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. Duke scored a double slam-dunk. She was 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 perfect accent? Meryl Streep scored double Best Actress wins for having a spot-on accent; the 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 most excellent 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 and garnering Academy Award nominations for A-Listers like Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman, and Jodie Foster 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 involved in the sex trade industry. While 95% of Oscar-winning actresses have 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 characteristic is working in a massage parlor. And yet still another aspect 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. Instead, I’m talking about the CHARACTER of Vivian Ward.
The book begins in the 1930s straight to the present day, decade by decade. Since the first Oscars happened in 1929, that year appears in the decade of the 1930s. Each wins listed under the year the performer won their award. Not the year the movie was released. For example, Silence of the Lambs released in 1990. The film swept the top five Oscars in 1991. Best actress winner Jodie Foster is listed the year she won her second Academy Award, which is 1991.
Speaking of multiple Oscar winners, several women have won more than one Academy Award. 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. It is reading over 100 hooker roles played by Oscar-winning actresses.