The hooker with a heart of gold (also the whore with a heart of gold or the tart with a heart) is a stock character involving a courtesan or prostitute with a hidden integrity and kindness. The character, traditionally female, is usually an example of irony: an allegedly immoral woman who demonstrates virtues absent in a woman morally correct for the role.
This character is often a pivotal, but peripheral, character in literature and motion pictures, usually giving key advice or serving as a go-between. She is sometimes established in contrast to another female character who is morally correct but frigid or otherwise unyielding. Hookers with hearts of gold are sometimes reluctant prostitutes due to either desperation or coercion from a pimp. Or her prostitution may reflect an overall lust for life, as in Ilya in Never on Sunday.
The stereotype may originate from certain traditions surrounding the Biblical figures of Mary Magdalene and Rahab, or to the ancient Indian theatrical tradition of Sanskrit drama where Śudraka's play Mṛcchakatika (The Little Clay Cart) featured a nagarvadhu (courtesan) with a heart of gold named Vasantasena. But this stock character is pervasive enough in various myths and cultures in the form of a tragic story of the concubine who falls in love with her patron/client or, alternatively, young and often poor lover. Therefore, this might be considered not just an archetype but also fairly universal, and somewhat indicative of various societies' complex ideas about sexual decency and moral character. A variation on the theme, the dancer (stripper) with a heart of gold, is a tamer version of the character.
The fictitious courtesan Chandramukhi in Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's highly acclaimed Bengali novel Devdas has been adapted into film numerous times, most notably into Hindi in 1955 and 2002 with the character-role of Chandramukhi being played by actresses Vyjayanthimala and Madhuri Dixit, respectively. "Chandramukhi" here fulfills Devdas' desire of feeling loved which was betrayed by Parvati (Paro).
In opera and musical theater, a hooker with a heart of gold is most often portrayed by a mezzo-soprano. (One notable exception is the heroine of Giuseppe Verdi's La traviata, Violetta Valery, portrayed by a soprano.) She is portrayed in a tragic light and often dies a tragic death. Another classic example of the "Tart with a heart" character is the character of Nancy in Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist and the stage musical derived from it, Oliver!.
In television history, the "tart with a heart", not necessarily actually a prostitute but usually dressing and behaving like a stereotypical prostitute, has become an important archetype in serial drama and soap opera, especially in Britain. During the 1960s, the character of Elsie Tanner in British series Coronation Street set the mold for future characters such as Bet Lynch, Carla Connor (both also Coronation Street), Kat Slater, Stacey Slater and Dawn Swann (all three characters from the British soap opera EastEnders). Characters of this nature are often depicted as having tragic lives, but put on a front when in public to create the illusion of happiness. More often than not, these female characters are vital to their respective shows, and have become some of the biggest stars on British television.
The hooker with a heart of gold is also a prominent character in many American western movies. In The Usual Suspects, detective Dave Kujan says to Roger "Verbal" Kint: "... so don't sell me the hooker with a heart of gold." Leaving Las Vegas features Elisabeth Shue in one a roles as "A hooker with a heart of silver".
She may be the original hooker with the heart of gold
The only performance that really survives the movie is Sophia Loren's.... She has kind of a thankless role (they've cast her as the whore with the heart of gold again)....
Belle Watling, to be sure, is not a lady, but the classic whore with a heart of gold, a shrewd and successful business woman in her own right, has a far deeper sense than Scarlett of the essential qualities that informed true ladyhood.
Bianca, the "heart of gold" courtesan, deludes herself into believing that she can escape outsider status by an alliance with Cassio....
Starting with Chandramukhi in Devdas, the commercial sex worker in Hindi movies has usually been depicted with a heart of gold, forced into her profession by circumstances beyond her control.
Molly Ringwald will portray Charity Hope Valentine, the dance-hall hostess with the heart of gold, when Sweet Charity goes out on the road this fall.
Dallas (Clare Trevor), the prostitute with a heart of gold....
Ah, the hooker with the heart of gold. It’s a conceit that dates from Mary Magdalene to All My Children’s Donna Beck and beyond.
Naturally, the budding porno princess with the heart of gold falls for nice guy Matthew—as he falls into her sin-soaked world and jeopardizes his button-down future.
...the blood-red bed on which hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Goldie (Jaime King) gives herself to psycho killer Marv (Mickey Rourke)....
In ‘Pyasa’ (1957) the prostitute who is pitted against the lead woman is called Gulabo. Similarly, in ‘Pakeezah’( 1971) the heart of gold metaphor is put forth in the name, which literally means ‘pure heart’.
That led, not unexpectedly, to my mentioning the noted Mexican actress Katy Jurado, who, of course, appeared in 'High Noon,' playing the role of what I think could be fairly described as `la puta con un corazón de oro.′
The whore with a heart of gold and the punchy fighter with a rosin bag for a brain are not exactly new movie types—not even for that high Manhattan intellect Woody Allen.[dead link]
He terrorizes London and confuses his friend John Utterson and his consort Lucy Harris (the prostitute with a - you guessed it - heart of gold).
In addition to a multiple-decade career in film, theater and stand-up, Luenell is best known for her recent appearance as the hooker with a heart of gold (also named Luenell) in Sasha Baron Cohen's 2006 controversial mockumentary, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger), a languidly glamorous hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold who resembles Veronica Lake....
From the middle of the nineteenth century, no other character epitomized the demise of the goodhearted fallen woman better than Marguerite of La Dame aux Camélias, popularly known in the United States as Camille.... Camille soon became the iconic hooker with-a-heart-of-gold whose story would seduce audiences every Broadway season.
For many readers, Nancy is the most important character in the novel.... In contrast, other readers insist that she is just a cliché – the typical prostitute with a heart of gold.
Nancy, the whore with the requisite heart of gold....
Jessica Alba plays Nancy Callahan, a stripper with a heart of gold in Sin City.
The names of these fallen woman are generally indexical of physical attributes while the lead women rarely have names which have overtly physical connotations. In ‘Amar Prem’ (1971), Sharmila Tagore who is a prostitute is called ‘Pushpa” which means ‘flower’.
Satine, the enigmatic hooker with a heart of gold, is obviously quite fond of the earnest but not terribly bright Christian.
Ms. Shue gives a daring and affecting performance, but she's essentially playing one more whore with a heart of gold.
It is in the person of Sonya, a young prostitute with a heart of gold – the 'Holy Sinner,' one might say – that Dostoyevsky glimpses the essential goodness, a goodness beyond the morality of a paternal super-ego, which will act as a good external object.
'If you were any thinner,' says his call-girl girlfriend, Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh, playing a scratchy-voiced whore with a heart of gold), 'you wouldn't exist.'
'Suzie' concerns the life, loves, and woes of the proverbial tart with the heart of gold, the variation being that this one is Chinese.
Suzie and all the other prostitutes in this movie are cute, giggling, dancing sex machines with hearts of gold.Reprinted in Shirley Biagi & Marilyn Kern-Foxworth, Facing Difference: Race, Gender and Mass Media. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press, 1997. Pp. 32, 33.
Even though I don't consider myself an expert on the subject, I am not innocent of creating a whore with a heart of gold; mine, from my first novel, is named Tránsito Soto.
The movie takes a recurrent narrative theme – the hooker with a heart of gold – and mixes it up with a suburban setting and a bunch of adolescent boys, one of whom, Frank (Carter), decides that this prostitute named V (Griffith) would make a perfect mate for his widowed dad (Harris).
Vasantasena ... is the courtesan with a heart of gold, as she is genuinely in love with the hero even though he has lost his wealth.
To go back to the root, this is the story of a prostitute with a heart of gold....