Will playing a stripper help Halle Berry win an Oscar? A guide to loose women onscreen.

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Dec. 17 2010 3:04 PM

The Easiest Path to an Academy Award

Will playing a stripper help Halle Berry win an Oscar? A guide to loose women onscreen.

Let's say you're a goal-oriented actress looking to nab an Oscar statuette: What's the easiest path to an Academy Award? Historically, it's been to, well, be easy: Of the women who have won the Academy Award for best or supporting actress, a disproportionate number have played prostitutes, strippers, or "loose" women. Plenty of actresses, though, have tried, unsuccessfully, to pole-dance their way to acclaim only to end up figures of ridicule: Call it the Showgirlsproblem—the clichés have to land on just short of de trop for the gambit to be successful. Halle Berry, who already won a best actress prize in 2001, is in the running again after her surprise Golden Globes nomination for Frankie and Alice, a small-budget passion project in which she portrays a stripper with multiple personalities. (The fact that only one of the personalities strips shouldn't be a disqualifier: Joanne Woodward won an Oscar for her portrayal of multiple personalities in The Three Faces of Eve, and her risqué personality wasn't even a sex worker; she was merely wild.) So what are Berry's chances of taking home an Oscar? Below, a chart to guide your handicapping.

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Designed by Natalie Matthews-Ramo.

Corrections, Dec. 18, 2010: The chart initially misspelled Elisabeth Shue, Susan Hayward, and Elizabeth Berkley. It also mistakenly said that Jon Voight was awarded an Oscar for Midnight Cowboy, when, in fact, he was nominated but did not win. 

Noreen Malone is a senior editor at New York magazine.