This week's Reel vs. Real spotlight is on a 2005 biographical film which stars Gretchen Mol as Bettie Page, the American model who garnered fame -- and even notoriety -- in the 1950s for her pin-up photos.
In the world of pin-up modeling and erotic photography, the name Bettie Page never goes missing — something that doesn’t come as a surprise since Miss Page cemented her title as the “Queen of Pinups” way back in the 1950s. The American model’s trademark bangs, jet-black hair, and controversial modeling stint continue to influence generations of artists. The 2005 biographical film The Notorious Bettie Page is just one of biographies and films that seek to tell her story.
The HBO biopic, directed by Mary Harron and starring Gretchen Mol for the title role, first introduces the ambitious, naive, and devout Christian woman from Nashville, Tennessee that was Bettie Page prior to her modeling forays. She flees her hometown for New York City in 1949, leaving behind her bitter memories of sexual abuse in her childhood, a failed wartime marriage, and even a gang rape.
While in New York City, Page enrolls in an acting class with hopes to begin a career as an actress. Then, while taking a walk on the beach at Coney Island, she gets discovered by an amateur photographer named Jerry Tibbs, who asked her to model for him and change her hairstyle with the bangs that she would eventually be identified with.
The film, of course, does not miss on the series of events that later shaped her life and reputation as a pinup star. She meets and quickly becomes a favorite of various photographers — including Bunny Yeager, who propelled her into the mainstream — for having no problems about taking her clothes off for a shoot when asked. Eventually, Page also catches the attention of Paula and Irving Klaw, brother-and-sister sellers of movie stills and memorabilia who also deal with fetish photos, magazines, and films on the side. With it, her claim to fame — and also notoriety — as a sex symbol and bondage model begins.
Mary Harron and producer Pamela Koffler tells in the DVD release bonus feature that they decided to shoot The Notorious Bettie Page mostly in black-and-white because they felt that it could instill a psychological impact on the audience aside from capturing the period’s nostalgic mood. Harron also said that Gretchen Mol was her first choice from Mol’s first audition. “Emotionally she was so right. She has a natural sort of decorum. So many people made the mistake of being very vampy,” the director said. “At that point, I said, ‘Well, you know, it’s more important to get the inner Bettie than the outer Bettie.’”
Watch the trailer for The Notorious Bettie Page below:
All information for this article were sourced from Wikipedia.
A series made for cinephiles, Reel vs. Real highlights some notable biographical films that you may or may not have watched, and puts the biopic actors side by side with their real life counterparts.