The Notorious Bettie Page (2005)
Though Gretchen Mol may not have Bettie Page’s buxom figure, she does threaten to bust out of the screen with her exuberant portrayal of the pin-up queen. With a title character who is unfazed by the dubious quality of their work, The Notorious Bettie Page recalls the wide-eyed optimism found in another black-and-white biopic, namely Ed Wood.
Similarly, Bettie shares Ed’s ability to remain upbeat despite whatever life throws at her, which in her case included being sexually abused by her father, physically abused by her husband and gang-raped by strangers. Determined to make a new life for herself, she heads to New York where a chance meeting with an amateur photographer leads to a career as a pin-up girl. However Bettie dreams of more, taking classes and screen-tests. She isn’t the slightest bit discouraged that the extent of her acting career is looking shocked, pained or scornful in various bondage films and photoshoots.
Adding to the hilarity of Mol’s performance is Bettie’s frequent espousal of her religious beliefs (that is when she’s not being silenced by a ball gag). Yet the film is never judgemental in its depiction of these competing influences, making Bettie’s quandary of what God would make of her career choice all the more endearing.
Her final resolution of this dilemma best sums up her positive attitude - “I'm not ashamed. Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden, weren't they? When they sinned, they put on clothes”
According to the documentary Bettie Page Reveals All, Bettie attended a screening of this biopic and screamed at the screen “Lies! Lies! Lies! L. I . E. S. Why don’t you tell the truth?”
Though the biopic depicts John Willie being involved in both Bettie's films and photoshoots (during which he explains his G-string Tie method of bondage), the two actually never met.
Biopic recreates scenes from some of Bettie’s 8mm and 16mm films, including such dubious titles as Bettie’s Clown Dance, Second Initiation of the Sorority Girl and Sally’s Punishment.