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Pretty Baby (1978)

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



(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 overview, first billed only:
Matthew Anton ...
Seret Scott ...
Cheryl Markowitz ...
Susan Manskey ...
Laura Zimmerman ...
Miz Mary ...
Mae Mercer ...
Mama Mosebery


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


In 1917, in the red-light district of New Orleans, they called her "Pretty Baby" See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

5 April 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Niña bonita  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Jack Nicholson was the second choice to play Bellocq. See more »


In the final scene, E.J. Bellocq pictures Violet with a Kodak No. 2 Portrait Brownie, which wasn't available until 1929. See more »


Frieda: Do not forget, this guy is buying a virgin, so she's got to act it right. You've got to give him the idea that you don't know nothing. It should be like a rape.
Josephine: You don't know. Could be a different kind of guy. Someone that wants you to act like she wants it.
Frieda: The main thing is to whimper and cry when he starts, but then you've got to act like it feels good.
Violet: I know what to do. Leave me alone.
Hattie: Well, don't act like you know it all. You won't even get a tip that way.
Fanny: Violet, you should touch him ...
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 »


Referenced in The Ecstasy Girls (1979) See more »


Pretty Baby
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

Very pretty and very solid
18 January 2004 | by (Mountains of Madness) – See all my reviews

At the time of its release, PRETTY BABY attracted a lot of controversy for its subject matter and matter-of-fact nudity of pre-teen Brook Shields (Violet).

Now it would probably not get made at all -- which is a shame, because it's a solidly written and directed drama.

The late Louis Malle, who also directed the amazing BLACK MOON, approaches the subject of child prostitution without judgement or moralizing.

The film's effectiveness comes from a script that does not burden any of its characters with explanatory dialog. Most of the dialog heard is of the incidental kind. Characters do not pause to explain situations or pontificate. Malle captures glances, body language, reflections and uses the non-verbal to tell his very human story of a New Orleans cathouse.

Susan Sarandon, as Violet's prostitute mother, turns in a fine performance as a woman in denial of her reality. Keith Carradine, who plays a photographer who falls in love with Violet, delivers a perfectly tuned performance with little more than than a dozen lines of dialogue. Also worth nothing is the beautiful performance of Francis Faye as Nell, the cathouse madam. She brings a sharp gift for irony to her role.

Brooke is very, very good, too, and this was the performance of her career.

38 of 42 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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