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Imitation of Life (1959)

Not Rated | | Drama | 30 April 1959 (USA)
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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(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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David Edwards
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Karin Dicker ...
Terry Burnham ...
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Young Man
Lee Goodman ...
Photographer
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Showgirl
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Frankie
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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

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

30 April 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Imitación de la vida  »

Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Karin Dicker's name is misspelled as "Karen" in the onscreen credits. See more »

Goofs

When Lora is posing for the flea powder ad in 1947, several New York City Transit Authority R16 subway cars built in 1954 can be seen passing outside. See more »

Quotes

Steve: Your bones...
Lora Meredith: What about my bones?
Steve: They're perfect. My camera could easily have a love affair with you.
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

Spoofed in Desperate Living (1977) See more »

Soundtracks

Imitation of Life
Words by Paul Francis Webster
Music by Sammy Fain
Sung by Earl Grant
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
The Best Of The Best
8 February 2003 | by (San Francisco,CA,USA) – See all my reviews

"Imitation of Life" was the biggest money-maker ever for Universal Studios upon its 1959 release. This is no surprise. Partly because people eagerly lined-up to see these types of melodramatic, big studio flicks. And also because this film is the best of its class. Director Douglas Sirk was a genius at creating larger-than-life star vehicles. But his films were not only aesthetically pleasing. They were also smart, social critiques on America and its issues and ideals. This is an incredible movie that uses the best elements of soap opera, fashion, music and high drama to convey Sirk's scathing comments of 1950's society.

The film revolves around mother/daughter relationships, with a hint of romance thrown in for good measure. Lana Turner(spruced up in her Jean Louis gowns)does her best to portray a neglectful mother to Sandra Dee. So consumed with fame and fortune is she, that she doesn't look at her daughter's needs. Meanwhile, Turner's black housekeeper(played gloriously by the underrated Juanita Moore)struggles with her own light-skinned daughter(Susan Kohner)who tries to pass for white.

There is no element too small in this film for Sirk and producer Ross Hunter to give the ultra-dramatic treatment to. Frank Skinner's campy(by today's standards)music thunders and swells throughout, while Turner emotes and the always-wooden John Gavin poses and preens for the camera. "Imitation of Life" may not be for all audiences. But those who enjoy Technicolored high-drama, bordering on brutal soap opera, this film is probably the best of the best.


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