Imitation of Life (1959) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • 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.

  • In Coney Island, the widow and aspiring actress Lora Meredith finds her 6-year-old daughter Susie playing with 8-year-old Sarah Jane, daughter of black homeless housekeeper Annie Johnson. 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 photographer Steve Archer and soon he proposes. But the ambitious Lora dreams on becoming a star on Broadway and prioritizes her career and also neglects Susie. The light-skinned Sarah Jones rejects her mother and tries to pass as white for her friends. Lora succeeds in her career and reaches stardom. Ten years later, she meets Steve by chance and he pays 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 runs away from home to work in fleshpots.

  • Lora Meredith is a struggling actress with a 6-year old daughter, Susie. She hires an African-American woman, Annie Johnson, as a maid. Annie has an 8-year old daughter, Sarah Jane, who instantly befriends Susie. Sarah Jane is light-skinned and does her best to pass herself as white at school and in social circles. This is to her advantage, due to the laws and social mores of the time. However, her mother is always quick to point out that Sarah Jane is her daughter, and this hinders her. Fast forward 10 years and Lora is now a Broadway star. An old flame, Steve Archer, has reappeared in her life and daughter Susie is smitten with him. Meanwhile Sarah Jane is trying to make her way in the world, socially and career-wise, but her idealistic, hard-headed, clingy mother is still embarrassing and hindering her.

  • In 1947 at Coney Island, down-on-her-luck actress Lora Meredith and her young daughter Susie meet coloured Annie Johnson and her daughter Sarah Jane. Annie is desperate for a place to live and offers to work as Lora's maid for food and lodging. Lora's luck begins to change as a result of their meeting and their two stories unfold across the years. However, Annie's problems start when Sarah Jane tries to pass as white.

  • When they first meet, Lora Meredith and Annie Johnson have a good deal in common. They are both single mothers struggling to make a life for themselves and their daughters, Susie and Sarah Jane. Lora is an aspiring model and actress who needs someone to look after Susie when she goes out on photo shoots or casting calls. Annie is an African-American who desperately wants a healthy home environment in which to raise her daughter. As Lora's career blossoms, she spends less and less time with Susie. While Annie is devoted to her daughter and would do anything for her, the fair-skinned Sara Jane is resentful of the racial bias around her and does everything to hide her origins.

  • An aspiring actress befriends a black widow, but trouble arises when the latter is rejected by her daughter, who tries to pass for white.


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