Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Top Ten: Movie Hookers

tuesday top ten: a weekly series for the list lover in you and the list maker in me

Susan of
Awards Daily here again, with my final guest post, the "Tuesday Top Ten." Thanks to Nathaniel, my co-guest bloggers and the Film Experience readers.

This week's countdown focuses on a subject that's been in the news lately, especially for those of us in New York. That’s right, those short-skirted, high-heeled and gold-hearted dames (and dudes) who practice the "oldest profession" in the world: Hookers

Top Ten Movie Hookers

10 “Lana” in Risky Business (1983): Need quick cash while your folks are out of town (especially after trashing dad's Porsche)? Why not turn your house into a brothel? You know it's a teenage fantasy when the prostitute looks like Rebecca De Mornay. And the john is a young, dances-in-his-undies Tom Cruise.
Emperor’s Club or Street: Would probably command Emperor’s Club rates today.
Heart of Gold? More like head for business.

09 "Luenell" in Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006): Actress/comedian Luenell Campbell makes the "perfect" dinner party date for the Kazakh reporter. She's also one of the few performers in on the joke.
Emperor’s Club or Street: Definitely street.
Heart of Gold? Yes.

08 "Vivian" in Pretty Woman (1990): Julia Roberts' breakthrough role had her sashaying down Hollywood Boulevard and into Richard Gere’s fancy car, hotel suite, bed, bath and ... beyond.
Emperor’s Club or Street: While she works it on the street, her weekly rate comes to $3,000. That’s far below the hourly rates of the Emperor’s Club, but one must consider inflation.
Heart of Gold? Yes. And by the end of the film, she's got the credit cards to match.

(tie) 07 “Mike” in My Own Private Idaho (1991): River Phoenix never seemed more vulnerable than when he played this young, narcoleptic street hustler.
Emperor's Club or Street: Street, but only in this film.
Heart of Gold? Yes.

(tie) 07 “Lynn” in L.A. Confidential (1997): Kim Basinger’s Veronica Lake look-alike prostitute manages to make both Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce swoon. Not bad.
Emperor’s Club or Street: Emperor’s Club, and unlike the other "starlet" hookers, she didn't need to get "cut" to achieve the Lake look.
Heart of Gold: Yes, especially when it comes to Crowe's troubled cop. (Can't say I blame her.)

06 “Linda” aka "Judy Cum" in Mighty Aphrodite (1995): Oscar winner Mira Sorvino adapts a voice that could cut through glass as the prostitute/porn star mother of Woody Allen's adopted child. The performance grates on the nerves until it wins you over.
Emperor’s Club or Street: She looks like she should be in the Emperor’s Club, but sounds Street. Bonus points for good genes.
Heart of Gold? Yes. And based on her porn credits, she also has an Enchanted Pussy.

(tie) 05 “Simone” in Mona Lisa (1986): Cathy Tyson portrays a high-priced call girl who forms a unique bond with her paid driver, the blokey George, (the wonderful Bob Hoskins). A sleek and disturbing film.
Emperor’s Club or Street: Emperor’s Club with Street ties.
Heart of Gold? She’s a little too complicated to pigeonhole.

(tie) 05 "Bai Ling" in 2046 (2004):
The breathtaking Ziyi Zhang can win the lust, but not the love of her neighbor (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) when she moves into room 2046. The film never explicitly states that she's a prostitute, but it's implied.
Emperor's Club: She's just working out of her apartment, but everything about this character is Emperor's Club.
Heart of Gold? Not in the traditional sense, but definitely more vulnerable than she'd like to be.

04 “Ophelia” in Trading Places (1983): Jamie Lee Curtis shows off that “Perfect” 80s bod and manages to keep pace with the comic talents of Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy.
Emperor’s Club or Street: She’s street in the movie, but that’s only in a movie.
Heart of Gold? Definitely.

03 “Severine” in Belle de Jour (1967): Ah, marriage, soooooo mundane. That's one reason to take up an afternoon hobby as a prostitute. The ridiculously beautiful Catherine Deneuve is frigid, damaged and only able to connect with herself within the fantasy of "Belle de Jour."
Emperor’s Club or Street: Her rates are probably closer to being Street, but she's definitely Emperor's Club material.
Heart of Gold? Who can tell, it's surrounded by ice.

02 “Satine” in Moulin Rouge! (2001): Nicole Kidman broadly plays the “sparkling diamond,” at first, and then reveals the woman inside. Still, truth, beauty, freedom and (above all things) love are definitely held on a pedestal, and that’s where the tragic Satine remains.
Emperor’s Club or Street: Definitely Emperor’s Club--or in this case, The Duke's Club.
Heart of Gold? Yes. Unfortunately, her lungs are made of less durable material.

01 “Lulu” in Pandora’s Box (1929): As the doomed prostitute in this silent classic, stunning Louise Brooks launched herself, her iconic hairdo, and perhaps the prototype of the sexually liberated woman (who must pay the price for her freedom), into the cinema consciousness.
Emperor’s Club or Street: Emperor’s Club--she's a screen Goddess.
Heart of Gold? Uncertain, as Brooks is too enigmatic to define.

What ladies (or gentlemen) of the night would you pay for?


Anonymous said...

ELISABETH SHUE as Sera in Leaving Las Vegas.

Tell me it's an oversight!


Anonymous said...

What? Jane Fonda retires the cup in this category in "Klute" and she cannot make the top ten?

That said, I would love to "trade places" with Dan Ackroyd - I do love me some Jamie Lee. Still hot enough for the magazine covers...just ask AARP.

SusanP said...

To be honest, not really. I did think of Elisabeth Shue (and Jane Fonda, and Richard Gere, and any number of people that will probably come up) and while I didn't intentionally leave them out, I didn't find room. (And I already cheated by adding two.)

I was trying to hit all the bases--from the crowd pleasing hookers (thus Pretty Woman) to the less talked about, (Mona Lisa), the silly (Borat), tragic (Moulin Rouge, Pandora's Box, Belle de Jour) silent (Lulu again), foreign film (2046) etc... Given the fact that Hollywood loves hookers as much as the politicians seem to, this can't be a comprehensive list, which is why I ask readers to name their favorites.

Anonymous said...

Like the above poster, I was so sure Elisabeth Shue was going to take top honors.

Me, it would have to be Becky from Sin City. What can I say - I have a huge crush on Alexis Bledel...

DL said...

God, I love movie prostitutes. Almost as much as Oscar does. (Catherine Deneuve, Mira Sorvino, River Phoenix and Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas) are a couple of my personal faves.)

The best movie hooker of all time though is definitely Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's! I'm sad to see her not make the list... :(

SusanP said...

The reason for Audrey Hepburn's omission is more clear-cut than the others, though I should have explained in the post. I only included performances I've seen and nope, I've never seen Breakfast at Tiffany's. (I've seen the ending, but that doesn't count.)

Yes...it's on the netflix queue (which is huge).

The Siren said...

I'm with Carl, leaving out Jane Fonda in this category is like leaving Al Pacino out of a gangsters survey. But that's what a list is for, leaving things off and having the hordes of partisans come howling down off the steppes. :D

Prostitutes in movies are a frequent irritant for me but as you say, there are so many that there's something for everyone. What we really need here are some older women. Simone Signoret in Casque d'Or and La Ronde, and Danielle Darrieux in Le Plaisir! Also, the prototype, Garbo in Camille. There's Joan Crawford in Rain. And what about the incredible ensemble in Mizoguchi's Street of Shame? And Claire Trevor in Stagecoach and Mae Clarke in Waterloo Bridge?

definitely a fun post! If I think of more I may have to come back.

E Dot said...

Not sure if you're counting Gigalos, because Jude Law in 'AI' would totally be at the top of my list....even if he was just a robot...

And one of the biggest bitch hookers would have to be Nini "Legs in the Air" from 'Moulin Rouge!'

"Don't worry Shakespeare. You'll get your ending. Once the Duke gets his end in."

ooh, or

"I don't like this ending. Why would the Cortazan go with the pennyless writer. Whoops! I mean sitar player..."

Anonymous said...

Michelle Pfeiffer in Fabulous Baker Boys???? (her character was a hooker before she sang).

Anonymous said...

As far as ones you didn't mention, I've got to show love to the foreign golden age goddess, Dietrich in Shanghai Express and Blonde Venus (and just about every film she made) and Garbo in Camille

Anonymous said...

What about Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver?

gabrieloak said...

Wasn't Ann-Margret a hooker in some of her movies? She always seemed to be playing a hooker and that was part of her appeal.

Jason Adams said...

Richard Gere is the hottest tramp of all time.

I'm a big fan of Elisabeth Shue too.

And thankfully for you, Susan, I am not drunk (yet) or this comment would be all caps, me screaming, see Breakfast At Tiffanys!!! Bliss, that film.

David Marc Fischer said...

Very thoughtful post and comments! They've got me thinking--perhaps there should be a special category for the prostitutes in Fellini movies. Giulietta Masina is great (though shockingly dense) in Nights of Cabiria...but there are also all those earthy "bit part" (heh) prostitutes. Hm. Now that I think about it, there's also Anna Magnani in Mamma Roma. Oo--and Isamar Gonzales in Chop Shop.

Anonymous said...

Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver and Elisabeth Shue in LLV are, in my opinion, number 1 and number 2. Sad to not see either one on the list.

Unknown said...

How about Jamie Lee Curtis in Trading Places?

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

Ooh. I see someone has a warped sense of Nicole Kidman's value as a performer ... :-0

Anonymous said...

What? No love for the 3 boobed chick from Total Recall?

Glenn Dunks said...

Breakfast at Tiffanies is tosh. Might have been lovely back in the day, but I found it insufferable.

I'd tip my cap towards Helen Buday in Alexandra's Project (also cause nobody else will mention her). A woman who whores herself out to make money so she can leave her husband. She ends up locking him in the house with a video tape of her having sex with another man next door as she drives away with the kids. Lovely.

Catherine said...

For comedic relief, you can't beat the two nameless hookers that Frances McDormand has to interview in "Fargo".

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Now now - Belle de Jour ranked below *cough* singing Nicole Kidman? I don't think so.

And though Louise Brooks is a wonderful candidate for the no. 1 spot, mine would go to Giulietta Masina for Cabiria - easily among my favourite cinema characters and performances. She's pluckier and even more adorable than Holly Golightly, whose own pluck and adorability would give her a comfortable spot in my Top 5.

And Glenn, though your fervent patriotism always makes me wanna try harder... Helen Buday? No. Just no.


Susan --WONDERFUL post. Great choices and some surprises too but totally worthy. still "Bree" in Klute would probably be in my top 3...

I love that Lulu gets the top spot and I love the heart of gold angle on all of them. It's too true on Severine. What a masterpiece belle du jour is.

KingRoper said...

Agree about the omission of Giulietta Masina in NIGHTS OF CABIRIA... was she the original Hooker With A Heart Of Gold? Or did she just define that role?

And what about Kathleen Turner's 'China Blue' in CRIMES OF PASSION? If you're gonna play a street hooker, THAT'S the way to do it.

SusanP said...

Thanks for all of the great comments. With a lot of the suggestions I haven't seen the film (like Nights of Cabiria)...

So, more films for me to see (or re-watch). For instance, I've seen Klute, but it was a really long time ago and Jane Fonda's character was not clear in my mind.

In any case, I'm glad you all enjoyed the list and that it got a discussion going. It's always great to hear other voices.

Anonymous said...


It´s the only prostitute performance I have seen that rigs true. All the other are just too hollywood-ish.


I never wanted to hug a prostitue as much as I would love to hug her.
Bonus points: The best ending tied with The Purple Rose of Cairo and Central Station.

gabrieloak said...

Isn't Julie Christie a prostitute in McCabe and Mrs. Miller? Or is she just a madam? Now that's a great performance.


yes she is ---another great performance. damn there are a lot of classic prostitutes on film.

it does seem like we've hit a dry spell in the Aughts though, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

What about Sjaron Stone in Casino? Stone was amazing in that movie. I think its odd that Foster in Taxi Driver is not on your list

Anonymous said...

Two omissions that stuck out to me are Fonda in "Klute" and Shue in "Leaving Las Vegas". Otherwise, good list.

Anonymous said...

There's that beautiful scene in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN where Jenifer Garner plays a prostitute named Cheryl Ann. Even I was hooked.

And Shirley MacLain has done it a few times, but As SWEET CHARITY.

Then in SHORTBUS whereLindsay Beamish takes Paul Dawsons' polaroid and asks how much he charges, writes it on the picture and gives it to him, and asks if he thinks that 's all he's worth. gotta give that a nod too.

Ok, does Brad Pitt qualify as a hustler in THELMA AND LOUISE. I'm going to say yes!

Anonymous said...

Where the heck is Giulietta Messina from Nights of Cabiria, that's the best hooker movie of all time. Or Jodie foster from Taxi Driver.