Friday, April 14, 2006
Camera Obscura - TN's Sex Siren, Bettie Page
This is a jammed-packed movie post this Friday, with lots to talk about including the ever-growing fame of pin-up star Bettie Page, the little gal from Tennessee who gets her own Hollywood major release this week - only fitting as the talk on the blogs this week has been about politics and Bettie's fame was insured by a Tennessee Senator who wanted to be president and held hearings about the outrages of Miss Page and them dirty nasty comic books which the non-family-value juvenile delinquents were reading all over America.
What captured my attention was that the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture devotes a page to Bettie, who turns 83 on April 22nd. And according to the Official Site of Bettie Page, her fame is worldwide phenom, citing over 626 million hits since August of 2000. That sure got Hollywood's attention. (Though not, apparently, in her home state, where I could find no mention of this movie opening today or playing anywhere soon in a theatre near you).
She was born in Nashville and attended George Peabody College for Teachers where she earned her degree in teaching .... odd, isn't it that all these years after the 1950s conservative rage against her there were thousands and thousands of searches on the Internets yesterday about the recent arrest of a teacher-turned-child-molester Pamela T. Rogers.
Not that Bettie ever went for kids, no, just kinda sorta happened into a career in the All American publishing trade in the 50s for pin-up models. A Victoria's Secrets commercial on TV reveals far more female flesh than Bettie did in the majority of her work. But she did some (for the times) mind-bending photos of bondage and S & M -- just bringing that sexual concept into print, saying those words was enough to outrage the good, God-fearin' folk of the 50s. Today - she is hailed as a kind of sexual template, innocent yet kinda kinky, and untold dozens of wanna-be stars in Hollywood today in movies and music use that Bettie Page template. Yeah, you know who I mean.
She gained true infamy for some pics published of her by Irving Klaws, who was called before a U.S. Senate sub-committee headed by Democrat Senator Estes Kefauver, who had gained fame in 1952 in his campaign for president because he went around wearing ... well, check out that Time magazine cover in the link above. No one campaigns in a coonskin cap these days, huh? (and I must give a personal aside here, that the first time I encountered the Kefauver name was in National Lampoon's High School Yearbook Parody, where the kids attended C. Estes Kefauver High School ... but I digress).
The movie opening this weekend, "The Notorious Bettie Page", is not endorsed by Bettie, who abandoned the modeling world and worked for many years as a Christian evangelist. She won't be doing red carpet walks for this release, which follows the early days of her career and her encounter with Sen Kefauver. Actress Gretchen Mol shed her blonde locks for Bettie's dark black hair, and Knoxvillian John Cullum plays the role of a minister in the movie. You can link here for an interview with filmmaker Mary Harron heard on NPR this week.
Another Bettie-related movie was based on Dave Stevens comic "The Rocketeer", and Stevens based his lead female, Jenny Blake, played by Jennifer Connelly, very much on Bettie.
It is a shame, though, that her home state keeps her at a distance. Not that I'm saying their should be a statue of her or Graceland-like fans lining the streets ... but I'm betting most everyone in the nation over the age of 15 knows of her image and her influence on pop culture continues to grow around the world. Who knows, maybe in another 50 years, we'll be able to talk about sex in America a little more freely.
OTHER MOVIE NEWS:
A movie which doesn't open until August has already become a massive cult hit just because filmmakers threatened to change the name of the movie last fall when filmming wrapped. A giant yell from the Blog World made producers re-think it, and they kept the title and even made them go back and shoot more footage for "Snakes On A Plane", starring Samuel Jackson. Jackson was quoted as saying he made the movie simply because of the title and apparently, a large number of folks love the title too. Get ready for it to be a massive hit when it opens in August. Check out the trailer here.
Lucky filmgoers in Japan will get to smell "The New World" when it's released there. Yeah, I wanna smell a movie. "A floral scent accompanies a love scene, while a mix of peppermint and rosemary is emitted during a tear-jerking scene. Joy is a citrus mix of orange and grapefruit, while anger is enhanced by a herb-like concoction with a hint of eucalyptus and tea tree."
Oh and dear li'l Buffy the Vamp Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar, has her 29th birthday today. And while some critics applaud other TV shows with strong young female stars, "Veronica Mars" ain't no Buffy.
For a DVD suggestion, let me recommend the 1999 comedy cult wonder, "Office Space", written and directed by Mike Judge. Sick of your job? Who isn't. From it's opening dance-routine of traffic jams (which, by the way, is a perfect example of what it's like to drive into Pigeon Forge) to the pitch-perfect acting of a range of excellent character actors like Stephen Root ("I want my stapler") and boss-from-hell Gary Cole ("Yeah ... What's Happening?") and many more, the movie is about those ugly rhythms of work and life people often get stuck in. One of the best and most underrated comedies from the 1990s.