Bettie Page, the 1950s pinup credited with helping to spark the next decade’s sexual revolution, died in Los Angeles yesterday from pneumonia. She was 85. In honor of the passing of this treasure from a bygone era, an excerpt from EW critic Owen Gleiberman’s review of the 2006 biopic, The Notorious Bettie Page:
“It has often been said that Bettie Page, the legendary ’50s pinup withthe pert features framed by those famously severe black bangs, was therare American sex goddess who was equally at home projecting the imageof a good girl or a bad girl. Frolicking, naked, in the ocean foam, herleg extended with playful pleasure, she was all dazzle and sunshine:the girl next door who said yes yes yes. In her scandalous undergroundbondage photos, where she posed as a dominatrix with a whip held high,or as a masochist with a ball in her mouth, she vamped like a pussycatfrom hell, her eyes narrowing with mean delight — or widening in mockterror. Yet the mysterious alchemy of Bettie Page isn’t just that shecould turn on a dime from light to dark, saint to sinner, virgin tovixen. It’s that she was somehow able to project both qualities atonce. In the bondage photos, so shocking for their time, her warm,spirited, peekaboo vibrance doesn’t disappear; it’s there just beneaththe surface aggression of her poses. As for her all-American cheesecakeshots, they have a quality of delirious, laughing abandon, as thoughshe were winking at the she-devil inside. What Bettie Page conjured —always — was the promise of pleasure without limits. She was aone-woman orgy in centerfold form.”
Good night, Bettie. Although it’s a cliche, there really is no truer summation than to say, they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.