Two Bettie Pages emerge from Mark Mori’s sensationalized profile: First and immortally, there’s the squirmy ’50s pinup, a libertine who brought a mile-wide wink to scenes of bondage. (She’s well represented, in footage that’s still wowsome.) Then we hear the older Page, recorded on tape before her 2008 death, casting back on her days in the limelight and beyond, when she disappeared into career exile, bad marriages and even institutionalization for mental problems.
Both ladies deserve better. It requires a facile grasp of sociocultural history to suggest that Page’s niche eroticism kicked off the sexual revolution—even if it’s Hugh Hefner saying it. Her hasty departure from the industry (coupled with an FBI investigation and a conversion to evangelical Christianity) deserves franker scrutiny, from thinkers deeper than Shalom Harlow. And Mori’s interview with the older Page (a coup) is frustrating, not just for revealing less than “all,” but for his inability to push a paradoxically modest person beyond skin-deep significance.
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