Bettie Page Reveals All—and then some

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Featuring Bettie Page. 19+ only.

In Bettie Page Reveals All, you learn a lot about the timeless pinup queen with the Louise Brooks bangs, wasp waist, and sunny disposition. This is despite fanboy Mark Mori’s rather hapless filmmaking, which throws everything in a blender and hits buttons at random.

Mori’s main advantage, with circumstances never explained, is Page’s own good-natured, softly drawling narration, via recordings made shortly before her death, in 2008. The Nashville-born model (Bettie Page was her real name) recounts childhood molestation, run-ins with the law, and her frank enjoyment of being admired, all with the same whimsical, what-the-hell attitude.

She doesn’t demand deeper meaning, nor does the director, who relies on the usual duck-and-cover stock footage to convey the repressed tone of the 1950s, and on her many followers to sell mythologies already apparent from simply looking at her public record. These images, as everyone notes, radiate healthy, uncomplicated sexuality. “She smiled with her whole body,” as someone puts it. (It’s true even in her famous bondage pics, made at the behest of the wonderfully named Irving Klaw, later destroyed in the anti-Communist witch hunt.)

In the overlong film’s first 10 minutes, you start to wonder if Mori got access to the good stuff. But when it arrives—in much-copied stills and less-seen 16mm movies—it’s by the truckload. He subverts the material with bad editing and worse soundtrack music. But Page has enough integrity to survive the raw treatment.

The film touches on her later, born-again existence and serious mental-health problems, but rarely talks about money. It happens that she made all her own bikinis, which one company copied and sold under her name, without request or reward. “I didn’t do anything about it,” she recalls with a chuckle. Good to know that Hugh Hefner, who appears on camera (which she does not), helped with Page’s latter-day business affairs, affording her more dough in her final years than she ever saw in her prime. In that sense, it’s a movie with a happy ending.

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