Imitation of Life (1934)

Approved  |   |  Drama, Romance  |  26 November 1934 (USA)
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Bea Pullman and her daughter Jessie have had a hard time making ends meet since Bea's husband died. Help comes in the form of Delilah Johnson, who agrees to work as Bea's housekeeper in ... See full summary »



(novel), (screenplay), 10 more credits »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 1 win. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Ned Sparks ...
Louise Beavers ...
Fredi Washington ...
Juanita Quigley ...
Martin, the Furniture Man
Henry Armetta ...
The Painter
Wyndham Standing ...
Jarvis, Beatrice's Butler


Bea Pullman and her daughter Jessie have had a hard time making ends meet since Bea's husband died. Help comes in the form of Delilah Johnson, who agrees to work as Bea's housekeeper in exchange for a room for herself and her daughter Peola. Bea comes up with a plan to market Delilah's pancake recipe. The two soon become wealthy and as the years go on, their friendship deepens. Their relationships with their daughters, however, become strained. Ashamed of her mother, Peola seeks a new life by passing for white. Bea's love for her daughter is tested when she and Jessie fall for the same man. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Brought Back to thrill you again! Fannie Hurst's stirring drama of a mother and a daughter in love with the same man. (re-release) See more »


Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

26 November 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Imitación de la vida  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Claudette Colbert and Warren William also co-starred in Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra (1934) that same year. See more »


Beatrice 'Bea' Pullman: Don't you want your own house?
Delilah Johnson: No. How am I to take care of you and Miss Jessie if I aint here?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Reissue prints of this film, issued after Carl Laemmle's ouster and retirement from Universal, read "The New Universal Presents [Claudette Colbert and Warren William in 'Imitation of Life']" rather than "Carl Laemmle Presents [Claudette Colbert and Warren William in 'Imitation of Life']" See more »


Referenced in Smash: The Producers (2013) See more »


Home, Sweet Home
Music partly composed, and arranged by H.R. Bishop from a Sicilian air
Played by the band at the end of the party
See more »

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User Reviews

Box it!
24 February 2006 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

"Imitation of Life", the 1934 version, reflected the attitude in the country toward blacks. This movie wouldn't have had a chance of being made in the present climate of political correctness. This movie shows how Hollywood dealt with the racial issues back in those years. John Stahl directed the film, which stands in stark contrast with the Douglas Sirk's take in 1959 which presents a glossier vision of the Fanny Hurst novel, in which it's based.

Between the two versions, this one seems to make more sense, in spite of the incredible jump from rags to riches Bea Pullman experiences. Claudette Colbert makes Bea more accessible to us, in contrast with Lana Turner's blonde goddess looks. This Bea Pullman is easier to take because the way she makes her money by going into business, capitalizing on Delilah's idea about the marketing the perfect blend for pancakes.

Warren William plays Steve Archer, the man who falls in love with Bea while not suspecting the effect he causes in young Jessie, Bea's daughter. Louise Beavers is Delilah; she is made to speak broken English to show her ignorance, which was the thing expected every time black characters were shown in movies of that period. Ms. Beavers' role was made bigger in the 1959 remake, but Juanita Moore, who played the part, was not subjected to her predecessor's fate. Rochelle Hudson, Ned Sparks and Fredi Washington round up the supporting cast.

26 of 30 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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20% of profits for a black woman in 1939.... unlikely_protagonist
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