Bettie Page, legendary pin-up and naughty movie star of the 50s, died yesterday of complications from a severe heart attack she suffered last weekend. She was 85. Page got her start as a model for men's "camera clubs", a means in the 40s and 50s for men to trade in "erotica" without violating obscenity laws. She later specialized in posing in bondage and S&M scenes. The scenes in her photographs and later movies were, by later standards, rather tame. Although she would later pose in the nude, and her photographs and films showed titillating scenes, she never appeared in movies or photos with overtly salacious or sexually explicit content.
Page was my kind of pin-up, at least in the looks department. (I never cared for the kinky scenes portrayed in much of her work.) She was leggy, but not tall, and she was well-proportioned, neither scrawny nor overly buxom. But the main attraction of Bettie for me was her face. She had pretty features, but that wasn't what sold her. What I think made her a star was that for all her naughtiness, it seemed like it was all a lark. Even in her kinky bondage scenes, she seemed to be having fun. When she was the one "in trouble", she seemed to have a feigned "perils of Pauline" look. Campy "distress" on the outside, giggling on the inside. She exuded a free-spirited uninhibitendness, an unashamed sensuality, and a good deal of humor.
Bettie Page was one of the most successful pin-up models of the 50s. But, for a variety of reasons, most notably her conversion to Christianity in 1958, she departed from modeling. She became involved in Church work, including missionary activity in Africa. And she faded into obscurity. She lived modestly, and was unaware of the revival, in the 1980s, of a Bettie Page cult. That cult grew for years, culminating in two bio-pics earlier this decade. Page was finally made aware of the mini-industry her cult inspired and initiated legal proceedings to enable herself to recoup some profit from it. She consented to few interviews, and she insisted that her face not be shown. Though open about her past, she was insistent on her current anonymity. She said she wanted to be remembered as she was.