Jilara (jilara) wrote,

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Disappointed with Notorious Betty Page

I admit I was hoping for a better film, concerning a woman in a trade I know quite a lot about. After all, my mother was a contemporary of hers, and I heard so many stories from her own life... But for all the great acting, the script and drama were vapid. I really liked Gretchen Mol's portrayal, but everything about this film was so easy, so ...lifeless? It's like someone took a collection of "known facts of Betty Page" (and unknown not-so-facts, I suspect) and strung them together into a photo album.

Lots of "implied" in the early life stuff. But where did it come from? Why are there aspects I can't buy into? Like gang rape. Let's see, this was a death-penalty felony in the South in this time period, so how would we even know about something like this happening, unless it was a sensational trial? And it just sort of is there, and disappears, leaving no marks. And what about Betty's 1940's modeling career, when she was a blond? What about Tease-a-Rama? What about... Oh never mind, this is all fluff. Even when it's trying to be heavy, it's fluff.

My mom was "the top model in Southern California" at one time. And an actress and dancer. Every now and then, I run into one of her pin-ups, and even think I saw one in a quick newstand shot in this movie. I've heard her stories. And Rita's. Rita was her best friend, the ex-stripper. (Did I mention that Jayne Mansfield was another of her friends?) No matter how you slice it, there was just something a little sordid in it all. But that's okay, I relate to that kind of sordid. It's just that Rita embraced it, and defied it, while my mother fretted over it. (I preferred Rita's attitude, thanks.) But it's not for nothing that so much of my mom's background has found its way into books like "Flesh and Fantasy, including her photo as an "unknown actress." It was a strange life. It was fun, it was frenetic, it was a bit scary, and walking a narrow limb, very far out. I've heard my mother justify nude modeling as "it's all very professional, not purient..." (Justifying is my assessment of what she was trying to say, not my own judgement, BTW.) I even see something of my mother getting older and getting religion (about the time she realized she wasn't going to get any farther, because she hadn't slept with the right people) and Rita dragging her out of "hiding out feeling sorry for yourself" being a telephone operator, and getting her jobs again. And being haunted and obsessed with age... And later on, talking about writing an expose' (funny, that word), anonymously, but never doing it. I guess I'd hoped for a little of that in "The Notorious Betty Page," rather than cardboard pinups. But then, Betty Page hasn't been inclined to talk about her life...

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