being promiscuous about it. After all, when God
created Adam and Eve, they were stark naked. And in
the Garden of Eden, God was probably naked as a
former pinup model
and Reverend Billy Graham Christian Crusader
It is a strange thing to say that a movie
about a fetish super model from 50 years ago is
actually an ode to innocence. However “The Notorious
Bettie Page' is a film that does just that. In this
day and age of the high tech internet, is there any
celebrity that you can not see a naked at anytime with
a Google search? It used to be big press for a
actress to go nude on the big screen, but now it is so
common place that one longs for the days of mystery of
a Bettie Page.
“The Notorious Bettie Page” opens when a seedy looking
man goes into a bookstore and, using certain code
words, requests a Bettie Page bondage magazine, circa
1950s. When the proprietor provides the merchandise,
the man in the suit reveals that he is a government
agent and arrest the bookstore owner on obscenity
charges. The poster child for this depravity is part
time model and office secretary, Bettie Page (Gretchen Mol).
A high school salutatorian from broken home in
Tennessee, Bettie Page marries her high school
sweetheart and lives her life in repression. She moves
out of this abusive environment becomes a secretary in
New York. To supplement her income, Bettie poses as a model.
Betty eventually poses for fetish photographer Irving
Klaw (Chris Bauer), his sister Paula (Lili Taylor) and
Miami fashion photographer Bunny Yeager (Sarah
Paulsen). Given the underground nature of this type of
boudoir photography, Betty has no idea that her
photographs are being investigated Senator Kefauver (David Strathairn).
“The Notorious Bettie Page” moves at a brisk pace and
features the light hearted recreation of many of
Bettie Page's famous pajama party scenes in high heels,
whips, chains with and corsets. Yet one key scene
of innocence stands out, while Betty is tied up in
bondage gear, she hears a man say a naughty word.
Quite forgetting her kinky predicament, Bettie
admonishes him for using profanity in her presence.
This one key scene best explains the conflicting
legend of Bettie Page, a mixture of over the top
sexuality with genuine innocence.
Director Marty Harron retains a jaunty bazooka bubble
gum tone throughout the movie. With Bettie being from
the World War II Generation, the background music
supports the narrative. The soundtrack will be a
stroll down memory lane for many people with tunes
provided by Eddy Arnold, Artie Shaw and Fats Waller.
There is one musical choice that was written into the
script, Patsy Cline's rendition of ”Life is like a
Mountain Railroad,” which symbolizes the life of Betty
It has been said that one can always believe an
actor's performance - until they take their clothes
off. Then the viewer is distracted by the nakedness of
the actor, not the character. As Bettie Page, Gretchen Mol
transcends this voyeuristic theory with a believable
and truthful performance. Best known for costarring
with Sean Penn in Woody Allen's “Sweet and Lowdown,”
Mol masters a believable southern accent of a fawn
caught in the headlights of controversy. Mol receives
solid ensemble support from Austin Pendleton, Lili
Taylor and David Strahairn.
With serious discussions about religion, sex and
politics, “The Notorious Bettie Page” maintains a
positive moral tone, much in the manner of the Oscar
nominated “Mrs. Henderson presents...““The Notorious
Bettie Page” celebrates the mystery of innocence.