7.6/10
3,535
64 user 28 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:

John M. Stahl

Writers:

Fannie Hurst (novel), William Hurlbut (screenplay)
Reviews

Watch Now

From $3.99 (SD) on Prime Video

ON DISC
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 1 win. See more awards »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

An aspiring actress befriends a black widow, but trouble arises when the latter is rejected by her daughter, who tries to pass for white.

Director: Douglas Sirk
Stars: Lana Turner, John Gavin, Sandra Dee
Certificate: Passed Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Romance and heartbreak walk hand-in-hand when Philip Chagal accidentally meets Helen Lawrence in a restaurant where she is a waitress. Unhappily married to a woman who suffers from mental ... See full summary »

Director: John M. Stahl
Stars: Irene Dunne, Charles Boyer, Barbara O'Neil
Drama | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

With her husband away to fight in World War II, a housewife struggles to care for their two daughters - and a pair of lodgers who have moved in - alone.

Directors: John Cromwell, Edward F. Cline, and 2 more credits »
Stars: Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

From Arnold Bennett's novel "Buried Alive". An artist returning from years abroad takes the identity of his dead valet to escape the attentions of the press.

Director: John M. Stahl
Stars: Monty Woolley, Gracie Fields, Laird Cregar
Cleopatra (1934)
Certificate: Passed Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

The man-hungry Queen of Egypt leads Julius Caesar and Mark Antony astray, amid scenes of DeMillean splendor.

Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Stars: Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Henry Wilcoxon
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A middle aged millionaire falls in love with a gorgeous, but stupid blonde gold digger, being guided by her ever-present shrewish friend.They marry but the man soon regrets his rash move ... See full summary »

Director: Alfred L. Werker
Stars: Adolphe Menjou, Minna Gombell, Arthur Pierson
Certificate: Passed Biography | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Elizabeth Barrett's tyrannical father has forbidden any of his family to marry. Nevertheless, Elizabeth falls in love with the poet Robert Browning.

Director: Sidney Franklin
Stars: Norma Shearer, Fredric March, Charles Laughton
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A duchess' irrational behavior toward the governess of her children triggers tragic events that will change her family's lives forever.

Director: Anatole Litvak
Stars: Bette Davis, Charles Boyer, Jeffrey Lynn
Now I'll Tell (1934)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Golden is a two-bit gambler who has promised wife Virginia he'll quit when he makes $200,000. When he fixes a fight he gets mobster Mossiter mad, then loses his fortune to him. He pawns his... See full summary »

Director: Edwin J. Burke
Stars: Spencer Tracy, Helen Twelvetrees, Alice Faye
Drama | Film-Noir | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A writer falls in love with a young socialite and they're soon married. But her obsessive love for him threatens to be the undoing of them both, and everyone else around them.

Director: John M. Stahl
Stars: Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain
Dark Victory (1939)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A young socialite is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and must decide whether or not she'll meet her final days with dignity.

Director: Edmund Goulding
Stars: Bette Davis, George Brent, Humphrey Bogart
Edit

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
Edit

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 »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 November 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Imitación de la vida 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 »
Edit

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

Baby Jessie Pullman, Age 3: I want my quack-quack!
See more »

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

Featured in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #2.21 (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Home, Sweet Home
(uncredited)
Music partly composed, and arranged by H.R. Bishop from a Sicilian air
Played by the band at the end of the party
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Box it!
24 February 2006 | by jotix100See all my reviews

"Imitation of Life", the 1934 version, reflected the attitude in the country toward blacks. This movie wouldn't have had a chance of being made in the present climate of political correctness. This movie shows how Hollywood dealt with the racial issues back in those years. John Stahl directed the film, which stands in stark contrast with the Douglas Sirk's take in 1959 which presents a glossier vision of the Fanny Hurst novel, in which it's based.

Between the two versions, this one seems to make more sense, in spite of the incredible jump from rags to riches Bea Pullman experiences. Claudette Colbert makes Bea more accessible to us, in contrast with Lana Turner's blonde goddess looks. This Bea Pullman is easier to take because the way she makes her money by going into business, capitalizing on Delilah's idea about the marketing the perfect blend for pancakes.

Warren William plays Steve Archer, the man who falls in love with Bea while not suspecting the effect he causes in young Jessie, Bea's daughter. Louise Beavers is Delilah; she is made to speak broken English to show her ignorance, which was the thing expected every time black characters were shown in movies of that period. Ms. Beavers' role was made bigger in the 1959 remake, but Juanita Moore, who played the part, was not subjected to her predecessor's fate. Rochelle Hudson, Ned Sparks and Fredi Washington round up the supporting cast.


30 of 35 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 64 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

IMDb Freedive: Watch Movies and TV Series for Free

Watch Hollywood hits and TV favorites for free with IMDb Freedive. Start streaming on IMDb and Fire TV devices today!

Start watching

Stream Popular Action and Adventure Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular action and adventure titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed