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Imitation of Life (1959)

Not Rated | | Drama | 18 March 1959 (USA)
Trailer
2:19 | Trailer
An aspiring white actress befriends an African American widow, but trouble arises when the latter is rejected by her daughter, who tries to pass for white.

Director:

Douglas Sirk

Writers:

Eleanore Griffin (screenplay), Allan Scott (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Lana Turner ... Lora Meredith
John Gavin ... Steve Archer
Sandra Dee ... Susie - 16
Susan Kohner ... Sarah Jane - 18
Robert Alda ... Allen Loomis
Dan O'Herlihy ... David Edwards
Juanita Moore ... Annie Johnson
Karin Dicker Karin Dicker ... Sarah Jane - 8
Terry Burnham Terry Burnham ... Susie - 6
John Vivyan ... Young Man
Lee Goodman Lee Goodman ... Photographer
Ann Robinson ... Showgirl
Troy Donahue ... Frankie
Sandra Gould ... Annette
David Tomack 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. However, Annie's little girl Sarah Jane is by far the worst. 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 trying to pass 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

Taglines:

"I'll get the things I want out of life, one way or another...from one man to another!" See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Universal borrowed costume designer Jean Louis from Columbia for the film. See more »

Goofs

The type of desk telephone in Robert Alda's 1947 office was not developed until the mid-1950s. See more »

Quotes

Sarah Jane: Miss Lora, you don't know what it means to be... different...
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 »

User Reviews

 
100% Sirky. Accept No Imitations!
6 July 2005 | by noelartmSee all my reviews

As others have pointed out, IMITATION OF LIFE is an important film for many reasons. Seeing it again recently, I was reminded of the top three reasons why it has earned a cult following among women, African Americans and gay men. For women, it's all about letting go of a child and allowing them to live their own life. For African Americans, it's a reminder of how much they've had to struggle for equality in American society. It's the message of not hiding who you are and not living a lie just to please other people that resonates with gay men. This film was one of the first to expose the cultural divide between black and white in America. That really wasn't being addressed in the cinema up to that point. So it must be put in it's historical context to be fully appreciated.

This film marked a crossroads not only for American society, but for the acting profession as well. Sandra Dee and Susan Kohner seemed to be of the new school of method acting. By contrast, Lana Turner and Juanita Moore seemed to be of the old school of melodramatic acting. Perhaps this is why the older actors come off as far less believable than the younger one's do. That's what makes Sandra Dee's line, "Oh mother, stop acting!" so hilarious. I really thought Sandra Dee was too perky to be taken seriously until that scene. Then she showed she could act by keeping it real. Compared to Lana Turner, she's Katherine Hepburn! Also, anyone serious about an acting career should study Susan Kohner's amazing performance. She steals the show in a role that would be a challenge for any young actress. I think she was one of the most talented actors to ever leave the business for married life.

IMITATION OF LIFE is one of those rare films that gets better every time I see it. I guess that's because it's important on more levels than you can take in on a single viewing. I could go into how it's also about a single mother's struggle for independence in 1950's male dominated society. I could argue that it's not as sappy and melodramatic as it's reputed to be. I could argue that John Gavin's performance was better than a lot of people say. However, I think I'll save those discussions for when I see it again.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 March 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Imitation of Life See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono | Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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