An aspiring white actress takes in an African-American widow whose mixed-race daughter is desperate to be seen as white.


Douglas Sirk


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





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


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


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




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Although she has the second largest role in the film, Juanita Moore was billed seventh, behind actors with much smaller roles. As some form of compensation, her on-screen billing reads "presenting Juanita Moore as Annie Johnson," but that credit didn't make it into the film's advertising. See more »


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


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 »


Spoofed in What a Way to Go! (1964) See more »


Imitation of Life
Words by Paul Francis Webster
Music by Sammy Fain
Sung by Earl Grant
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User Reviews

Ahead of its time
17 April 2006 | by james-osborn3See all my reviews

This movie, released in 1959, features topics that would not be discussed in good company for years: blacks and whites sharing an apartment, single mothers raising children on their own, and prejudice against blacks.

I was only 7 when this movie came out, and I remember when the Civil Rights movement started and what trouble it caused. This movie showed the suffering that racism was causing, in a way that helps non-blacks empathize with the tragedy.

The screenwriters cleverly wove all kinds of sub-themes into the plot, including the challenges women had to overcome to land a decent job. The story also addresses the question of what should happen when a working woman gets married: does she quit working and let her husband be the bread-winner, or should the husband support the wife in her work? These were unusual questions in the early years after World War 2, before which almost no women held professional positions.

Given the year this movie came out, it dealt fairly with all of these social challenges.

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Release Date:

20 March 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Imitation of Life See more »


Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)


Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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