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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.

Director:

Douglas Sirk

Writers:

Eleanore Griffin (screenplay), Allan Scott (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:
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, 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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

30 April 1959 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Imitación de la vida See more »

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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 IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono | Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Deborah Kerr and Richard Egan were considered for starring roles. See more »

Goofs

When Steve and Susie go riding together their horses jump a low stone wall which one of the horses knocks revealing the whole thing to be a lightweight single-piece prop. See more »

Quotes

Lora: It never occurred to me that you had many friends. You never have any visit you.
Annie: I know lots of people. Oh, hundreds.
Lora: Really?
Annie: I belong to the Baptist church. And I belong to several lodges too.
Lora: I didn't know.
Annie: Miss Lora, you never asked.
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

Featured in The Universal Story (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Empty Arms
(uncredited)
Written by Arnold Hughes & Frederick Herbert
Performed by Susan Kohner dubbed by Jo Ann Greer
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 Nazi_Fighter_DavidSee 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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