December 13, 2008

Show some restraint: The Notorious Bettie Page

[Originally posted two years ago – a re-up in honor of Bettie, who died in Los Angeles on Thursday]

Last night we settled in with some popcorn and the usual assortment of riding crops and corsets to watch the latest biopic to catch my eye: The Notorious Bettie Page (Picturehouse/HBO Films, 2006). The prurient among us may know of Bettie Page as the woman once named the “Pin-Up Queen Of The Universe” in the ’50s. She was a model, actress, pin-up girl, and is most often remembered from her (now a bit comical looking) bondage photo shoots. You may also think of her in that tigress outfit, or winking as she trims the Christmas tree in the nude (and who among us hasn’t would be my question).

In any case, I found it be a pretty interesting look at the bravery of her life and the depth her dreams — as well as her rationalization (if you will) for the pictures she took (“I figure God gave me a talent for taking pictures and making people happy. Shouldn’t I use that talent?“). After watching the film, I was curious to know what became of her (she became quite reclusive and mostly vanished from the public eye). Her Wikipedia page had a link to a current picture of her at 80 looking about 55 and still glowing. Not bad Bettie.

The film was written and directed by two women (Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner, who both worked together also on “The L Word” and “American Psycho”), and in the same way that Bunny Yeager‘s photographs of the real Bettie Page brought out some of her best moments, I think that having this movie envisioned through the eyes of females lent it a certain depth that I liked.

Bettie Page’s openness and vitality were conveyed well through the acting of Gretchen Mol. There were some interesting bonus features as well, which showed the making of the movie and some original footage of Page. Gretchen Mol is a blonde in real life. This made we wonder if there were merkins involved (Pearl Jam fans might have some idea what I am talking about. When I mused that question aloud last night, I was so proud of myself for ever getting to use that word in a sentence. I mean really.)

There was a nice femino-centric (new word) soundtrack to this film, with era-appropriate innocence and swing. Here are four notable tracks that I enjoyed. The smoldering Julie London track was the closer to the film and absolutely perfectly placed.

Life’s Railway To Heaven – Patsy Cline

It’s A Good Day – Peggy Lee

Sopa de Pichon – Machito & His Afro-Cubans
(mood music for the Miami photo shoots with Bunny Yeager behind the lens)

Gone With The Wind – Julie London

And here’s the trailer:

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  • cool post, Heather. Coincidentally, I watched the movie Friday night. Very interesting, but it left me wanting more details about motivation and so on and what she did with her life after turning to Christianity. It seems to me I read somewhere she became fairly reclusive. I’m sure there’s a biography or two. I’m going to have a look-see next time I’m at my local public library.

    aikin — November 5, 2006 @ 4:52 pm

  • wow, i own that merkin ball little ep thingie and i admit i never knew what merkin meant. clicking on your merkin link has absolutely f*cked with my mind. momentarily.


    c — November 5, 2006 @ 7:10 pm

  • just wanted to say thanks for such a great blog, it makes my workday bearable!

    one the links for the page songs wok? im having some trouble downloading

    Anonymous — November 6, 2006 @ 11:11 am

  • Hey anon, glad to make all of our workdays more bearable! I just tried a link from this post and it took a while to load, but it did load. I can try and put up an alternate link later today….

    heather — November 6, 2006 @ 11:18 am

  • so how was the movie? i really want to see it, hope its good!

    Ledbelly — November 6, 2006 @ 2:00 pm

  • hello, i posted earlier …tried again and links worked… thanks so much. :) hope you have a great day

    monica — November 6, 2006 @ 3:27 pm

  • I actually saw this one a month or so ago, and mostly liked it, even though it disappointed me a bit (I wrote up a full review, but I have no idea when I’ll actually post it)…but one thing I can say for sure is that Gretchen Mol was AMAZING in the film. I hope she gets some attention this awards season, she certainly deserves it!

    Chad — November 6, 2006 @ 3:57 pm

  • Funny – after I saw this a couple months ago I had the same thought about merkins. I figured Gretchen was a thoroughly modern girl, so…

    I loved the b&w cinematography, re-creating “the big town” look of so many ’40s films – and the color segments in Florida as well.

    Dan — November 7, 2006 @ 7:55 am

  • I’ll admit I didn’t get the pun in the title until the second time I came to your site today. Very Clever!

    Todd — December 14, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  • Wow, being a PJ fan, I’ll admit I never knew the Merkin word. Thanks for that link! FYI Gretchen Mol can currently be seen as her true blonde self in a leading role in “Life on Mars” (in Hiatus until late January, so still time to catch up online to this excellent new show).

    Merry Christmas, Heather.


    Charles — December 20, 2008 @ 9:49 am

  • Re: merkins. I’m going to say not likely. It’s not like we’re talking about a Christian Bale-in-The Machinist type of transformtion. Plus, like Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder, maybe she doesn’t “drop character until after the dvd commentary” and really committed to her role.

    DY — December 21, 2008 @ 6:53 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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