It’s not surprising that escorting — one of the oldest professions — has held prominent roles in many movies. While escorts in these productions may represent many things, there are some common trends among storylines.
Plots include Cinderella stories, hookers with hearts of gold, male escorts and real-life stories. Though modern films and movies have begun to deal with more sexually explicit storylines, it’s surprising that some movies directly addressed the issue of prostitution very early on in cinema history. Here is a basic overview of escorting as it has been reflected by the American movie industry.
Perhaps the most famous American movie about an escort, Pretty Woman made its box office debut in 1990 with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere starring. The plot features a street-smart adult service provider who is hired by a high-level executive to be his companion for the week. During her week of being wined and dined, the two find each other’s company not only pleasant, but discover they are in love with one another. The movie closes with the escort being swept away from her less-than-glamorous life into the executive’s high-society world.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s didn’t directly address a life of escort dating, but Audrey Hepburn’s character, Holly Golightly, derived all of her income from her male “friends.” (The issue is more directly addressed in the book of the same name.) It is reasonable to believe that Holly Golightly worked as an escort, especially when the film featured a string of men who Holly entertained. As in all Cinderella stories, Holly Golightly met her true love and lived happily ever after.
A number of movies that feature prostitution depict it as a road to true romance.
Hookers with hearts of gold
Depicted regularly this way in old westerns, hookers with hearts of gold may have supported themselves from seemingly immoral ways, but they always treated their men folk well. Escorts in many old westerns were given the utmost respect and won the affections of the movies’ heroes. Although a more modern depiction, the mini-series Lonesome Dove (filmed in 1989) depicted the fair Lorena as the apple of more than one man’s eye due to her mild-manner and beauty.
In Gone with the Wind, Belle Watling first appears to be a tough, brash woman with excellent fashion sense. She has a shrewd way about her and a head for business. However, she proves to also have a kind heart and appreciation for others during the course of the movie.
“V” in Milk Money immediately shows her soft spot for children, even though she ends up hiding from the mob for the safety of her life. Holed away in suburbia, she befriends young Frank and wins the heart of his father.
Risky Business, starring Rebecca DeMornay and Tom Cruise and filmed in 1983, is yet another movie where a hooker’s heart of gold becomes apparent. While beautiful, she is cunning and shows her hard character by stealing from him and dumping his car in the lake. However, due to circumstances, she helps him retrieve his property and pay for the damage to his car. At the end of the movie, the escort expresses her desires to establish a relationship for more than just a night.
Many stories involving escorts are glamorized and fictionalized. However, there are several movies that tell the real-life stories of prostitutes and the lives they led. One example is Monster, which starred Charlize Theron. Filmed in 2003, the movie tells the story of a woman named Aileen Wuornos. She was executed in 2002 for the killing six men. Aileen experienced frustration over not being able to find a job that seemed “legitimate,” so she kept returning to adult dating and eventually robbing and murdering her customers.
Pretty Baby takes place in the last years of legal prostitution in New Orleans. The film was quite controversial in 1978 as the issue of child prostitution was addressed, just as it often occurred in brothels of the past. Susan Sarandon stars as the mother of Violet (Brooke Shields). Violet’s virginity is auctioned off at age 12 and she enters the world of prostitution. The movie was banned in Canada and carefully screened in the U.S.
Although not fully based on any real stories, Working Girls (1986) demonstrates the average life of an upper-class call girl living in Manhattan. Reviews by escorts revealed they felt the movie was an accurate description of their lives.
Leaving Las Vegas was based on a semi-autobiographical novel written by John O’Brien that features the story of the relationship between an alcoholic at the end of his rope and a hardened prostitute. They are forced to face each other’s hardships, flaws and disapproval of lifestyle choices.
Boys will be boys
Male escorts are not left out by the American movie industry. Several movies depict male providers, but the most famous may be Midnight Cowboy starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman. The movie, debuting in 1969, was originally X-rated, although it won an Academy Award for Best Picture. The movie tells the story of Joe’s repeated attempts to hit it big as a male escort and the bond he forms with fellow hustler Rizzo.
American Gigolo starred Richard Gere and premiered in 1980. It shares the tribulations of a successful high-end gigolo when he becomes mixed up in a murder investigation. However, it also demonstrates the class, wealth and style that a successful male gigolo may experience when business goes well.
An independent film produced in 1981, made quite an impression on the American public as it addressed male escorting, among other topics throughout the plot. My Own Private Idaho tells the story of two male escorts who travel the world in search of one’s mother. The subject matter made several financiers uncomfortable, but the independent film was eventually made and met with rave reviews.
Nothing new here
Although it is common perception that modern media has become much more open-minded, escorting was the subject matter of several movies early on in film industry history. Camille, starring Greta Garbo, was produced in 1936 and divulged the story of a young Parisian courtesan who chose love over her career. Although the movie has a tragic ending, it did a great job of demonstrating the world of courtesans.
Many more examples of movies exploring the world of escorts exist. It’s unreasonable to doubt that more won’t be made. Though frowned upon by some, escort business continues to thrive in the United States and exist as profitable career choices for those who wish to capitalize on their talents as companions to others.