Scarlet Street : Prostitute and pimp?

Prostitute and pimp?

One of the reviews mentioned that Kitty was a prostitute and Johnny was her pimp. Although it's possible that Lang was hinting at that idea (but clouded ot so as not to upset the censors), I didn't get that vibe.

Sure, Kitty is portrayed as a demonic loose woman, and Johnny sarcastically remarks that she's been "kissed before," meaning she is less than pure. When Chris asks her what job could keep her out so late and she has him guess, probably every mind in the audience is thinking she's a streetwalker. And obviously Johnny exploits her for money, like a pimp would. But I think Lang is only COMPARING her to a prostitute and Johnny to a pimp.

Kitty keeps an apartment with Milly, who won't let her bring other men inside. If she were a prostitute, she'd probably have her own place. Plus Milly remarks that Kitty used to be a model, before she got too snippy and lazy and stopped paying the rent on time. So she had a regular job, which she has basically quit because she's waiting for Johnny to marry her and provide for her.

The prostitute/pimp issue is merely metaphorical. In this specific situation, the way Kitty reels Chris in is prostitute-like, and the way Johnny feeds on Kitty is pimp-like. However, they are not generally a prostitute and a pimp.

Thoughts?

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

I think that Milly not wanting men in the house was a lie that Kitty told Cross so that she didn't have to let him in. I was under ther impression that Kitty was really a prostitute and Johnny a pimp. If that was a metaphor then boy did Lang really stress it. I think if it was only a metaphor then Lang would have hinted at it in a less direct way. That's my take.

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Re: Prostitute and pimp?

The impression I got was that Kitty had a distaste for using actual sex (rather then promised sex) to get money, but that she had done it before in the past, most likely forced to by Johnny. So in the past she has acted as a prostitute and Johnny her pimp, but it's not either of their regular occupation. You get the impression if Johnny wants money, he'll get it and he's shown he's not concerned about other people having sex with Kitty if it get's him his cash. I would be suprised if he'd never pimped her out before, but as a regular thing? Nah.

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I agree with the OP and think that Lang was toying with our expectations and hoping we'd compare them to a hooker and pimp although I'm sure her line about not being allowed to bring men home had more to do with shrugging off the old man.. Johnny and kitty are just a pair of old time chavs.

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I agree. I kept wondering if Kitty were a prostitute, too, but she didn't seem like a real "professional". From the way Millie talked, I decided that Kitty had been a model until very recently, but everything had changed once Johnny came into her life.

Clearly, Millie saw him as a bad influence - Kitty was never on time for jobs after she met him, because she was out all night with him and sleeping in in the morning. She also used terms that you almost HAVE to assume are hints at prostitution: "Yeah, and he's turning you into a tramp!" "Not bad, for a working girl," when we've just learned that Kitty has recently given up any real job she might have had. And all the references to her being lazy - people used to say that prostitution was "easy money"; Kitty is the type who looks for the easy way, she's not interested in working hard to get what she wants. She's the sort who'll go for the shortcut.

I felt that Kitty had started down the slope to prostitution, but at the moment it was just an occasional thing, when Johnny wanted money. They probably ran other scams too, but this was always there to fall back on. Eventually, it would have become a regular thing, but they weren't at that stage yet.

Flat, drab passion meanders across the screen!

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

Johnny says "I asked you to bring my 50 bucks, and what do you show up with? 15! 15!" sounds like a pimp.

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I'm looking at the movie now, 9:57pm, 5-12-08. Take it from a chump who has been there done that and got to tee shirt; she's a prosse, he's a pimp and he's a chump. Just saw the scene where he slaps her like a pimp. And then She yells at Chris like a prosse. The painting with the street light and the street walker, at night with the snakes. An hour and 2 minutes into the film. And It takes one to know one. And a looser is a looser.

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

Before artihcus022 nails the case shut with his/her post below, along with all of the thoughts and insights already posted, didn't anyone other than me think the nickname "Lazy Legs" (especially in conjunction with what Rosabel posted above) rang a bell, as clear as one could be rung during the Hays Code era?

Or was "Lazy Legs" just an innocent expression for a lazy person in the '40s?

Re: Prostitute and pimp?


The impression I got was that Kitty had a distaste for using actual sex (rather then promised sex) to get money, but that she had done it before in the past, most likely forced to by Johnny. So in the past she has acted as a prostitute and Johnny her pimp, but it's not either of their regular occupation. You get the impression if Johnny wants money, he'll get it and he's shown he's not concerned about other people having sex with Kitty if it get's him his cash. I would be suprised if he'd never pimped her out before, but as a regular thing? Nah


I agree with this, except I'm not even sure if she was hooking as we know it to be. Instead, I think she was just charming gullible men in bed and getting money out of them that way. IOW, basically what she was doing to Chris, except the latter never slept with her.

No blah, blah, blah!

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

I don't think so, I think they got as close to being specific about her being a prostitute and him being the pimp as they could at the time. There's a line when they're arguing about money and he says something about how she could "just get an easy $50" by calling some un-named guy.

Did I not love him, Cooch? MY OWN FLESH I DIDN'T LOVE BETTER!!! But he had to say 'Nooooooooo'

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

This is a rather strange discussion over something that's obvious in the film, moreover obvious to everyone involved with the film, in Hollywood, to the public. To settle the argument, the film is a remake of Jean Renoir's La Chienne, Renoir's first major sound film made in 1931. La Chienne literally means "The Bitch" and it's made crystal clear in that film that she's a whore and the Dan Duryea surrogate in the original is her pimp.

It has the same plot. The only difference being Lang's film is a dead serious take on the subject while Renoir's film is an ironic jet-black comedy. But then that's par for the course with Michel Simon in the Edward G. Robindon role.


"Ça va by me, madame...Ça va by me!" - The Red Shoes

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

I'd like to see "La Chienne", I've never seen it actually. Sounds great. I've seen "Boudu Saved from Drowning".

Did I not love him, Cooch? MY OWN FLESH I DIDN'T LOVE BETTER!!! But he had to say 'Nooooooooo'

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

KINO released a print a few years ago, I think. I have an excellent DVD print of the film from Spain.

I've seen "Boudu Saved from Drowning".

Well everybody who's seen La Chienne knows that Boudu is a sequel of that film. Not in terms of them being the same characters but a similar spirit and besides it has the same lead actor, Michel Simon(a giant of French Cinema).

Although I think Lang's film is great, I find it inferior to Renoir's because Fritz doesn't have Renoir's natural gift for comedy. Lang had his own underrated sense of humour but he's generally very serious.


"Ça va by me, madame...Ça va by me!" - The Red Shoes

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

"This is a rather strange discussion over something that's obvious in the film, moreover obvious to everyone involved with the film, in Hollywood, to the public. ..."

It may appear "obvious," given film history, but it's simply implied and ambiguous in this film, which is understandable given the moral 'tone' of the era. She may have been simply a veteran opportunist, e.g.; although her boyfriend is a scum, in either/any case! I'm not clear as to whether, in the jargon of that decade, "working girl" was indeed a euphemism for prostitute. Perhaps Lang or its writer created that phrase? Regardless, it's a superb, non-satircal noir; the 'hero' of which, by its end, is totally undone and morally compromised. Robinson is superb, as is the film. It deserves to be restored, i.m.o.

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Re: Prostitute and pimp?

I guess you really sucked up to it, in the part where she says "I'm an actress".

Don't ya`???

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

I'll put it this way, if you infer that Kitty is a prostitute and Johnny is her pimp, there is absolutely nothing in the film that contradicts the idea.

It is clear that she has no regular job, but she regularly ponies up money to give Johnny. Johnny also has no visible means of support except the money she gives him. Yes, he hustles a little here and there, but remember when she states that she's given him a total of $900 over a course of time, and that she's still waiting for him to buy her a ring with that money? That's an incredible amount of money for a woman with no job or inheritance to produce in 1945, unless she was tricking. Also, look at the fact that she's giving him money that she then asks him to possibly spend on her. That's a classic pimp-prostitute relationship.

Also, look at the nature of their relationship. The casual way he slaps her around several times, the way money is exchanged between them, the expectations each has of the other, and the fact that when we first meet the couple, he is beating her in the street because she showed up at the end of the night with less money than he expected.

A film made at this time couldn't use the word "prostitute" or "street walker" or show Kitty turning tricks. It had to imply it in other ways, and this film implies plenty.

If you really think Kitty wasn't a prostitute and Johnny wasn't her pimp, you're watching this film with blinders on.

http://ocdviewer.wordpress.com

Re: Prostitute and pimp?


Yes, he hustles a little here and there, but remember when she states that she's given him a total of $900 over a course of time, and that she's still waiting for him to buy her a ring with that money?


No, I think that $900 was from the $1000 that Chris had stolen.

Even though Kitty's room-mate complains that Johnny's 'making a tramp' out of her, I don't think it's right to characterise their relationship as pimp-working girl in the conventional sense; she's obviously hung up on him and seems to find the idea of physical contact with Chris (and by extension others) to be genuinely distasteful. It's possible that she has the odd gentlemen friend who she taps for the occasional fifty (as implied by Johnny) but that's different from working on her back.

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Re: Prostitute and pimp?

Like several others on here, I feel the answer is sort of a middle ground. She doesn't turn tricks as a sole source of income, but if she and Johnny need money, she does it begrudgingly. She makes it pretty clear she's in love with Johnny and derives no pleasure from being with other men, she just wants to keep Johnny happy. In that sense, it's definitely not a typical 'prostitute-pimp' relationship. There's one particularly telling exchange after Janeway sets up a meeting with Kitty to discuss 'her' paintings:

Kitty: It won't stop with lunch...
Johnny: Well, what's the difference?
Kitty: If you mean...?
Johnny: Ah, stop acting like a green kid! Let him talk about what he WANTS to talk about, and he won't talk about art...


Pretty clear implication there. Kitty doesn't really want to seduce Janeway, but Johnny sees an opportunity and encourages Kitty to take advantage of it.

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Re: Prostitute and pimp?

I feel very innocent, I assumed she was a stripper at the time.

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

Going back to the novel. The "Kitty" character (not the name in the novel) was in love with the "Johnny" character (once again a different name). She was a typist who gave money to him but his appetite for money became so great she began to hook to have money to give him - which is when it got out of hand.

I felt it was brought out - without being flagrante (as the times would have dictated). When Kitty gets the studio apartment Millie comments: "You're doing okay - for a 'working girl'". There is also a scene in which Johnny tells Kitty the arrangement with Christopher would be better than "calling what's-his-name for a fifty".

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

I feel naive. I thought Milly was just being arch: implying that Kitty hadn't been a "working girl" but was being kept like one or about to put herself in the position of having to pay for the apartment with sex. I thought it was one of the funnier lines in the movie. Oh well.

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

Yes, Lang meant for her to be a prostitute, but wasn't allowed to say that in the film because of the Hays Code. In the Kino release (which is the first time it's been released in a decent form) the audio commentary by critic and author, David Kalat, who has written a book entitled "The Strange Case of Dr. Mabuse: A Study of the 12 Films and 5 Novels" in part about Fritz Lang, Kalat tells us that

"Lang had to rely on little queues like this, because he was forbidden, by the production code to call Kitty a prostitute outright. He had to find subtle ways of singnaling that fact to the attentive viewer, without outraging the censors."

This film was a very faithful remake of the French film, La chienne, in which the Kitty character is named "Lulu" and Johnny's character is "Dede". In that film, Lulu is a streetwalker and Dede is her pimp. So, Lang most definitely meant for Kitty to be a prostitute, but was unable to say that directly in the film.


"...nothing is left of me, each time I see her..." - Catullus

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

That was exactly my take on it, too.

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If she's a prostitute, then why is she unwilling to sleep with Edward Robinson's character? She seems genuinely grossed out by the thought of being with him, and rejects him with a disgusted look on her face--not the behavior of someone who sleeps with men for money.

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Re: Prostitute and pimp?

It might sound a bit alien to some, but I think for a lot of these women, they've perhaps become SO accustomed to being used by men solely for sexual pleasure that the idea of a man actually 'loving' them or being genuinely interested in them is so foreign as to be disgusting. Robinson is also no don juan, but you're right, prostitutes are seldom very picky.

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

I'd say definitively pimp and prostitute. The film makes it as obvious as was possible for 1945.
Kitty may not have been a professional one, but I'd say she was certainly free-lance. Whenever she and Johnny needed money, she was up for it.

Her friend Milly not only talks about her modeling but calls her sardonically a "working girl". The terms model/actress were quite often used as synonyms for prostitute.

Johnny literally pushes her to go out with other men and milk them for all they're worth. He tells her not to be so fussy about it. He says "Come on, you've been kissed before" when she's hesitant.

I'd say the movie hits the audience over the head with the clues.

Jessica Rabbit
"I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."

Re: Prostitute and pimp?

Certainly the dynamic was there. Neither of these characters was very bright. Neither wanted to work. They lived from day to day. Johnny turns to Kitty to do these things and turn the money over to him when things didn't work out, which was often.

"Two more swords and I'll be Queen of the Monkey People." Roseanne

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Re: Prostitute and pimp?

In the original French film La Chienne (1931) translated The Bitch in English, in which Scarlet Street is an American remake of, Kitty is a prostitute and the guy her pimp.
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