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Imitation of Life (1959)

Not Rated | | Drama | 18 March 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:

Fannie Hurst's Best Selling Novel of Today's Tormented Generation! 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:

18 March 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

Universal borrowed costume designer Jean Louis from Columbia for the film. See more »

Goofs

Steve's photo of Lora as a 'mother in distress' shows no people in the background, but when we see Lora looking for Susie at the start of the film, the boardwalk is packed with people. See more »

Quotes

Showgirl: So, honeychile, you had a mammy!
Sarah Jane: Yes. All my life.
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 Far from Heaven (2002) 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

 
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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