Imitation of Life

1959

Imitation of Life

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

84%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 25

91%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,576
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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

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Cast

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
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.

    Nov 16, 2015 | Full Review…
  • The toughest-minded, most irresolvable movie ever made about race in this country.

    Mar 31, 2015 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    May 20, 2011 | Full Review…
    TIME Magazine
    Top Critic
  • While this device lends more scope, it also results in the overdone busy actress/neglected daughter conflict.

    Mar 19, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    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.

    Mar 25, 2006 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Imitation of Life

  • Apr 23, 2016
    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 M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 29, 2011
    The story begins in post WWII NYC when Lana Turner (in the role of a struggling actress) hires a maid Annie (Juanita Moore) to work for and live with Turner and her then 7 year old daughter (same age as the maid's little girl). Times are tough at first, but the foursome gets on fine. Only little Sarah Jane (the maid's daughter) has constant trouble accepting her color and her "African American" mother whom she blames for preventing her from trying to pass off as white. Years pass, the family gains a good fortune and the girls grow up to young women, but life is not just constant bliss: the racial self-hatred of Sarah Jane (now played by Susan Kohner) is seriously affecting her life and self-image and she never misses the opportunity to degrade and humiliate her Mom for just being a maid while the teenaged Susie (Sandra Dee) develops feelings for Steve Archer (John Gavin), the potential fiancé of Lora which predictably leads to trouble. Ostensibly Lana Turner portrays the main character. Hers is the familiar, rags-to-riches tale, made even more glamorous by its show business context. But by the end of the film, her story is secondary. What makes this movie fascinating are the scenes between long suffering Annie and her daughter Sarah Jane. This is definitely a tear jerker so be sure to have a box of tissues for the film's conclusion.
    Deb S Super Reviewer
  • Feb 20, 2011
    Douglas Sirk's classic weepy about our innate tendency to inadvertantly drive away the ones we love the most. Lana Turner and Juanita Moore give particularly outstanding performances.
    Bob O Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2010
    Sometimes this movie is overly melodramatic, and gets on my nerves a little, but the story is really good and very realistic. This is a remake of the thirties film, but it's slightly better made. It's a really good movie, and I recommend seeing it.
    Aj V Super Reviewer

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