drafted a script before
collaborating on “American Psycho” in 1999. Like the
preproduction history of “American Psycho,” “The
Notorious Betty Page” had a turbulent pre production
history in which Mary Harron's name was removed from
the project.

Now Mary Harron is in the process of forming her own signature trilogy.
Like John Ford and Steven Spielberg, every great film
director has a trilogy. With films about Andy Warhol
and Betty Page, she desires to bring another cultural
icon from the past;

“Punk rock movie soon. New York punk in seventies and Lili
Taylor has a role.“

Besides having Lili Taylor in “American Psycho” and “I
shot Andy Warhol,” Taylor portrays Paula Klaw, one half
of the Klaw photography team that produced Betty Page's
most notorious photos. The recreation of the Betty
bondage photo shoots appear to be fun and spontaneous.
Harron comments on that,

“We were laughing all the time. We had these old
Irving Klaw movies and recreated them on the set,
everyone was engaged and reproduce the spirit of the
fun. Like a pajama party, acting fierce and over
acting the atmosphere of the shoot was upbeat.“

Sadly, neither Mary Harron, Guinevere Turner nor Gretchen Mol
(who portrays Betty Page) did get to meet or talk
to the iconic model. Harron injects,

“Betty’s lawyer persuaded her to sign rights to
another project. But we talked to Mrs. Klaw, her
photographer, the actors, her brother and her first
husband. The fetish fans mentioned the code words that
one needed to obtain Betty Page material, “cigar” was a
secret code word for “movie.”
The film is about the 50’s and her heyday... sex then
in American...art of that time...feeling apart from the
community or as as an outsider. It was a time of
innocence, but there were secrets in the closet,
a hidden history.“

Betty Page has been a coveted role for many years.
Mary Harron described how Gretchen Mol earned the
title role;

“She gave a precious audition, very natural, less
vampy and very approachable. She is very sweet,
subtle openness and was natural. She spent most of
her time in underwear...so natural and very spriteful.

Mary Harron also had some kind words for co star David

“ Strathairn is a wonderful man. Actually “Betty Page”
was produced before “Good Night and Good Luck.” Post
production was hard and LONNNNNNNG to complete. Strathairn
does the complex characters well. Though a Democrat,
Kefaufer had the prejudices of his era, a man from
Tennessee in a coonskin cap.“

Betty Page is from the World War II generation and the
background music really supports the narrative, with Big Band,
Doo Wop and BeBop Jazz. The soundtrack is a stroll down
memory lane for many people. There were certain musical
choices that Mary Harron knew she must have,

“A Pasty Cline Song was written into the script,
”Life is like a Mountain Railroad.”

The film was shot in glorious black & white, recalling
“Ed Wood.” Yet the Miami scenes were
filmed in the wonderful world of color. Mary Harron
considered her artistic choice;

“Both aspects of the cinematography were inspired by
photos. Bunny Yeager’s Miami photos were in color.
Miami was presented like a paradise. With her
all over tan and walking on the beach naked, Betty
presented happiness.“

Not all was honey and spice for real Betty Page.
Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner decided to focus on
the Betty Page heyday;

"We did not have to tone that portion of her life down,
a lot happened in between, lots of disappointment,
instability, that we did not see afterward. She
remarried the first husband, she felt disgraced by the
Senate photos. Betty is a complicated person, a
product of her time, a woman of the 50s."

The reviews have been favorable for “The Notorious
Betty Page.” The film previewed at the Miami Film
Festival with Bunny Yeager in attendance. Scuttlebutt
says the Ms. Yeager enjoyed the movie. Apparently
Betty Page enjoyed the movie, except for having the word,
“Notorious,” in the title.

It is too bad the film has
not achieved a national release for this Easter
weekend. The film feature discussions about religion,
sex and politics without providing offense. “The Notorious Betty Page”
maintains both a positive moral tone with positive entertainment values.