6.6/10
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70 user 28 critic

Pretty Baby (1978)

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

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Writers:

(story), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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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:
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Matthew Anton ...
...
...
Seret Scott ...
Cheryl Markowitz ...
Susan Manskey ...
Fanny
Laura Zimmerman ...
Agnes
Miz Mary ...
Odette
...
Highpockets
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:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

5 April 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Niña bonita  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The screenplay was based on the first-hand recollections of the operations of New Orleans' "Red Light" prostitution district published in the book "Storyville, New Orleans: Being an Authentic, Illustrated Account of the Notorious Red Light District" by Al Rose. The book contains many of photos of New Orleans prostitutes taken by E.J. Bellocq, the character played by Keith Carradine in the movie. See more »

Goofs

Violet is wearing a thong (the straps are visible) when she flounces out of the room where Bellocq had posed her naked on the couch. See more »

Quotes

Hattie: Before the war, we used to close down in the summertime. But since the naval base came, we're busy all year round, now. Can I buy you a drink?
Bellocq: No, thank you. Perhaps we can take another one now, if you like.
Hattie: Yeah, why not? My breasts are very nice, nicer than the other girls'. Do you think maybe I should show them a little better?
Bellocq: Yes, that would be better. Let me see.
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 »

Connections

Referenced in Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

Pretty Baby
(uncredited)
Music by Egbert Van Alstyne and Tony Jackson
Lyrics by Gus Kahn
Performed by Antonio Fargas
Also played when the kids are in the barn
See more »

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User Reviews

 
This Movie Is Based On Truth!
25 December 2004 | by (Long Beach, CA) – See 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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