7.5/10
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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:

John M. Stahl

Writers:

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

Photos

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Claudette Colbert ... Beatrice Pullman
Warren William ... Stephen Archer
Rochelle Hudson ... Jessie Pullman
Ned Sparks ... Elmer Smith
Louise Beavers ... Delilah Johnson
Fredi Washington ... Peola Johnson
Juanita Quigley ... Baby Jessie Pullman (as Baby Jane)
Alan Hale ... Martin the Furniture Man
Henry Armetta ... The Painter
Wyndham Standing ... 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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Did You Know?

Trivia

Paul Lukas was the original choice for the male lead. See more »

Goofs

When Elmer first comes into the pancake shop on the boardwalk, Beatrice leans on the counter with one elbow. In the next wider shot, she's leaning on the counter with both elbows. 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 and ...
[...]
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Crazy Credits

End credits titled at the top "A great cast is worth repeating". See more »

Alternate Versions

The original theatrical release print of Imitation of Life featured different title cards, including a title card containing a brief prologue, which read: "Atlantic City, in 1919, was not just a boardwalk, rolling-chairs and expensive hotels where bridal couples spent their honeymoons. A few blocks from the gaiety of the famous boardwalk, permanent citizens of the town lived and worked and reared families just like people in less glamorous cities." When the film was reissued by Universal in 1938, the title cards were changed, and the prologue card was removed. All current prints of the film, including those used for the VHS and DVD releases, are struck from the 1938 re-release version. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Smash: The Tonys (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

There isn't a black person who hasn't seen this movie and cried
13 May 2005 | by jahlauneSee all my reviews

This film is a part of growing up black in America. I saw it as a kid and I don't know anyone who hasn't cried. But, it is what it is, a true testament to the times. There is not much you can say. Lana turner did a great job on the remake but to me this is a bit earthier and I prefer to see the original and then see the 57 version. However, the pancake recipe bit is a bit ludicrous i mean how many secret ingredients can you put into pancakes. geesh Louise! Wonderful, keep it in your library at home and show it to your kids. I haven't seen a teenager yet that isn't fasinated and somewhat appalled by this movie. Its like listening to Billie Holidays Strange fruit. You are shocked but find yourself listening over and over again. To assure you have not missed anything.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 November 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Imitation of Life See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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