Bright Lights Film Journal

Everybody’s Dream Girl – Bettie Page (1923-2008)

Is there an art to being photographed? I believe there is, and when I say that, I am thinking of four artists in particular, all of whom reached their peaks in the 1950s – Elvis, Marilyn, James Dean, and the late Bettie Page. All of them had a special gift for communicating directly to the viewer through the camera’s lens. The images they created will outlast all of us.

As Queens of the Still Photograph, Bettie and Marilyn had no rivals. Bettie was unique in that we know her almost exclusively through her pinup photographs – and a handful of mostly silent softcore “stag” films shot by Irving and Paula Klaw. She could look cute and cuddly – or dominant and mean – but whatever persona she adopted, the essential adorable Bettie always shined through.

I never met her, but I’ve talked with people who knew her fairly well (including one of her lawyers), and she was apparently just as sweet and charming in real life as she appears in her photos, with a delightful Southern drawl that most of us never heard. Following her ’50s heyday, she went through a dark period, but the most important thing is that she got through it, and that she lived to enjoy her cult fame. In her photos she could be all things to all people, yet paradoxically she was always irreducibly herself.

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ADDENDUM 12/17 – Televangelist Robert Schuler delivered the eulogy at yesterday’s memorial service held at the Westwood Village Memorial Park. Hugh Hefner attended. So did painter Olivia de Berardinis and Bettie’s Teaserama co-star, Tempest Storm. After the service, Page’s casket was taken from the chapel to a “shady grave site,” just a few yards from the crypt of Marilyn Monroe.

Via the L.A Times.