Bettie Page was walking on Coney Island Beach in 1950 when a police officer moonlighting as a photographer asked her to model naked for him.  She was comfortable and singularly beautiful blessed with an innocent sensuality.  Soon his photographer friends were lining up to photograph the well-endowed 27 year old.
Page expanded into stag films and nudie magazines.  She told Playboy “I never thought it was shameful. I felt normal. It’s just that it was much better than pounding a typewriter eight hours a day, which gets monotonous.”  She was charting her own course.
Although shocking at the time, images of her today seem disarmingly tame. Her popularity grew and in 1955 she was named Queen of the Pin-Ups.  Page studied acting and did some minor work on TV and movie work and by this time she was posing for renowned photographers.  She was a star.  And in 1959 she disappeared.
Page’s sexy image is widely borrowed.  The glossy black “page” boy with thick, flat bangs, naughty fetishistic lingerie with the occasional stiletto and whip, plenty of pale skin and a big, girly smile have been co-opted by Madonna, Rihanna, Dita Von Teese, Katy Perry, Britney Spears and untold numbers of young women today.  She exuded power and controlled her career.
Mark Mori’s riveting documentary features interviews with Von Teese, Hugh Hefner, Rebecca Romijn, Tempest Storm, Bunny Yeager, Paula Klaw, Mamie Van Doren and Naomi Campbell among others and paints a rich portrait of her and the roots of the Bettie Page revival.
It reveals a dark side to Page.  She came from a large, poor family and claims to have been sexually abused by her father and grandfather and mentally abused by her mother.  Demons plagued her throughout her life.  She was unstable, promiscuous and temperamental and drifted from town to town.  In 1970 she was arrested for attempting to kill her landlord but got off after being diagnosed with acute schizophrenia.   Ironically, she was known as “the Dark Angel”.
When a dogged fan “found” Page in the late ‘80s’, she expressed astonishment that she had become an icon, a role model and a multimillion dollar industry.   She was able to recoup money from the use of her image and lived in relative comfort until her death in 2008 at age 85.
Today the Bettie Page industry is thriving, merchandise, books, comics, clothing have cemented her image and legacy.  As a so-called “dead celebrity” Page earns $6M a year, on par with George Harrison and Andy Warhol.
The documentary is fun, titillating and star studded, and shows sides of Miss Page we could never have anticipated.
Bettie Page Reveals All confirms how Bettie’s unabashed sexual expression and provocative poses set the stage for the sexual revolution and how her enduring legacy continues to flourish.
Bettie Page Reveals All runs March 7-12 at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema