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Archive for April 9th, 2012

It hath evermore been the notorious badge of prostituted strumpets and the lewdest harlots to ramble abroad to plays, to playhouses; whither no sober girls or women, but only branded whores and infamous adulteresses, did usually resort in ancient times.  –  William Prynne

Sometimes the idea for a column rattles around in my brain for a long time before I get to it; last month’s “The Profumo Affair”  was suggested by regular reader Marla almost a year before I actually wrote it, and today’s derives from an October 16th, 2010 comment by Sailor Barsoom:  “When I saw the title, “Playing the Harlot, I thought this was going to be about all the actresses who have ever played prostitutes (i.e. pretty much all of them). I don’t think Elle Fanning has (yet), but Shirley Temple did, at age four.”  I suspect he’s referring to her performance as “La Belle Diaperina” in the one-reel comedy short “Glad Rags to Riches”.  In truth, he’s not much exaggerating; if we extend the term “prostitute” to include all sex workers, halfway whores and gold-diggers, and include bit parts, I think we’d be hard-pressed to find an actress with more than three films to her credit who hasn’t played one.  But that would make a very long column indeed, so I’m not going to go there; instead I’m limiting this to those who have played a full-on professional whore in an important role.  Strippers, fortune-hunters and the like aren’t included, nor minor characters, nor is any role which is more of a MacGuffin than a character, such as the whores in Unforgiven or Doctor Detroit.  And for TV shows, I only included regular characters; tracking one-episode appearances would take a whole website.  Finally, I’m going to skip the extremely famous whores Nell Gwyn, the Madame de Pompadour and Valeria Messalina except to provide these links for their many film portrayals.

This column is more than just an interesting list; in my column of one year ago yesterday  I pointed out that “making money off of whores without giving them anything in return…is as good a working definition of ‘pimp’ as I can imagine.”  All of these actresses have made money off of us by playing members of our profession; some of them have made considerable sums.  Yet none of them with the exception of Dolly Parton have ever as much as breathed a word in public to defend out rights, and some (such as Mira Sorvino) are actively anti-prostitute.  None of them want to acknowledge the fact that up until the late 19th century our professions were indistinguishable; in the case of actresses who do nude and/or love scenes and that segment of whores who have sex on camera, they are still indistinguishable (just ask Sasha Grey or Traci Lords).

Morena Baccarin as Inara Serra in Firefly (2002)
Monica Bellucci as Malèna Scordia in Malèna (2000) & Mary Magdalene in The Passion of The Christ (2004)
Karen Black as Elizabeth Lucy in The Pyx (1973)
Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty in Gunsmoke (1955)
Mae Clarke as Myra Deauville in Waterloo Bridge (1931)
Jamie Lee Curtis as Ophelia in Trading Places (1983)
Rosario Dawson as Gail in Sin City (2005)
Rebecca De Mornay as Lana in Risky Business (1983)
Catherine Deneuve as Séverine Serizy in Belle de Jour (1967)
Doris Dowling as Gloria in The Lost Weekend (1945)
Britt Ekland as Willow in The Wicker Man (1973)
Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
Jane Fonda as Bree Daniels in Klute (1971)
Jodie Foster as Iris in Taxi Driver (1976)
Greta Garbo as Mata Hari in Mata Hari (1931) and as Marguerite Gautier in Camille (1936)
Janet Gaynor as Angela in Street Angel (1928)
Sasha Grey as Chelsea in The Girlfriend Experience (2009)
Melanie Griffith as V in Milk Money (1994)
Helen Hayes as Madelon Claudet in The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931)
Susan Hayward as Barbara Graham in I Want To Live! (1958)
Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961) and as Eliza Dolittle in My Fair Lady (1964)
Barbara Hershey as Mary Magdalene in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Miriam Hopkins as Ivy Pearson in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
Madeleine Kahn as Lili von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles (1974)
Jaime King as Goldie and Wendy in Sin City (2005)
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Tralala in Last Exit To Brooklyn (1989)
Vivien Leigh as Myra Deauville in Waterloo Bridge (1940)
Shelley Long as Belinda Keaton in Night Shift (1982)
Sophia Loren as Aldonza in Man of La Mancha (1972)
Shirley MacLaine as Irma la Douce in Irma la Douce (1963)
Colette Marchand as Marie Charlet in Moulin Rouge (1952)
Giulietta Masina as Maria Ceccarelli in Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Marsha Mason as Maggie Paul in Cinderella Liberty (1973)
Catherine McCormack as Veronica Franco in Dangerous Beauty (1998)
Melina Mercouri as Ilya in Never On Sunday (1960)
Patty Mullen as Elizabeth Shelley in Frankenhooker (1990)
Ona Munson as Belle Watling in Gone With the Wind (1939)
Alla Nazimova as Marguerite Gautier in Camille (1921)
Kim Novak as Mildred Rogers in Of Human Bondage (1964)
Dolly Parton as Mona Stangley in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)
Lynn Redgrave as Xaviera Hollander in The Happy Hooker (1975)
Donna Reed as Alma “Lorene” Burke in From Here To Eternity (1953)
Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman (1990)
Maya Rudolph as Rita in Idiocracy (2006)
Theresa Russell as Liz in Whore (1991)
Susan Sarandon as Hattie in Pretty Baby (1978)
Brooke Shields as Violet in Pretty Baby (1978)
Elisabeth Shue as Sera in Leaving Las Vegas (1985)
Mira Sorvino as Linda Ash in Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
Barbara Stanwyk as Lily Powers in Baby Face (1933)
Sharon Stone as Ginger McKenna in Casino (1995)
Norma Talmadge as Marguerite Gautier in Camille (1926)
Elizabeth Taylor as Gloria Wandrous in BUtterfield 8 (1960)
Leigh Taylor-Young as Shirl in Soylent Green (1973)
Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003)
Rachel Ticotin as Melina in Total Recall (1990)
Kathleen Turner as China Blue in Crimes of Passion (1984)
Mae West as Ruby Carter in Belle of the Nineties (1934)
Joanne Whalley as Christine Keeler in Scandal (1989)
Shelley Winters as Polly Adler in A House Is Not a Home   (1964)

These were all the ones I could come up with from memory, rereading my “Filmography” page and searching IMDb, but I’m sure there are plenty of others I haven’t thought of.  Readers, please suggest your favorites in the comments, keeping in mind the criteria in the first paragraph; I’ll edit the column to add those that fit.  Incidentally, you’ll notice something strange going on in the comments below; I moved all the comments from “Filmography” here so I could close them there without losing them.  That’s why some are so old and/or suggest films already in the list.

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