Imitation of Life (1959)

Imitation of Life (1959)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Imitation of Life Photos

Movie Info

This glamorized remake of the 1934 film Imitation of Life bears only a passing resemblance to its source, the best-selling novel by Fannie Hurst. Originally, the heroine was a widowed mother who kept the wolf from the door by setting up a successful pancake business with her black housemaid. In the remake, Lana Turner stars as a would-be actress who is raising her daughter on her own. She chances to meet another single mother at the beach: African-American Juanita Moore. Moore goes to work as Turner's housekeeper, bringing her light-skinned daughter along. As Turner's stage career goes into high gear, Moore is saddled with the responsibility of raising both Turner's daughter and her own. Exposed to the advantages of the white world, Moore's grown-up daughter (Susan Kohner) passes for white, causing her mother a great deal of heartache. Meanwhile, Turner's grown daughter (Sandra Dee), neglected by her mother, seeks comfort in the arms of handsome photographer John Gavin. When Moore dies, her daughter realizes how selfish she's been; simultaneously, Turner awakens to the fact that she hasn't been much of a mother for her own daughter, whose romance has gone down the tubes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Universal Studios

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Lana Turner
as Lora Meredith
Juanita Moore
as Annie Johnson
John Gavin
as Steve Archer
Sandra Dee
as Susie (age 16)
Dan O'Herlihy
as David Edwards
Troy Donahue
as Frankie
Susan Kohner
as Sarah Jane (age 18)
Robert Alda
as Allen Loomis
Karen Dicker
as Sarah Jane (age 8)
Terry Burnham
as Suzie (age 6)
John Vivyan
as Young Man
Lee Goodman
as Photographer
Ann Robinson
as Show Girl
Sandra Gould
as Receptionist
David Tomack
as Burly Man
Joel Fluellen
as Minister
Billy House
as Fat Man
Maida Severn
as Teacher
Than Wyenn
as Romano
Cicely Evans
as Louise
Bess Flowers
as Geraldine Moore
Paul Bradley
as Preston Mitchell
Myrna Fahey
as Actress
Eddie Parker
as Policeman
George Barrows
as Furniture Mover
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Critic Reviews for Imitation of Life

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (8)

Sirk unleashed a melodramatic torrent of rage at the corrupt core of American life-the unholy trinity of racism, commercialism, and puritanism.

Full Review… | November 15, 2015
New Yorker
Top Critic

The toughest-minded, most irresolvable movie ever made about race in this country.

Full Review… | March 31, 2015
Village Voice
Top Critic

Imitation of Life is still a potent onion. When passed before the moviegoer's eyes, it may force theater owners to install aisle scuppers to drain off the tears.

Full Review… | May 20, 2011
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

While this device lends more scope, it also results in the overdone busy actress/neglected daughter conflict.

Full Review… | March 18, 2009
Top Critic

This modernized remake of Miss Hurst's frankly lachrymose tale is much the same as its soggy predecessor. It is the most shameless tear-jerker in a couple of years.

Full Review… | March 24, 2006
New York Times
Top Critic

Forget those who decry the '50s Hollywood melodrama; it is through the conventions of that hyper-emotional genre that Sirk is able to make such a devastatingly embittered and pessimistic movie.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Imitation of Life

A lavish, touching melodrama that remains always focused and held together even when trying to flesh out the personal conflicts of so many characters - which it does in a way that is quite realistic and sincere despite how in the end Sirk tries way too hard to force us into tears.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

A sweet and sour pie of the morality and values of it's time. Tasty, colorful in the outside, with so much hipocrisy, prejudices lurking inside. Its deep sensitive core could only be reached by Sirk's nobility. His lyrical and non judgemental treatment , helped by one of the best cinematographers that ever was, Mr. Russell Metty, and amazing performers, beginning with a surprisingly good Lana Turner (This and "The Bad and the Beautiful" were without a doubt her finest acting moments).

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

Imitation of Life is sentimental without being sappy. It's also boldly allegorical without being preachy. I'm tempted to say that it was ahead of its time but, by 1959, it was long overdue.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

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