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Imitation of Life (1959)

Not Rated | | Drama | 20 March 1959 (USA)
2:19 | Trailer
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


Fannie Hurst's Best Selling Novel of Today's Tormented Generation! See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Ross Hunter had a reputation for pampering his female stars. During filming, he sent flowers and gifts to Lana Turner's dressing room regularly. She also had a limousine and driver at her disposal. As well as a music system installed in her dressing room. Hunter even hired someone to operate it for her. See more »


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


Sarah Jane: [to mother Annie] I wouldn't be caught dead in a colored teachers' college!
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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 »


References This Island Earth (1955) See more »


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

User Reviews

One of the most emotional movies you"ll ever experience.
1 November 2000 | by verna55See all my reviews

In this second and best filmization of Fannie Hurst's classic tear-jerker, a woman(Lana Turner) aspires to an acting career and neglects her emotionally troubled daughter(Sandra Dee). I'm not a person who expresses my inner feelings very much, but this movie was a very emotional experience for me, especially the subplot involving racial conflicts. If you're in the mood for a good cry, this film really delivers. The cast is absolutely wonderful. Next to PEYTON PLACE, this is Turner's best film, and Sandra Dee, known mostly for lighter fare like GIDGET and the TAMMY movies, does some of her strongest work here. For moving, high-powered drama, it just doesn't get any better than this. A must!

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Frequently Asked Questions

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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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