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The screenplay was written by Polly Platt. The plot focuses on a year-old prostitute in the red-light district of New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century. The title of the film is inspired by the Tony Jackson song, " Pretty Baby ", which is used in the soundtrack. Although the film was mostly praised by critics, it caused significant controversy due to its depiction of child prostitution and the nude scenes of Brooke Shields, who was 12 years old.
There was no hiding Brooke Shields from the frenzy surrounding the film Pretty Baby, in which she starred as year-old Violet, who lived with her prostitute mother in a Storyville brothel in New Orleans. But she was insulated from the controversy ignited by her nude scenes in the film. At the time, the precociously striking Shields had done modeling, commercials, and a couple of made-for-TV movies. Creative license aside, the film was based on a real place and inspired by the life and times of E. Bellocq, who photographed Storyville prostitutes; in the film, his character falls in love with Violet and sets up house with her.
Not since Pretty Baby, in which year-old Brooke Shields frolicked nude in a New Orleans brothel, has a movie aroused such furor over juvenile sex as The Blue Lagoon. Barely clothed in what appear to be artfully shredded dinner napkins, Brooke and her novice co-star, Christopher Atkins, 19, play two shipwrecked innocents on a South Sea island who discover grown-up delights amid the flora and fauna. This time, though, the passage through puberty and childbirth is done more explicitly and often au naturel Brooke had a nude stand-in, though Chris exposed all for his art. Publications from Parents magazine to the New York Times clucked their disapproval of its adolescent sexuality. Unlike the resolutely adult Pretty Baby, which never escaped the art-house circuit, Lagoon has tapped a large and lucrative audience of moist-palmed prepubescents.