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Imitation of Life (1959)

Lana Turner , Juanita Moore , Douglas Sirk  |  NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (368 customer reviews)

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Imitation of Life + Portrait in Black / Madame X (Double Feature) + Back Street (1961)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Lana Turner, Juanita Moore, John Gavin, Sandra Dee, Dan O'Herlihy
  • Directors: Douglas Sirk
  • Writers: Eleanore Griffin, Allan Scott
  • Producers: Ross Hunter
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • DVD Release Date: January 7, 2003
  • Run Time: 125 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (368 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000714BT
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,642 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Imitation of Life" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Recommendations

  • Editorial Reviews

    Living a lie is a poor substitute for living the truth - sometimes it takes the harsh realties of life to help us discover who we truly are. The legendary Lana Turner stars in this 1959 version of Fannie Hurst's emotionally charged drama, which chronicles two widows and their troubled daughters as they struggle to find true happiness amidst racial prejudice. Lana Turner plays Lora, a single white mother whose Hollywood starlet ambitions come at the expense of any meaningful relationship with her daughter, Susie (Sandra Dee). Lora's black housekeeper, Annie (Juanita Moore), has troubles of her own as she faces the rejection of her own fair-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner), who abandons her heritage for a chance to be accepted as white. As years of selfishness and denial pass, tragedy strikes and forces the women to come to terms with their own identities. Moore and Kohner were both Oscar nominated for "Best Supporting Actress" for their stirring performances. This lavish production, directed by Douglas Sirk (Magnificent Obsession), was a critical and commercial success, and today remains both a testament to its time and a beloved Hollywood classic.

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    127 of 136 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars A Memorable Guilty Pleasure March 23, 2003
    Format:DVD
    Although little known today, in her own era author Fannie Hurst was among America's most famous authors, a writer who frequently challenged the status quo in both her life and her literature. Among her most popular works was the novel IMITATION OF LIFE, which first came to the screen starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers in 1934. Today both the novel and film would be considered somewhat racist--but at the time both were considered social shockers, dealing frankly with single mothers, rebellious daughters, and racial issues in a way that few novels and fewer still films of the era dared.

    The first film version was as faithful to the novel as it dared be, telling the story of two single mothers--one black, one white--who join forces and hit the big time when the white woman successfully markets the black woman's pancake recipe. But the 1959 film version substituted pancake make-up for pancake batter: the white woman is an actress, and with her black friend behind her she climbs the ladder to Broadway stardom. Director Douglas Sirk was reknowned for his ability with this sort of material, and although he did better films IMITATION OF LIFE is perhaps his most obvious stylistic statement: gallons of gloss, more soap suds than a sink full of dishes, and enough vulgar melodrama to fuel a thousand 1950s schoolgirl dreams.

    This time around our stars are Lana Turner and Juanita Moore, supported by Sandra Dee and Susan Kohner as the respective and rebellious daughters who make their mothers lives a living hell, with Lana's daughter Sandra falling in love with her mother's beau and Juanita's daughter Susan determined to defeat the racist society in which she lives by passing for white.
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    42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Poor Quality DVD - Melodrama At It's Finest February 10, 2003
    By A Customer
    Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
    Imitation of Life is a movie that had perfect timing in the changing world of 1950's Americana.
    The oppression of legal segregation had taken its toll and a prime example of this burnout is Susan Kohner's Sara Jane. This character had the perfect mother, but society told Sara Jane at a very young age that her mother would NEVER be good enough because of her black skin color. Sara Jane chafes at the limitations society places on her. She doesn't want to be associated with maids, chauffeurs or going through back doors. She wants more, and as a `white woman' she can get it. Many viewers who watch this film will be angry at Sara Jane, however, one must remember that 'black' was not yet beautiful, and this is the pre-civil rights era.
    Lana Turner's Laura Meredith asks Sara Jane, `have I ever treated you differently?' The movie makes this answer abundantly clear although Sara Jane answers `no.' The audience sees Turner's pigeonholing of Sara Jane and Annie. Even after years of living together - she actually says to Annie, `I didn't know that you had any friends.'
    Laura Meredith is a character that represents society as a whole in this film. She is the accepted race and therefore, pleasantly clueless about matters that doesn't affect her, while aiming for and achieving her dreams. Through the passage of time Laura becomes rich, successful, and a star - and for Annie, well, she remains the maid.
    The DVD of this movie is extremely poor. The transfer is down right dirty in one scene and grainy throughout the film. There is one scene where Sara Jane is running down the stairs and she freezes in action. Universal didn't even care enough about the viewer to put this common play-pause in a point where it would be seamless. This is a classic film that has been given anything but classic attention - extremely sloppy work from Universal.
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    50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
    1.0 out of 5 stars Film's great - DVD transfer not worth purchasing.... January 22, 2003
    Format:DVD
    Thanks, David Durbin. Your review made me pull this order from my shoppiong cart. "Imitation" is a real "tear-jerkin'" classic in the old mold. I ran it as a Theater Projectionist in it's original 1959 theatrical release. The last reel was about a 12 minute run. I could step out of the Projection Booth after the chnage-over, and regular as clockwork it would happen. I would hear the start of a swell of sniffles, and tears come up like a rising tide in theater in that last reel every night. That was when audiences showed emotion openly. I won't buy any bad DVD transfers. I strongly bad-mouth bad transfers to all my film buff friends to also not buy. With the quality of DVD's, why buy garbage. Most of my DVD purchases have been with Criterion for that reason. Sure hope Criterion get their hands on "Imitation", and a lot more classics!
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    52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars FIVE HANKY TEARJERKER.... March 30, 2003
    Format:VHS Tape
    Based upon the best selling, Fannie Hurst novel of the same name, this 1959 remake of the 1934 film starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Deavers is a terrific, well acted, sentimental melodrama that should be viewed with a caveat. While not so politically incorrect as to be nearly astounding, as was the 1934 version, it still presents a stereotypic view of blacks reflective of the time in which this movie was filmed. It is certainly is a view that is jarring in these more enlightened times, as it reflects the nature of the racism that was inherent in our society at that time. Remember, this film was made before the civil rights movement took root. Notwithstanding this, it is still a remarkable film that will hold the viewer in its thrall.
    Lana Turner plays the role of Lora Meredith, a struggling widow and aspiring actress with a young daughter named Susie. Juanita Moore plays the part of Annie Johnson, also a struggling widow. Together they join forces, enabling Lora to pursue her dreams and Annie to provide a home for her own young daughter, Sarah Jane. Lora follows her dreams of fame and fortune, with Annie, as Lora's housekeeper, providing the stability of a regular home life for Susie and Sarah Jane.
    Before you know it, Lora becomes a star on Broadway. Along the way, she is romanced by Steve (John Gavin), who met Lora when she was still living in a cold water flat and he was a promising artist with dreams of his own. While climbing the rungs of the ladder of success, Lora is propositioned by her agent, Allen Loomis (Robert Alda), who, charmed by her basic decency and refusal to go the casting couch route, takes her on as a client, anyway. She also is romanced by a playwright, David Edwards (Dan O'Herlihy), with whom she forges a successful professional collaboration.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    5.0 out of 5 stars Best Movie
    I have been watching this movie since I was a little girl. One of the best tear jerker movies of all time.
    Published 4 days ago by Jeri George
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    This is my favorite all time movie.
    Published 10 days ago by Lanette Flint
    1.0 out of 5 stars Not happy.
    The DVD was clear. I waited too long to return. Not happy.
    Published 17 days ago by Amazon Customer
    5.0 out of 5 stars Reality Check
    Brings to life the reality of what it can feel like to grow up knowing that you are different from those around you, when all you want is to be accepted.
    Published 17 days ago by Brandy Morgan
    5.0 out of 5 stars Great drama
    A favorite classic of mine. Love the cast and plot. This older movie had a lot of feeling and emotion in it. I loved the high drama and the sad drama as well. Great music
    Published 24 days ago by renee banton
    3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
    Movie could've been better if it wasn't centered only on one family.
    Published 24 days ago by Odette
    5.0 out of 5 stars This unique picture here is a real tearjerker any one ...
    This unique picture here is a real tearjerker any one that have a living mother will surely bring them closer together
    Published 25 days ago by joe rogers
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    The best movie ever.
    Published 26 days ago by Amazon Customer
    5.0 out of 5 stars A good movie to watch on a rainy weekend
    This is a true classic and one of my all time favorites. A good movie to watch on a rainy weekend.
    Published 27 days ago by Andrea Greer
    5.0 out of 5 stars she loved it, me
    got this for the wife, she loved it, me... I made it through the whole movie and stayed awake!
    all in all, a great classic
    Published 28 days ago by George
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