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Imitation of Life (1959)

 -  Drama | Romance  -  30 April 1959 (USA)
7.9
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 8,610 users  
Reviews: 130 user | 38 critic

A struggling young actress with a six-year-old daughter sets up housekeeping with a homeless black widow and her light-skinned eight-year-old daughter who rejects her mother by trying to pass for white.

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Title: Imitation of Life (1959)

Imitation of Life (1959) on IMDb 7.9/10

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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...
...
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Robert Alda ...
...
David Edwards
...
Karin Dicker ...
Terry Burnham ...
John Vivyan ...
Young Man
Lee Goodman ...
Photographer
...
Showgirl
...
Frankie
Sandra Gould ...
Annette
David Tomack ...
Mr. McKenney
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Storyline

Aspiring actress Lora Meredith meets Annie Johnson a homeless black woman at Coney Island and soon they share a tiny apartment. Each woman has an intolerable daughter, though Annie's little girl Sarah Jane, is by far the worse. Neurotic and obnoxious, Sarah Jane doesn't like being black; since she's light-skinned (her father was practically white), she spends the rest of the film passing as white, much to her mother's heartache and shame. Lora, meanwhile, virtually ignores her own daughter in a single-minded quest for stardom. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

actress | friend | love | widow | star | See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

30 April 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Imitation of Life  »

Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film, which focuses on the relationship struggles of mothers and daughters, was Lana Turner's first since a very public scandal involving Turner and her daughter Cheryl Crane. The previous year, the fourteen year old Crane had fatally stabbed Turner's boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato. Stompanato, part of Mickey Cohen's infamous gang, had been beating Turner and Crane's actions were deemed justifiable homicide. Nonetheless, the killing and subsequent scandal created a rift between Turner and her daughter, and seriously threatened to end her film career. However, Turner channeled the pain from her real-life experience and applied it to this film. It would prove to be financially and critically successful, and served as a comeback vehicle for the actress. See more »

Goofs

When Steve and Susie go riding together their horses jump a low stone wall which one of the horses knocks revealing the whole thing to be a lightweight single-piece prop. See more »

Quotes

Lora Meredith: [to Sarah Jane] You weren't being colored, you were just being childish.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Juanita Moore, who plays Annie, is billed with the credit "And Presenting Juanita Moore as Annie Johnson", even though she had already appeared in many films. See more »

Connections

References Gone with the Wind (1939) See more »

Soundtracks

Empty Arms
Written by Arnold Hughes & Frederick Herbert
Performed by Susan Kohner dubbed by Jo Ann Greer
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Douglas Sirk's Last Melodrama
21 April 2012 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

In Coney Island, the widow aspiring actress Lora Meredith (Lana Turner) finds her six-year-old daughter Susie playing with eight-year-old Sarah Jane, who is the daughter of the black homeless housekeeping Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore). Lora brings Annie and her daughter to live in her small apartment in New York and they become close friends.

Lora has a love affair with the photographer Steve Archer (John Gavin) and sooner he proposes her. But the ambitious Lora dreams on becoming a star in Broadway and prioritizes her career and also neglects Susie (Sandra Dee). The light-skinned Sarah Jones (Susan Kohner) rejects her mother and tries to pass as white for her friends.

Lora is well-succeeded in her career and reaches stardom. Ten years later, she meets Steve by chance and he gives attention to Susie while Lora is shooting a film in Italy. When she returns, she decides to get married with Steve; but Susie has fallen in love with Steve. Meanwhile Sarah Jane run away home to work in fleshpots.

"Imitation of Life" is Douglas Sirk's last melodrama with an engaging and emotional story with romance, ambition, friendship, love and rejection. The drama of Annie that is rejected by her daughter, in a time when color of people was a watershed, is heartbreaking and the best subplot. I do not recall any other film from this period that brings the division in the American society between black and white people so clearly. Susan Kohner has an impressive performance in the role of an outcast girl that does not accept the way the society treats black people but prefers to deny her color. The sequence in the alley where she is beaten up by her boyfriend reflects the mentality of the American society in those years. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Imitação da Vida" ("Imitation of Life")


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This Is A Very Real Problem jynger71
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