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Imitation of Life (1959)

Not Rated | | Drama | 30 April 1959 (USA)
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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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...
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Robert Alda ...
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David Edwards
...
Karin Dicker ...
Terry Burnham ...
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Young Man
Lee Goodman ...
Photographer
...
Showgirl
...
Frankie
...
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 »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

30 April 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Imitación de la vida  »

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

Douglas Sirk worked gently with his actors. Rather than dictating the way a scene should be played, he would take each actor aside, suggest what he wanted and ask how he or she felt about it. 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

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

Referenced in Desperate Living (1977) See more »

Soundtracks

Trouble of the World
(uncredited)
Words and music by Unknown
Performed by Mahalia Jackson
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
canned goods as caviar: Sirks last masterpiece.
8 May 2005 | by (warren michigan) – See all my reviews

For a long time Douglas Sirk was dismissed by all but he most insightful critics. It was thought that he made a series of well crafted, well acted, but ultimately empty"weepies"(as well as "americana" films, a swashbuckler( Captain Lightfoot), a revisionist western( Taza Son of Cochise),and a sandals and toga epic(Sign of the Pagan.)

However, the "weepies" have been reevaluated( and the Americana films may be reevaluated as well).Sirk is now seen as one of the most significant American directors of the fifties, and, perhaps, as one of the hundred greatest directors of all time. Imitation of Life was his last Hollywood pictures, and one of his best. I call this film, "Canned goods as caviar", because it is an example of taking a "low brow" genre and transforming it into art. Sure, the music is melodramatic, sure the performances by Gavin and Turner are somewhat contrived), sure, the story is campy, but Sirk in his genius transforms melodrama into a scathing critique of materialism, conformity, and racism. Sirk was no cynic, but a rigorous moralist-a superbly educated and sensitive man, steeped in European and American literature.

One of the most astonishing-and misunderstood- elements in this picture is the incandescent performance by Juanita Moore. Moore achieves what is almost impossible; she portrays human goodness. Ican rarely think of a time when an American film has more saintly, more purely Christian figure.


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The most BEAUTIFUL dresses and gowns I've ever seen in any movie... aircrftmec
After her racist boyfriend beat her up....why didnt they obryan864
Why did Sarah Jane feel that she had to try to pass? joannabaroncelli
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This is horrible.... rajiv_kuin
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