What is it about that special someone that creates a legend, while others so celebrated spark, then fizzle, almost as quickly as they appear?
Mark Mori’s Bettie Page Reveals All explores the life, work, and mysterious disappearance of the famed 1950s “Queen of Pinups.” Born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1923, Bettie Page’s early childhood was marked by abject poverty and trauma. Apart from her parents divorce when Page was about ten, and the year she and her sisters spent at an orphanage, Page accused her father of molesting her at an early age. Walter Roy Page was eventually incarcerated for stealing a police cruiser, but never admitted to the sexual abuse—even when confronted by Bettie Page, on his deathbed.
Not one to be victimized by anyone or anything, Page set out to reinvent herself. She put herself through college, cut the front of her ebony hair into the classic, identifying bangs, collaborated with up-and-coming photographer, Bunny Yeager, and produced the most provocative yet innocent portfolio of all times. From there, Page went to work for the controversial mail-order filmmaker, Irving Klaw, and the rest is history.
What makes Mark Mori’s film about Page different than those of others is that it captures a side of her persona previously unrevealed. Mori accomplishes this by the usual fare of archival and contemporary interview-footage, along with a large variety of fetish stills and films, portraying Page as she was. What Mori reveals about Page is an enigma— an anomaly that can be seen within her smile. Bettie Page was an innocent and happy, child/woman—who just happened to be incredibly sexy. Mori then juxtaposes these visuals with Page’s own words, so that she speaks as the aged, unseen narrator of her life. Interestingly, we never hear Page’s younger voice, but that’s okay.
Mori’s quest to discover the woman behind the fantasy is a difficult task and he succeeds and falls short, at the same time. This is by no means a flaw in his movie, but is the most profound honesty that defines Bettie Page, at every juncture, in all her glory.
Page was by her mere existence, a delightfully smiling art form that not only appeals to the senses but to the imaginations of all who dare to look upon her. Bettie Page Reveals All eerily resurrects Page’s spirit to such a degree that it’s as if she never left this earth. Yet somehow, we’re neither threatened nor the least bit judgmental about Page’s provocative work— that may or may not— be construed as pornography.
Instead, we are oddly and happily accepting of the “Queen of Pinups,” just as we are of all the legends that live among us.