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Imitation of Life (1934)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 26 November 1934 (USA)
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 »

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

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
Ned Sparks ...
Louise Beavers ...
Fredi Washington ...
...
Baby Jessie Pullman (as Baby Jane)
...
Martin the Furniture Man
...
The Painter
...
Jarvis the Butler
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Storyline

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 <dbubbeo@cmp.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Claudette Colbert at her finest in Imitation of Life (re-release) See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

26 November 1934 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Imitación de la vida  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Fredi Washington (Peola, Aged 19) was a light-skinned African-American. After playing this role, she was criticized by some in the black community who labored under the misconception that the actress herself practiced self-hatred and would rather 'pass' herself off as white. Ms. Washington was, in fact, an avid civil rights activist. See more »

Goofs

When baby Jessie falls into the bathtub going after her rubber ducky, there is an obvious edit between her falling in and the splash of water coming out of the tub. Note the shifting of the towel and the shadows from the light coming in through the window on the tile wall behind the tub. See more »

Quotes

Delilah Johnson: What's my baby want?
Peola Johnson, Age 19: I want to be white, like I look.
Delilah Johnson: Peola!
Peola Johnson, Age 19: [gesturing to mirror] Look at me. Am I not white? Isn't that a white girl?
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 »

Connections

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

Soundtracks

Nobody Knows de Trouble I've Seen
(uncredited)
Traditional Negro Spiritual
Lyrics by Henry Thacker Burleigh
Played and sung by an offscreen chorus during the opening credits
Played as background music often
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User Reviews

Landmark Film
8 December 2004 | by (Alexandria, Virginia) – See all my reviews

This is probably one of the first films that dealt with race relations in this country. While "Imitation of Life" centers around the business created by two women, one black and one white, it also take a hard look at the struggles minorities face -- something very rarely seen on the big screen at that time. Most of the films at that time showed blacks as domestic servants and pictured them as "happy" in those roles. This is a classic in that it's one of the first times any medium tackled the issue of black-white relations. It's a must-see, both from an entertainment perspective and, most importantly, a historical one. I think a lot of African-Americans in the entertainment business can look at this film as a trail-blazer in terms of "serious" roles for blacks instead of being cast as "entertainers."


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