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      Imitation of Life

      Released Apr 30, 1959 2h 5m Drama List
      82% Tomatometer 33 Reviews 91% Audience Score 5,000+ Ratings Lora Meredith (Lana Turner), a white single mother who dreams of being on Broadway, has a chance encounter with Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore), a black widow. Annie becomes the caretaker of Lora's daughter, Suzie (Sandra Dee), while Lora pursues her stage career. Both women deal with the difficulties of motherhood: Lora's thirst for fame threatens her relationship with Suzie, while Annie's light-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner), struggles with her African-American identity. Read More Read Less Watch on Fandango at Home Buy Now

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      Imitation of Life

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      Critics Consensus

      Douglas Sirk enriches this lush remake of Imitation of Life with racial commentary and a sharp edge, yielding a challenging melodrama with the power to devastate.

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      Critics Reviews

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      Adam Kempenaar Filmspotting Lana Turner is great at embodying all of these conflicting parts of [Lora]... It helps when Sirk and his DP Russell Metty know how to light her and use lighting and composition to accentuate her performance. Rated: 4.5/5 Mar 31, 2023 Full Review Richard Brody New Yorker 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 Charles Taylor Village Voice The toughest-minded, most irresolvable movie ever made about race in this country. Mar 31, 2015 Full Review Jet Staff Jet Magazine Like its predecessor, this film Will be praised and criticized, but few will be able to deny at it is exceptional entertainment. Jan 16, 2024 Full Review Moira Walsh The Catholic World It is an inadvertently compromising title to put on a film that actually is nothing but an imitation of life and a bad one at that. Nov 28, 2023 Full Review Noah Berlatsky Everything is Horrible (Substack) Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life (1959) is a wonderful example of how camp can function as critique. Apr 11, 2023 Full Review Read all reviews

      Audience Reviews

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      Bonnie L This drama, claimed to be melodramatic, is much more. The racial angst and disparity and Hollywood's use of owning a star is revealed brilliantly by the actors portraying the allegory of imbalanced life. I was caught up in the story. What else could be the goal of a movie? Rated 4 out of 5 stars 09/08/23 Full Review Matthew D Lana Turner is dreamy and touching as an aspiring actress. German director Douglas Sirk's romance melodrama Imitation of Life (1959) is a beautiful picture. I think that Sirk's lush Technicolor style with gorgeous sets, costumes, hair, and glamour are all dressing to get American audiences comfortable with his cozy directorial style, so that he can guide them into difficult topics like racism, sexism, passing, poverty, romance, parenting, motherhood, and careers for a truly moving tragedy. Douglas Sirk was a phenomenal director with many brilliant films I've loved like Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind, and Imitation of Life. It's a sincerely romantic film that has very modern and progressive ideas about women, work, and society. Author Fannie Hurst created a complex story with very modern ladies. I found it empathetic towards women's struggles and perspective in a way that still feels fresh today. Hurst actually deals with race, class, and gender with a consideration towards black people, passing people, poor and working class women. Screenwriters Eleanore Griffin and Allan Scott bring a warmth and understanding to race relations and class divides with a very modern script. Lana Turner as a lovely white widow Lora Meredith, who takes on Juanita Moore's kind black mother Annie Johnson as her maid. Lana Turner is gorgeous, glamorous, and unaware of her own daughter's feelings. Turner is quite sympathetic when she's getting harassed by sleazy men in the entertainment industry. I thought her motherhood scenes show Lora's care, but inability to really see others. Juanita Moore is fabulous as the nurturing and hard working mother Annie, who basically raises both girls. John Gavin is excellent as the kind, but often controlling photographer love interest Steve Archer. Sandra Dee is aloof and spoiled as 16 year old Susie. Susan Kohner is chaotic and spiteful as the resentful 18 year old Sarah Jane, who has been passing as white for her entire life out of hatred for her own mother being black. Jo Ann Greer's dubbed singing for her is amazing. Robert Alda is so sinister and creepy as the sleazy agent Allen Loomis. Likewise, Dan O''Herlihy is underhanded and sleazy as playwright David Edwards. Karin Dicker is very frustrating and bitter already as 8 year old Sarah Jane, already trying to pass as white. Terry Burnham is a spoiled little monster as 6 year old Susie. Mahalia Jackson cameos with her powerful vocals as the choir soloist in the end. Editor Milton Carruth's smooth cuts let all the melodrama play out for an engaging dramatic film. I loved cinematographer Russell Metty's sleek and steady camera movements. Art direction from Alexander Golitzen and Richard H. Riedel make lovely and detailed sets with vibrant colorful furniture and walls from set decorators Russell A. Gausman and Julia Heron. Composers Henry Mancini and Frank Skinner craft a gentle film score with a tender sound. Costume designer Jean Louis's gowns for Lana Turner are to die for with lush pinks, blues, whites and ornate detailing. Makeup artists Del Armstrong, Bud Westmore, Lynn F. Reynolds, and Nick Marcellino ensure each actress' skin tones are reflected, but also sparkle. Hairstyling from Larry Germain, LaVaughn Speer, and Pat Westmore do wonderful curls and flowing tresses for the lavish haircuts on Lana Turner and the other actresses. In all, Imitation of Life is a slick 125 minutes with plenty to say and much to feel. Rated 5 out of 5 stars 08/21/23 Full Review Afro M Combined: 7/10 or 3.5/5 Mo: This was such a heart wrenching story of a mother's love. Juanita Moore deserves a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. MAKE IT HAPPEN, QUICK! 7/10 Keekz: Progressive for the times. Heavy film. The feels T.T 7/10 amrpod.com/episodes Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 10/16/22 Full Review Audience Member The greatest actors for an amazing drama movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Rated 5 out of 5 stars 01/28/23 Full Review Audience Member Douglas Sirk refashions the 1934 black-and-white classic, perking it up not only with colours but also with a meatier story of the two pairs of dysfunctional single mothers and daughters struggling with conflicts and all in the glory of his baroque visual style. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/22/23 Full Review Kensi B The times, how they change. What I'm sure was a mind-blowingly racially progressive movie for the time now comes across as rather cringy- the message seeming to be that black people are worth caring about so long as they are unfailingly subservient and take care of your kids and clean your house. My favorite character was the daughter, Sarah Jane, the only one of them who seemed to have any idea how horribly the deck was stacked against her and was determined to take the only way out she could take - "pass" as white. Interestingly, the part that came across as most progressive these days is that Lana Turner, clearly in her 40s, not only has no plastic surgery or Botox (didn't exist then) but is treated as a sex symbol through the entire movie. The 50s might have been problematic in many ways, but at least it didn't worship little girls and allowed middle-aged women to be desirable. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 03/01/22 Full Review Read all reviews
      Imitation of Life

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      Cast & Crew

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      Movie Info

      Synopsis Lora Meredith (Lana Turner), a white single mother who dreams of being on Broadway, has a chance encounter with Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore), a black widow. Annie becomes the caretaker of Lora's daughter, Suzie (Sandra Dee), while Lora pursues her stage career. Both women deal with the difficulties of motherhood: Lora's thirst for fame threatens her relationship with Suzie, while Annie's light-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner), struggles with her African-American identity.
      Director
      Douglas Sirk
      Producer
      Ross Hunter
      Screenwriter
      Eleanore Griffin, Fannie Hurst, Allan Scott
      Distributor
      MCA/Universal Pictures [us], Universal International Pictures, Universal Home Entertainment
      Production Co
      Universal International Pictures
      Genre
      Drama
      Original Language
      English
      Release Date (Theaters)
      Apr 30, 1959, Wide
      Release Date (Streaming)
      Mar 18, 2014
      Runtime
      2h 5m
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