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Imitation of Life (1959)

Not Rated | | Drama | 30 April 1959 (USA)
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An aspiring actress befriends a black widow, but trouble arises when the latter is rejected by her daughter, who tries 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:
... Lora Meredith
... Steve Archer
... Susie - 16
... Sarah Jane - 18
... Allen Loomis
... David Edwards
... Annie Johnson
Karin Dicker ... Sarah Jane - 8
Terry Burnham ... Susie - 6
... 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

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:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

30 April 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Imitación de la vida  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$13,990,819

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$25,000,000, 1 January 1970
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Margaret O'Brien was originally considered for role of Sara Jane, that ultimately went to Susan Kohner. 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: Now, just a moment, young lady! It's only because of my ambition that you've had the best of everything. And that's a solid achievement that any mother can be proud of!
Susie, age 16: [tearfully] And how about a mother's love?
Lora Meredith: LOVE? But you've always had that!
Susie, age 16: Yes, by telephone, by postcard, by magazine interviews... you've given me everything... but yourself!
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 Die, Mommie, Die! (2003) 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

 
"If we should ever pass on the street, please don't recognize me."
6 January 2009 | by See all my reviews

Lora Meredith, an attractive widow with theatrical aspirations, has lost her 6-year-old daughter, Susie, in the crowded beaches of Coney Island... She finally finds her in the care of Annie Johnson, a black woman, and her very light-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane, who had been playing with Susie… Before long Annie goes to work as a maid for Lora and the two women become fast friends…

Encouraged by an agent (Robert Alda), Lora gets a good role in a play by David Edwards… In the years that follow, she becomes a successful Broadway actress and appears in one Edwards enormous hit… But fame means work and work means neglecting Susie, now sixteen, who must bear the loneliness of a teenager whose mother is too busy being a star…

A handsome photographer, Steve Archer (John Gavin), is the resolute, admiring love of Lora's life but he too must wait and suffer for her affection… Meanwhile, Annie has big problems with her daughter… Sarah Jane rejects her race, and refuses to accept she is black… She disclaims her mother to camouflage her ancestry and eventually takes a decision with extremely drastic effect…

"Imitation of Life" was an ideal tearjerker/soap opera for the major talents of Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner... Moore shined as the self-sacrificing mother so loving, honest and sincere… Cleverly enough, Kohner projected unafraid sensuality…Both stars won Academy Award nominations as Best Supporting Actress…


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