What is a sure fire way for an Actress to win an Oscar? Playing a real person helps. Sissy Spacek won for playing Loretta Lynn in Coal Miners Daughter. Or how about playing a character with a disability? Patty Duke won an Oscar for playing Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. In fact Duke scored a double slam-dunk. Playing a real-life person who had a disability. How about a psychopath? That helped Kathy Bates walk off with the Oscar for Misery. Or what about a flawless accent? Meryl Streep scored double Best Actress wins for having an impeccable accent; Polish Holocaust survivor Sophie Zawistowska in Sophie’s Choice; Then again almost 20 years later as British PM Margaret Thatcher.
Or you have another option. That is to play a prostitute. In fact over a dozen actresses have won the Academy Award for playing a hooker. The portrayal of this line of work is not limited to the big screen. Prostitution has been told in books, theatre, television shows even radio dramas.
Some of the most famous female characters in American cinema and theatre have been that of a prostitute. Anna Christie and Blanche DuBois. Holly Golightly and Vivian Ward. Fantine and Mary Magdalene.
The finest writers in literature, film and theatre have written roles for women where their main occupation has been that of a hooker. John Steinbeck, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, David Mamet and Tennessee Williams.
While over a dozen actresses have won the Academy Award for playing a prostitute, there have been no fewer than 16 Oscar nominations for actresses playing hookers. Garnering Academy Award nominations for A-Listers like Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman and Jodie Foster just to name a few.
So that got me thinking. Winning an Academy Award would be the pinnacle of an actor’s success in their industry. But how many Oscar winning Actresses have played a character involved in sex work. The answer? An astounding ONE HUNDRED PERCENT!
That is right. Every single actress who has won an Academy Award has played a character that is a sex worker. While 95% of Oscar winning actresses has played a full out prostitute or madam, the remaining 5% have played a character somehow related to sex work. Examples include one character being a phone sex operator. Another character is working in a massage parlor. And yet still another character working off the avails of prostitution. We have all sorts of jobs featured in this book. Lap dancers, bordello workers, exotic dancers, saloon managers and the list go on.
The bottom line is that every single actress who has won an Academy Award has played a character related to the world of sex work. Either as a prostitute or somehow related to the sex trade industry.
Keep a few things to keep in mind while reading this book. First I am commenting on the character and NOT the actress. So for example when I write about Pretty Woman and say “she turned tricks on the streets of L.A.” I’m NOT talking about Julia Roberts the actress. Rather I’m talking about the CHARACTER of Vivian Ward.
This book has been divided by decade. Beginning in the 1930s straight to present day. Since the first Oscars were held in 1929, that year has been enveloped into the decade of the 1930s. Each win is listed under the year the performer won their award. Not the year the movie was released. For example, Silence of the Lambs was released in 1990. Yet the film swept the top five Oscars in 1991. Best actress winner Jodie Foster is listed in the year she won her second Academy Award, which is 1991.
Speaking of multiple Oscar winners, there are several women who have won more than one Academy Award. Yet they played a hooker one time only. This list is grouped by decade, with winners listed by year. So there are several repeats of the same hooker role. For instance with Katharine Hepburn, I’ve had to repeat her hooker role four times. As she is a four-time Oscar champ. But other actresses, who have multiple Oscars, have also played a prostitute more than once. Shelley Winters has played a prostitute five times. So in those instances descriptions of past hooker roles have been spread out between those two wins. Two prostitute roles in her first win, and three prostitute roles in her second win.
That is about it. Sit back, relax, grab a glass of white wine and prepare to walk down the streets of broken dreams. Reading over 100 hooker roles played by Oscar winning actresses.