Two old school icons of femininity are on my mind this week: Maureen O’Hara and Betty Page. The former because of a movie we saw last weekend, the later of course because she died yesterday.
Sunday night Carjo is flipping through the channels and finds Ol’ Yeller (if Tyler is reading this, the dog dies at the end of the movie) just ending. We discover that it is a vintage Disney marathon and next up is the Parent Trap. Being a typical boomer, my wife is drawn to a Hayley Mills movie like a moth to a flame. So you can guess what we ended up watching… Anyway, I was reminded again how incredible Maureen O’Hara is. She literally had a flaming screen presence that just dominates the screen whenever she’s on. It’s not just her obvious good looks and sensuality, but this effortless combination of passion and sensibility that was just second nature to her. In the Boston scenes she manages to keep the flames on simmer but the second she hits California she unleashes the full arsenal. She walks around that ranch with so much swagger, sass, and intelligence that it’s no wonder Brian Keith acts like a school boy around her. Hell, who wouldn’t. Note to self, rent The Quiet Man and pay less attention to the fight scene this time around.
Now Betty Page. Gods what a sad life she led. Everyone knows the photos now, this curvaceous and beguiling woman (definitely a woman, no one ever called Betty a girl) whose poses ran from the tame to those S/M images that drove Senator Kefauver into a self-righteous (and most likely quite rigid) state. And yet, she looked so darn…friendly. She said “If I am remembered today, it is likely because you, the reader, see something in me I never saw in myself.” Betty was the product of a poor and twisted family (Daddy molested all his daughters) and definitely was exploited while in her prime as a model, not ever getting nearly what she was worth for her photos (except from Hefner, who at least tried to look out for her). Her descent was tragic – bad marriages, stints in mental institutions, finding religion. She was even a missionary in Angola for a time. In the 90s she experienced a revival of sorts and finally made money off her iconic photos by autographing them for $200-$300 apiece. She didn’t want to be photographed when she was old – she wanted people to remember the young Betty but by all accounts she went into old age at peace with herself. So rest in peace Betty – I wish you had it better. You certainly deserved it.