7.6/10
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63 user 26 critic

Imitation of Life (1934)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 26 November 1934 (USA)
A struggling widow and her daughter take in a black housekeeper and her fair-skinned daughter; the two women start a successful business, but face familial, identity, and racial issues along the way.

Director:

Writers:

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

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Baby Jessie Pullman (as Baby Jane)
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Martin the Furniture Man
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The Painter
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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:

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 »

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

The script didn't get Breen office approval until the film was two weeks into shooting. 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: Peola won't you be a good child like you can be, darling, and do something for your mammy?
Peola Johnson, Age 19: [annoyed] Oh, don't say "mammy."
Delilah Johnson: Look here, baby. You go down South, to one of them high-toned colleges, where only the high-toned goes. Wouldn't you do that for me, honey?
Peola Johnson, Age 19: [taken aback] A Negro school?
Delilah Johnson: Ain't nothin' to be ashamed of, daughter dear. Meet your cross half-way. It won't be near so heavy. Go amongst your own. Quit battlin'! Your little head's sore now from buttin' against stone walls. Open up ...
[...]
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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 Hollywood Hist-o-Rama: Claudette Colbert (1962) 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

It Was Nice to See the Original
29 September 2002 | by See all my reviews

Although I liked the remake with Lana Turner, it does not compare with the original. The remake represents a slicker Hollywood formulaic version, yet, I really liked Juanita Moore's heartfelt performance in the 1959 version.

Some may find it was hard to believe that a Beatrice (Cobert) in the 30's could make money from a Delilah's (Beavers) secret recipe. It would have been quite a challenge (but, not impossible) for Delilah; a poor, black woman the 30's to make a fortune as a business woman! Also, people make fortunes on other people ideas all the time.

This is a well done soap opera. The cast was excellent. Not a beat was skipped in this movie. I am glad that I had the opportunity to see the original. I also think it was a brave move for the 30's. One of my favorite scenes was when at the end of their "girl talk," Beatrice goes upstairs and Delilah goes downstairs to the servant's quarters. That scene said it all. In spite of the fact that these two women were good friends and loved each other, they did not have equal status because of the color of their skin.


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