7.9/10
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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 »
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

Deborah Kerr and Richard Egan were considered for starring roles. 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: Miss Lora, we just come from a place where... where my color deviled my baby. Now, anything here has gotta be better.
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

References Gone with the Wind (1939) See more »

Soundtracks

Empty Arms
(uncredited)
Written by Arnold Schwarzwald & Frederick Herbert
Performed by Susan Kohner dubbed by Jo Ann Greer
See more »

User Reviews

 
Douglas Sirk's Last Melodrama
21 April 2012 | by claudio_carvalhoSee all my reviews

In Coney Island, the widow aspiring actress Lora Meredith (Lana Turner) finds her six-year-old daughter Susie playing with eight-year-old Sarah Jane, who is the daughter of the black homeless housekeeping Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore). Lora brings Annie and her daughter to live in her small apartment in New York and they become close friends.

Lora has a love affair with the photographer Steve Archer (John Gavin) and sooner he proposes her. But the ambitious Lora dreams on becoming a star in Broadway and prioritizes her career and also neglects Susie (Sandra Dee). The light-skinned Sarah Jones (Susan Kohner) rejects her mother and tries to pass as white for her friends.

Lora is well-succeeded in her career and reaches stardom. Ten years later, she meets Steve by chance and he gives attention to Susie while Lora is shooting a film in Italy. When she returns, she decides to get married with Steve; but Susie has fallen in love with Steve. Meanwhile Sarah Jane run away home to work in fleshpots.

"Imitation of Life" is Douglas Sirk's last melodrama with an engaging and emotional story with romance, ambition, friendship, love and rejection. The drama of Annie that is rejected by her daughter, in a time when color of people was a watershed, is heartbreaking and the best subplot. I do not recall any other film from this period that brings the division in the American society between black and white people so clearly. Susan Kohner has an impressive performance in the role of an outcast girl that does not accept the way the society treats black people but prefers to deny her color. The sequence in the alley where she is beaten up by her boyfriend reflects the mentality of the American society in those years. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Imitação da Vida" ("Imitation of Life")


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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)
See more on IMDbPro »

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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