6.6/10
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77 user 31 critic

Pretty Baby (1978)

R | | Drama | 5 April 1978 (USA)
A teenage girl lives as a prostitute in New Orleans in 1917.

Director:

Louis Malle

Writers:

Polly Platt (story), Polly Platt (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Popularity
3,120 ( 180)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Brooke Shields ... Violet
Keith Carradine ... Bellocq
Susan Sarandon ... Hattie
Frances Faye ... Nell
Antonio Fargas ... Professor
Matthew Anton Matthew Anton ... Red Top
Diana Scarwid ... Frieda
Barbara Steele ... Josephine
Seret Scott Seret Scott ... Flora
Cheryl Markowitz Cheryl Markowitz ... Gussie
Susan Manskey Susan Manskey ... Fanny
Laura Zimmerman Laura Zimmerman ... Agnes
Miz Mary Miz Mary ... Odette
Gerrit Graham ... Highpockets
Mae Mercer Mae Mercer ... Mama Mosebery
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Storyline

In 1917, in the red light district Storyville, New Orleans, the prostitute Hattie lives with her twelve year-old daughter Violet in the fancy brothel of Madame Nell, where she works. Photographer Ernest J. Bellocq has an attraction to Hallie and Violet and he is an habitué of the whorehouse. One day, Madame Nell auctions Violet's virginity and the winner pays the fortune of US$ 400 to spend the night with the girl. Then Hattie marries a wealthy client and moves to Saint Louis, leaving Violet in the brothel alone. Violet decides to marry Bellocq and she moves to his house. Until the day that Hattie, who has overcome her past, comes to Bellocq's house with the intention to take Violet with her. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

1917. The red-light district of New Orleans. The story of the women. The photographer. And the prostitute's daughter. See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

5 April 1978 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Niña bonita See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$5,786,368

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$5,786,368
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was given the 18 rating in the UK and the R18 rating in New Zealand. The film was given the M rating in Australia. See more »

Goofs

When Bellocq is posing Hattie on the chaise lounge, the boom mic dips into the screen above them. See more »

Quotes

Bellocq: [about Violet] What will become of her now?
Nell: What's going on with you? You don't have to worry about her. She's made a lot of money. She can do as she likes.
Bellocq: She's only twelve. She's completely alone.
Nell: Bellocq, you're in love with her.
Bellocq: Don't be absurd.
Nell: I've seen it a thousand times. I am old, and I know one thing - life is very long.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The closing credits include a card that states, "With our gratitude for the priceless music of FERDINAND "JELLY ROLL" MORTON." See more »

Alternate Versions

Against his own wishes UK censor James Ferman was forced to make minor edits to the original cinema version under the 1978 Protection of Children Act, and pubic hair was optically airbrushed onto a scene where Brooke Shields is sitting with her legs slightly spread so that 'the actual cleft was not visible'. A further cut was also made to remove a very brief shot of her standing up in a bath. The edits were fully waived for the 1987 video release. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Ecstasy Girls (1979) See more »

Soundtracks

Big Lip Blues
(uncredited)
Written by Ferdinand 'Jelly Roll' Morton
Played while everyone is waiting downstairs for Violet
See more »

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User Reviews

 
This Movie Is Based On Truth!
25 December 2004 | by mk4See all my reviews

I'd like to point out that this movie is literally based on first hand recollections of a prostitute interviewed in Al Rose's definitive book on the subject: "Storyville", published many years ago. Anyone familiar with with the era knows that the photographer, E.J. Bellocq, was a real person who captured on glass plates forever the images of the young prostitutes of Storyville. These photographs are hauntingly beautiful in their own right, and the young Brooke Shields--as well as the beautiful Susan Sarandon--were a masterstroke of Malle to play the parts of mother and daughter prostitutes. The recollections in the book draw upon the actual fact that the mother who related the story actually took part in the deflowering of her daughter in the "House" as described, and that they went on to be a "team", a very common and desirable commodity in that day. Not mentioned-- but inferred to those who "read between the lines"-- was that the pony that young Violet casually rides in the backyard of the mansion in the beginning of the movie was actually an animal used to entertain the paying customers in "the circus" that certain women performed in ...for the"right price." Many of the photo sessions depicted in the film are loving recreations of surviving Bellocq prints. The women portraying the "girls" in the movie could have been working girls in "The District" had they lived back then. Some IMDb readers profess to be shocked by conditions in Storyville back then, but as the book recounts, it was all true, and many of the women actually did enjoy their livelyhood. It was the "bluenoses" to the rescue who saved them and the U.S. Navy from themselves, just as they would save the nation from "drink" a few years later. Although ragtime and jazz are touched on in the movie, Storyville was directly responsible for the likes of young Louis Armstrong--who ran coal from House to House--picking up the street melodies he heard and playing them on a cornet furnished to him--providentially--by the local orphanage, and for Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton, pianist...and pimp...who played in only the best houses and claimed he invented the term "jazz" as applied to music after witnessing first hand all that "jassing-around" he saw in the bordellos of Storyville! Remarkeably, overlooked altogether is any mention of the composer of the tune "Pretty Baby," Professor Tony Jackson, a key figure of the Storyville saga, who should have been the character portrayed in the film but wasn't, and who was not even mentioned in the credits.

As for Bellocq himself not much is known except that he was slightly deformed and not interested in the ladies at all sexually-- the marriage to Violet merely a modern plot device--but he professed his deep fascination and reverence for them, thankfully, in other ways: his portraits. Without them, a poignant record of their lives,and that of The District, would be lost forever. All in all, the film is a wonderful paean to Bellocq, and the women he loved in his own way. I would urge all critics of this movie to seek out a copy of "Storyville, New Orleans" by Al Rose, or MOMA's "E.J. Bellocq: Storyville Portraits." They will really open yours eyes to what Louis Malle has recreated.


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