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Best of Gary Trask

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Top-10 Female Characters from Gambling Movies

17 August 2009

When we presented our Top-10 Most Memorable Gambling-Movie Characters last week, there was something missing: a woman. In fact, if we increased that list to a Top 25 I'm not even sure a female would have cracked the list.

But that doesn't mean there haven't been some actresses who have been at their best in gambling movies. They're just more difficult to remember. So, we put our heads together and came up with a list of females who made noteworthy appearances in gambling movies and here are what we feel are the Top 10.

10. Betsy from "Honeymoon in Vegas"
Well before she became famous for her portrayal of Carrie Bradshaw in HBO's "Sex In The City," Sarah Jessica Parker did a fantastic job in this comedy of not only serving as eye candy for the male viewers, but setting up her fiancée Jack Singer (Nicolas Cage) and the high-roller after her heart Tommy Corman (James Caan) for some classic lines.

9. Virginia Hill from "Bugsy"
"Bugsy" is the story of how Bugsy Siegel started Las Vegas. And his wife Virginia, a Hollywood starlet who is put in charge of the books for the new Flamingo Hotel & Casino, plays a central role in the story. There's no wonder why Annette Bening and Warren Beatty had so much chemistry in this movie since they got married in real life shortly after it was released in 1991. Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton were originally cast for the leading roles, but looking back we're pretty sure Director Barry Levison is happy he ended up with the pairing of Bening and Beatty.

8. Clementin from "Hard Eight"
Director Paul Anderson Thomas got much more acclaim for his films "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia," but his first film "Hard Eight" is a classic gambling movie loaded with stars, including John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall, Samuel Jackson and Gwyneth Paltrow. Paltrow's character Clementin is a casino cocktail waitress who eventually reveals that she's a prostitute and ends up getting married to Reilly's character.

7. Sarah Packard from "The Hustler"
Piper Laurie was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in this 1961 film as Packard, Eddie Felson's girlfriend. She serves as a foundation for the struggling Felson, but in the end her advice is ignored. Ironically, Laurie didn't make another film for nearly 15 years until she earned a second Oscar nomination for her role in the "Carrie" back in 1976.

6. Ilsa Lund from "Casablanca"
Here's another film that's highly decorated (three Oscars) and a must for any list of best gambling movies, even though it was filmed more than six decades ago. Ingrid Bergman was nominated for best actress for her role as Lund, who falls in love with Humphrey Bogart's character, Rick Blaine, an American cafe owner in Paris. There are a number of classic lines delivered in this film (Does "Here's looking at you kid" ring a bell?) and as recent as 2007 the American Film Institute ranked it No. 3 on its Greatest Movie of All Time list. A sign of the times: Bergman was paid $25,000 for the movie.

5. Lorraine from "Swingers"
"Swingers" is one of the best cult-following movies of all-time and Heather Graham played her role as Lorraine to perfection as she is the woman who finally gets Mike Peters to forget about his ex-girlfriend. The alluring blonde actress was equally as good in the more-recent gambling hit "The Hangover" as a prostitute named Jade, but that was more of a bit part, so we'll give Lorraine the nod here.

4. Natalie Belisario from "The Cooler"
Maria Bello, an underrated actress you probably remember from the hit TV show "ER," or the movies "Coyote Ugly" and "A History of Violence," is at her best as Natalie Belisario, a Vegas cocktail waitress who is equally tough, sexy and smart. The main character of The Cooler – Bernie Lootz, played by William H. Macy – is used by the mob casinos to kill hot tables, but his luck starts to turn for the good when he meets and falls in love with Natalie. Watching casino boss Shelly Kaplow – played brilliantly by Alec Baldwin, who performance got him nominated for an Oscar – try to break up the love affair makes for high comedy.

3. Sera from "Leaving Las Vegas"
There's a reason why "Leaving Las Vegas" won an Oscar back in 1996 and was nominated for three others. This is the type of film that you can't get out of your head for the few days after you see it and the reason is the compelling performances of Elisabeth Shue and Nicolas Cage. Shue was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role while Cage won one for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Shue plays a prostitute named Sera who meets Ben (Cage) -- a raging alcoholic -- in Las Vegas. The two form a captivating relationship that is pained by the fact that Sera has to promise Ben she will never ask him to stop drinking and Ben is not allowed to object to Sera's job as a hooker. In researching her role, Shue reportedly spent some time in Vegas watching and talking to real prostitutes and it appears the research paid off.

2. Vesper Lynd from "Casino Royale"
Daniel Craig was outstanding in this 2006 adaptation of Ian Fleming's 1953 novel, but he was aided by a terrific supporting performance from Eva Green, who does a tremendous job of selling Lynd's double-agent status. Green beat out Cécile De France and Audrey Tautou for this role and her performance helped "Casino Royale" become the highest-grossing Bond film in history.

1. Ginger McKenna from "Casino"
There are a number of memorable characters in "Casino" and Sharon Stone's Ginger is among them, which makes her an easy choice for the top spot on this list. Sam "Ace" Rothstein was the king of Las Vegas, but part of his downfall was his relationship with Ginger, a character who Stone nailed as sexy, spoiled, selfish and insidious. According to IMDb, Stone spent most of her days filming the movie in pain because she was having back trouble and the gold and white beaded gown she wears during a casino scene weighed 45 pounds. Stone – who earned the role of Ginger after Sean Young turned it down due to pregnancy – won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for her work in this film that would also rank near the top if we were to put together a list of the "Best Movies to Stumble Across Late Night While Flipping Through the Channels."

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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT