Original Soundtrack

The Notorious Bettie Page

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By juxtaposing sultry jazz and raunchy R&B with the innocent pop of the '50s, the soundtrack to Marry Harron's The Notorious Bettie Page does a good job of setting the mood for the film, and also reflects how Page was both an icon of underground sexuality and a woman from a religious family (who eventually worked for a time as a Christian missionary). A few of the selections on the album are a little obvious, such as Hank Ballard & the Midnighters' "Sexy Ways" and Esquivel's "Mucha Muchacha," both of which have become musical shorthand for the respectively frank and playful ways that '50 popular music dealt with sex. However, most of the soundtrack is quite eclectic: Charles Mingus' "Love Chant" provides a much subtler, more complex version of sensuality; Jeri Southern's tropical "An Occasional Man" is sweet, sexy, and independent (and, crucially, sung by a woman). Eddy Arnold's "One Kiss Too Many" and Patsy Cline's "Life's Railway to Heaven" reflect Page's Nashville roots, while Art Pepper's "Blues In," Artie Shaw's "I Surrender, Dear," and Julie London's "Gone with the Wind" all lend an impeccable elegance that underscores that The Notorious Bettie Page isn't about tawdriness or exploitation. The excerpts of Mark Suozzo's score are witty without being kitschy, moving from the jazzy bump 'n' grind of "Opening" to "Smut Probe," a striding, brassy number that sends up such '50s G-man themes like "Dragnet." A thoughtfully compiled soundtrack, The Notorious Bettie Page goes a long way toward capturing the contradictions of the '50s and the era's most enduring pinup.

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