Modeling career in the 1950s
Due to her jet-black hair she was also nicknamed "Dark Angel." She was one of the most photographed models of the 1950s. She appeared in hundreds of girlie magazines and photography journals and posed nude for private "camera club" sessions (but did not do any sexually explicit photos).
Page also became the best-known BDSM and fetish model of the 1950s. Through the American photographer and filmmaker Irving Klaw, one of the first fetish photographers, Page became the first famous bondage model.
She appeared in countless fetishistic spanking photos as the over-the-knee or bound and gagged victim as well as the stern disciplinarian. She often posed as a corset-clad dominatrix in high heels or leather boots brandishing a whip or riding crop.
Burlesque reviews and stag films
In addition to photo-shoots, Klaw also made scores of non-pornographic 8mm stag reels for his clients. These silent, black-and-white movies (5 to 10 minutes in length) featured kinky scenes performed by underwear-clad female models. Subjects included wrestling, foot fetishes, abduction, domination, bondage (including some elaborate devices and configurations), spanking and pony play.
Page appeared in around two-dozen of these short films. She was equally convincing playing the bound and punished captive as well as a tough dominatrix. Still photos of her taken during these movie sessions were among Klaw's best sellers.
Page also acted in a comedy skit and danced in a trio of episodic burlesque review films directed by Klaw. These are: Striporama (1953), Varietease (1954), and Teaserama (1955). These features, tame by today's standards but considered risque at the time, contain the only color footage and voice recording of Page from that period.
Her modern sensibility (which was shared by Klaw) was in direct conflict with the conservative and reactionary mentality of the 1950s. The negative publicity from the 1957 Kefauver Hearings on pornography led to the early retirement of both Klaw and Page.
Rediscovery in the 1970s
In the late seventies bondage/spanking magazine publishers began to reprint Klaw's photographs of Page. Special issues entirely devoted to his work began to appear starting with A Nostalgic Look at Bettie Page (Eros-Goldstripe, 1976). This was followed by Betty Page in Bondage (Lyndon Books, c. 1977-79), the multi-volume The Bound Beauties of Irving Klaw 1947-1963 (London Enterprises Ltd, 1978), and Betty Page, Private Peeks (Belier Press, Inc., 1980).
The popularity of these publications effectively returned Page to the world of erotica and confirmed her status as an icon of unconventional sexuality. A few years later her kinky stag reels and burlesque films would also be reintroduced to a new generation of fans.
The rapid growth of the home video market in the '80s led to a rebirth of interest in Page's all-but-forgotten films. In 1984 BDSM film producer London Enterprises released the two-volume video Irving Klaw Bondage Classics with music and narration added to the silent footage. Page appears in half of these featurettes. For the first time in 30 years, Klaw's films were available to a mainstream audience. These films have since been re-released countless times on various compilation DVDs that are still being sold today.
Death and legacy
Despite the risque nature of her photos and films, Page had an appealing, girl-next-door aura that made her accessible (and popular) regardless of the setting or subject matter. This came from her innocent, nonjudgmental attitude about posing in the nude or in bizarre fetishistic costumes. She saw nothing depraved or immoral about her modeling work and regarded it all as harmless fantasy material. She always seemed untouched by sin or sadism. Even when brandishing a whip or playing a hogtied captive, Page often posed with a wink or a knowing smile that let the viewer know that it was all in good fun.
Bettie Page died of natural causes at the age of 85 on December 11, 2008 in Los Angeles.
- Striporama (1953)
- Varietease (1954)
- Teaserama (1955)
- Bettie Page: Dark Angel (2004) is a Cult Epics direct-to-disc biopic that recreates six lost films that Page made for Klaw. The story concentrates entirely on the five-year period that Page worked for Klaw as a model. Fetish model Paige Richards (who has made several BDSM films for GwenMedia) stars as Page.
- The Notorious Bettie Page (2005) is a biographical film that stars Gretchen Mol as Page. It covers the twenty-year period from her childhood in the late Thirties to her retirement from modeling in the late Fifties. Most of the story centers on the 1952-1957 period when she worked for Irving Klaw and recreates several of her bondage photoshoots and films-loops.
- Bettie Page: Bondage Queen (Cult Epics, 2005) is a collection of 28 of Irving Klaw's bondage film-loops from the 1950s. Half of them feature Page as a stern domme or a bound and spanked slave. These are brief, 16mm black-and-white silent featurettes with added music and narration. This DVD is a reissue of the two-volume 1984 video Irving Klaw Bondage Classics from London Enterprises.
- Bettie Page: Pin Up Queen (Cult Epics, 2005) is a compilation of her burlesque dances and skits from three color features by Klaw (Striporama, Varietease, Teaserama) plus a dozen black-and-white film loops. The last one, "Pin-up Beauties Fight", has energetic wrestling and spanking. (See Videos on Internet Archive section below.)
- Bizarro Sex Loops (Volume 4) features Page and two other models in "Bondage Rough House Battle." This long-running series of vintage underground BDSM shorts from the 1950s to the 1970s is produced by Something Weird Video.
- Bizarro Sex Loops (Volume 20) containts a few more rare Klaw featurettes, including one with Page as a well-spanked slave girl. (See Videos on Internet Archive section below.)
Bettie Page spanking videos on YouTube
- Full-length version of Captured Jungle Girl
- Domineering Roz Strikes Back
- Second Initiation of the Sorority Girl
- Rumble Seat Bondage - with Page as a dominant mistress
- Bettie Page Catfight (F/F)
- Compilation of Irving Klaw films
- Video montage of Klaw's still photos set to music
- Bettie Page: Dark Angel trailer
Videos on Internet Archive & xHamster
- Irving Klaw: Bondage Classics (38 min.)
- Pin Up Beauties Fight - Page and June King wrestle and spank each other.
- Teaserama - entire film (67 min.)