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Hey, all you mugs in trench coats. Capone in Chicago here.

Sex sex sex. Now that I have your attention (I love that old trick), here are my thoughts on a film that is soon to be a favorite among strokers (and discriminating film goers) all over the planet, The Notorious Bettie Page.

Much like its real-life subject, The Notorious Bettie Page only wants us to remember the legendary '50s pin-up girl in her prime: the innocent smile that lights up every photo, the severe bangs of jet-black hair, the alabaster skin, and dangerous curves that seemed to make every stitch of clothing defy gravity. The film ignores as many pieces of Page1s very filmable biography as it includes. Her supposed time spent in a mental hospital after her pin-up years is not here; in fact, any trace of her life past her 30s is non-existent. And I believe that¹s exactly how Ms. Page wants it.

Director Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol) and co-writer Guinevere Turner (the two co-wrote the adaptation of American Psycho with Harron directing) scratches the surface of most of the major events in Page's early years but still manages to pull together a compelling and surprisingly moving work about a humble and sweet woman, constantly struggling to balance her two greatest passions: her Christian faith and her need to please everyone, including millions of American men who wanted to see her in various stages of undress.

No one on the planet could play Bettie like Gretchen Mol, whose days of virtual anonymity in small roles in even smaller films should be over right about now. I'll even go so far as to say that Mol is more beautiful and appealing than the real Bettie Page. She plays Bettie as the quintessential charming, polite, Southern girl from Nashville. She also looks remarkably fit and a tad sexy in the nude. Unfortunately Bettie¹s early years included an abusive family, possessive husband, and gang sexual assault. Bettie moved to New York to act (her scenes in acting class with a teacher played by Austin Pendleton are painful), but her good looks and nice figure got her more modeling jobs than stage work.

Bettie's progression from swimsuits and lingerie photos to nudity and bondage movies is shrewd and seductive. The always-great Lili Taylor plays Paula Klaw, who, with husband Irving (Chris Bauer), booked most of Bettie most famous work and oversaw some of her more bizarre fetish clients. The couple's relationship with Bettie is almost parental, and since the actress in Bettie always sees these twisted photo shoots as just dress up and play acting, she easily talks her way out of feeling guilty or dirty. Her process of justification is fascinating. When one photographer asks her to go from topless to fully nude for the first time, she shrugs and decides there's no real difference.

Unfortunately, Page's powers of reasoning weren't equaled by our lawmakers, as her bondage photos ended up being the centerpiece of a Senate subcommittee investigation into (of all things) the causes of juvenile delinquency, led by Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver (David Strathairn). Most of the film is told in flashback as Page sits in the hallway outside the hearing room waiting to be called in a below-the-knee skirt and white gloves. Harron wisely chooses to make her film black and white, with a few glimpses of color when Bettie vacations in Florida and poses for legendary pin-up photographer Bunny Yeager (Sarah Paulson). The look, music, and atmosphere The Notorious Bettie Page captures is both the ultra-hip and slightly seedy side of Bettie and her associates. But it¹s the film's final and simplest act that gets to the heart of the woman, as Bettie begins to feel the strong pull of religion and finds it impossible to be both Madonna and whore (in her mind and the mind of the church).

The fact that the film leaves you wanting to know more, I feel, is not a sign that it's incomplete but that it's so well made. Bettie's life is such a curiosity that a second movie could be made that picks up right where this one leaves off. I'd be just as interested to know about a woman who no longer takes her clothes off as I was to learn about one who did. Despite the legion of colorful characters, Gretchen Mol walks away with this film on her brassiere-strapped shoulders and wins our hearts in the process. If The Notorious Bettie Page had been released late last year, Mol would have been a lock for an Oscar nomination. Go to the film for the T&A, but stay for the gripping study of a divided woman who managed both sinner and saint quite nicely.


Readers Talkback
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  • April 20, 2006, 12:39 p.m. CST

    Gretchen Mol

    by georges garvaren

    why she hasnt made a bigger name, ill never know. i mean, she has a nice rack what more does hollywood want?

  • April 20, 2006, 12:40 p.m. CST

    and first

    by georges garvaren

    didnt even realise the glory of it all! meh.

  • April 20, 2006, 12:44 p.m. CST


    by Abhimanyu

    Good reviews all over for Mol on this one. Guess I'll see it. Though her character in Rounders might be one of the most irritating and useless of all time - and a lot had to with her whiny acting.

  • April 20, 2006, 12:45 p.m. CST

    second- not that it means anything

    by rook187

    Love me the Betty! Can't wait to see this film.

  • April 20, 2006, 12:46 p.m. CST


    by rev_skarekroe

  • April 20, 2006, 1:34 p.m. CST

    I don't care if Bettie Page is 90 years old...

    by Cruel_Kingdom

    I still want to bang her brains out! The thought of tasting those Maalox-covered lips and getting into those Depends brand undergarments just makes me so incredibly hornnnnaaaaay!!!

  • April 20, 2006, 1:41 p.m. CST

    "The film ignores as many pieces of Page1s..."

    by seppukudkurosawa

    Unless we're talking about two different Betties here (I'm referring to the Sultry Sexy Southern Stripper, what about you?), I always took Bettie to be more of a Page 3 sort of person than Page 1. OOOOOOOOH that was a typo...well then consider this TB Entry duly erased. Good review sir.

  • April 20, 2006, 1:41 p.m. CST

    I can't wait for this film

    by indiebum

    I loved "I Shot Andy Warhol" to death.

  • April 20, 2006, 1:44 p.m. CST

    And another thing....

    by seppukudkurosawa

    I don't take kindly being referred to as a "stroker". I like to think of myself as more of a Member Masseur, or a Wang Waggler. Stroker just sounds dirty...

  • April 20, 2006, 1:51 p.m. CST

    Is this supposed to be a feel-good movie?

    by durhay

    It just sounds sad and a little creepy.

  • April 20, 2006, 1:56 p.m. CST

    Paula and Irving Claw weren't married

    by RenoNevada2000

    They were half-brother and sister.

  • April 20, 2006, 2:34 p.m. CST

    There is full-frontal-Mol in this movie.

    by Flansy

    And I'm talking about Gretchen, not Richard.

  • April 20, 2006, 3:27 p.m. CST

    Didnt have a clue who betty page was till now

    by busby

    But on the basis of that Capone I'll go and see it, believe me though I'll hold you personally responsible if I dont enjoy it!

  • April 20, 2006, 4:15 p.m. CST

    The curse of the Vanity Fair cover.

    by Smurfette

    Not a peep since Rounders. I hope she breaks out again.

  • April 20, 2006, 4:30 p.m. CST

    It just sounds sad and a little creepy.

    by Spaz_Monkey

    That's because her life was sad and a little creepy. In high-school, she was 1 test away from graduating valedictorian, and receiving a full-ride scholarship to college. She was kicked out of her mom's house when her step-dad tried to rape her; mom assumed that it was Bettie trying to 'seduce' him. She ended up staying with her dad, who had molested her in the past. As a result, she (understandably) blew the test, lost the valedictorian, lost the scholarship, and became the Bettie Page we all know now.

  • April 20, 2006, 4:36 p.m. CST

    WTF anchorite?

    by crazyeyezkillah

    Why exactly would you want to shoot Andy Warhol to death?

  • April 20, 2006, 5:09 p.m. CST

    He's kidding crazyeyezkillah...

    by Blue_Demon

    but his feelings probably come from the fact that fools thought Warhol was an artist as opposed to a charlatan. I put Warhol up ( okay, make that down ) there with Pollock. Garbage sold to us as art by elitist critics. As for Ms. Page...she was a great beauty. I'll be eternally grateful to Dave Stevens for helping to bring her out of obscurity.

  • April 20, 2006, 5:12 p.m. CST

    Because anchorite is a well-known art collector

    by seppukudkurosawa

    and he is the proud owner of Andy Warhol's work of genius, The Dildo Banana (when you peel away the skin, take a guess what's underneath). If he kills Andy Warhol the Dildo Banana will spiral in value. So crazyeyez, don't give a man flack when he's just tryin' to make a good honest living like the rest of us.

  • April 20, 2006, 5:50 p.m. CST

    Private Parts

    by Shropshire Slash

    My girl saw it and says her body was tight ... but bush was hairy

  • April 20, 2006, 7:46 p.m. CST


    by Rupee88

    Bettie Page was amazing...just near perfect sexy and sweet. And I'll never forget Gretchen Mol's breasts at the end of that lame sci-fi movie (forget the title).I'll be checking out this one for sure.

  • April 20, 2006, 11:05 p.m. CST

    That would be "The Thirteeth Floor"

    by cookylamoo

    Fun movie and way far ahead of "The Matrix"

  • April 21, 2006, 12:32 a.m. CST

    Another review of a movie already in theaters...

    by CerebralAssassin

    I coould go to Rotten Tomatoes to see reviews of art house fare...sheesh. Remember when AICN did on-set visits to Lord of the Rings and Kill Bill? Remember when it broke the news that Titanic was a "wow" flick back in '97? Remember how AICN introduced the the geek community about Blair Witch when it came out at Sundance? Now we get reviews of movies already in theaters and movie publicity material sent by the studios. Boy, this place used to be fun. It's so sad: Grindhouse has fallen apart (BIG news for film geeks) but this site has nothing about it...even with all the access Harry and his nerd crew have with Quentin and Richard R. Sigh.

  • April 21, 2006, 9:32 a.m. CST

    Titanic was a wow flick?

    by MrBoinfoint

    I thought it was an underdone piece of soap opera bullshit barely enlivened by a half hour of cgi. All that aside, Getchen Mol as Bettie Page = my ten dollah.

  • April 21, 2006, 4:46 p.m. CST

    And the coolest thing about "The Thirteenth Floor"

    by zinc_chameleon

    ...was that the story "Simulacrum 3" was written in 1962. Yes, that's the date. I read it when I was twelve. Matrix? We don't need no stinkin' Matrix?