Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

Bettie Page, 1923-2008

Bettie Page dwelt in the sub-basement — say the abasement — of 50s pop culture. She was a pinup model for the cheesiest girlie magazines, an "actress" in silent 5-minute bondage movies for the male mail-order trade. When the Senate investigated the producer of these films, Page sat outside the committee room, ignored. Yet like Jim Thompson's paperback crime novels, and Ed Wood's no-budget epics, Betty's photos and films later emerged as an expression of the postwar decade's termite art. Why couldn't Hollywood, where Bettie had unsuccessfully screen-tested before coming to New York, recognize the appeal of those bangs, that smile, her dancing skills and innocent energy? In the late '50s she vanished (into a period of criminal derangement), but her luster grew to celebrity proportions. By her death she had become the star she always wanted to be.

Richard Corliss