1950s pin-up star Bettie Page has died in Los Angeles, succumbing to pneumonia aged 85.
Equal parts Southern ingénue and sex kitten, Bettie Page was the rarest of ‘50s icons, a pin-up who won the hearts of born-again Christians and dirty-mac’d sinners alike. Like Ava Gardner and Betty Grable before her, Page adorned magazine covers and teen bedroom walls across the country, often wearing little more than suspenders and a smile. Unlike her pin-up predecessors, Page’s Hollywood career never took off, hamstrung by her broad Tennessee drawl and acting ability that she described with typical frankness as ‘terrible’.
Page appeared in three breathless burlesque pictures, Striporama (1953), Varietease (1954) and Teaserama (1955), as well as a host of 8mm peepshow reels, but her auditions with big studios only yielded the advances of lusty producers.
Page disappeared from the public gaze just as suddenly as she’d arrived, suffering serious bouts of depression, but her traffic-stopping figure and raven hair left an indelible impression. Her popularity outlasted many of her pin-up peers (Page’s official website registered 600 million page impressions in the last five years of her life), and led to a Hollywood tribute in the shape of 2006’s affectionate biopic The Notorious Bettie Page.
In truth, Page was never quite as notorious as the film’s title suggests, her wide-eyed charm winning her a legion of loyal fans during her decade in the lights. She was, in the words of Russ Meyer, "the nicest girl you'd ever want to meet."