“Lies, lies . . . L. I. E. S.” is what Bettie Page reportedly said out loud when she attended a screening of an unauthorized 2005 Hollywood bio-film. Upon its release, the film also suffered from negative reviews, leaving one reviewer to mention in their review (and we’re paraphrasing here) that the only worthwhile thing was seeing the lead actress getting naked. For the truth about the Bettie Page in her own Southern twanged voice, Bettie Page Reveals All is the definitive documentary on the only pin up queen in history that can rightfully be called an icon. And yes boys, you do see plenty of shots of the real Bettie Page naked.
Bettie Page Reveals All is really an adoring homage to the 50’s pin up queen by director Mark Mori, who conducted two extensive interviews with Bettie in the 90’s, which is used as narration throughout the documentary. The film also includes well-known footage to rarely seen photos of Bettie, plus her bondage loops and nude photographs are on full display. Nothing is left off the table and Bettie even nonchalantly discusses her nude photos and bondage shoots as nothing more than just a job, one which she enjoyed and has no regrets about doing.
Bettie Page Reveals All, which was screened at this year’s Cinekink Film Festival, is scheduled for release this spring and while the documentary will surely bring out Bettie’s most ardent admirers, the film clearly is meant to bring in a whole new audience to the ever-growing Bettie Page fan club. Mark Mori accomplishes this with this slick, well-edited, and entertaining documentary, which was over 10 years in the making.
In an era when women were meant to be seen not heard, hearing Bettie’s voice narrating the film is partly, but in a big way, the reason for being drawn into Bettie’s life story. Her Tennessee drawl, quick wit, humor, and her ability to tell her story from memory are fascinating. Rare footage includes photos of Bettie as a child, behind the scenes shots taken at various shoots, even exposed negatives from when the feds came and almost shut down a nude shoot give glimpses of Bettie’s world back in the 50’s.
Bettie Page Reveals All also tells the story of how America was on the verge of change from its innocent, post World War 2 days—the height of Bettie’s popularity—to the world we live in now where we’re numbed by sexual imagery and barely even notice anymore. Bettie Page was a part of this change, but as Bettie tells it, she had no clue her images were part of the social revolution nor did she know she had become an idol to millions of little girls (and a few boys).
Testimonials from Todd Oldham and Hugh Heffner to Dita Von Tease all discuss Bettie’s influence on fashion, the arts, and even popularizing bangs. From Madonna and Katy Perry to Beyonce, Mori tries to tie in how many of today’s stars, even in a small way, were influence by Bettie directly or indirectly.
Bettie never made a fortune as a pin-up during her heyday, nor did she profit from her image for many years after her sudden disappearance from modeling. It wasn’t until she was discovered living in a Christian community (Bettie had by that time become a born again Christian) that she was able to collect royalties shortly before her death in 2008. The documentary doesn’t hold back on discussing Bettie’s misfortunes: her time spent hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, being molested by her father, being forced to perform oral sex when she first moved to New York, her divorces and inability to keep a stable relationship. Yet even with her sometimes tumultuous life, Bettie remains upbeat throughout the documentary with her no regrets style of speaking about her past. It is a terrific account of a very public, very revered person who preferred and earned her privacy up until her last days.
One thing the documentary really misses out on is capturing more testimonies from the legion of Bettie Page fans around the world and trying to understand what the fascination with Bettie is. With all the talk about how Bettie directly and indirectly influenced so much in pop culture today, Bettie Page Reveals All really doesn’t go into too deeply why there is such a fascination with a ‘50s pinup queen.
Bettie Page Reveals All is certainly not your usual documentary. It’s very unpretentious, nor does it every take itself or the subject too seriously, but you can tell a lot of serious work was put into it. Over 10 years in the making, Mori not only reveals but also nicely breaks down who the real Bettie Page was; all the good, the bad but definitely not ugly, and most certainly not notorious.
Take a Drink: when you see a very recognizable Perez Hilton in Bettie Page drag.
Take a Drink: whenever the documentary goes to a recent Bettie Page-themed event and you see the large number of young and older women dressed like Bettie Page (I hope they were women because they sure looked good).
Do a Shot: whenever you see Bettie totally nude and sporting what would eventually be outlawed for every woman in America today (thank you God) . . . pubic hair!