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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

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies. See more »

Goofs

During Broadway montage sequence set in 1951, theater sign advertising Ricardo Montalban in the musical Jamaica can be seen. It didn't open until 1957. See more »

Quotes

Annie: I'd be happy knowin' you're meetin' nice young folk...
Sarah Jane: Busboys! Cooks! Chauffeurs!
[Hmph]
Sarah Jane: Like Hawkins. No thank you; I've seen your "nice young folk".
Annie: I don't wanna fight with you, honey. Not tonight. I don't feel too good. While I get started on the anchovies, will you take this tray in to Miss Lora and her friends?
Sarah Jane: [sarcastic] Why, certainly. Anything at all for Miss Lora and her friends.
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 Smash: The Tonys (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Trouble of the World
(uncredited)
Words and music by Unknown
Performed by Mahalia Jackson
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
The Best Of The Best
8 February 2003 | by See all my reviews

"Imitation of Life" was the biggest money-maker ever for Universal Studios upon its 1959 release. This is no surprise. Partly because people eagerly lined-up to see these types of melodramatic, big studio flicks. And also because this film is the best of its class. Director Douglas Sirk was a genius at creating larger-than-life star vehicles. But his films were not only aesthetically pleasing. They were also smart, social critiques on America and its issues and ideals. This is an incredible movie that uses the best elements of soap opera, fashion, music and high drama to convey Sirk's scathing comments of 1950's society.

The film revolves around mother/daughter relationships, with a hint of romance thrown in for good measure. Lana Turner(spruced up in her Jean Louis gowns)does her best to portray a neglectful mother to Sandra Dee. So consumed with fame and fortune is she, that she doesn't look at her daughter's needs. Meanwhile, Turner's black housekeeper(played gloriously by the underrated Juanita Moore)struggles with her own light-skinned daughter(Susan Kohner)who tries to pass for white.

There is no element too small in this film for Sirk and producer Ross Hunter to give the ultra-dramatic treatment to. Frank Skinner's campy(by today's standards)music thunders and swells throughout, while Turner emotes and the always-wooden John Gavin poses and preens for the camera. "Imitation of Life" may not be for all audiences. But those who enjoy Technicolored high-drama, bordering on brutal soap opera, this film is probably the best of the best.


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