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Imitation Of Life (Two-Movie Special Edition) (Universal Legacy Series) (1934)

Claudette Colbert , Louise Beavers , John M. Stahl , Douglas Sirk  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (226 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Claudette Colbert, Louise Beavers, Fredi Washington, Rochelle Hudson, Warren William
  • Directors: John M. Stahl, Douglas Sirk
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • DVD Release Date: February 5, 2008
  • Run Time: 236 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (226 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000XUOLNE
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,113 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Imitation Of Life (Two-Movie Special Edition) (Universal Legacy Series)" on IMDb

Special Features

Disc 1 - Imitation of Life (1934):
  • Feature Commentary with African-American Cultural Scholar Avery Clayton
  • Theatrical Trailer


  • Disc 2 - Imitation of Life (1959):
  • Lasting Legacy - An Imitation of Life
  • Feature Commentary with Film Historian Foster Hirsch
  • Theatrical Trailer

  • Editorial Reviews

    Imitation of Life, one of the most beloved and respected stories of all time, is now available in a new two-movie special edition! Based on the 1933 best-selling novel, this emotionally charged drama chronicles the lives of two widows and their troubled daughters as they struggle to find true happiness in a world plagued by racism. The Imitation of Life Two-Movie Special Edition includes both versions of the film: the original 1934 Best Picture nominee starring Claudette Colbert and the 1959 masterpiece starring Lana Turner. With storylines tackling racism, romance, family, success and tragedy, Imitation of Life is a powerful story that still resonates with audiences today.

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    82 of 83 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Review for 2-Movie Special Edition February 16, 2008
    By Dave
    Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
    Having studied the 1959 version of "Imitation of Life" in film class, it has become one of my favorite films, one that is rich with many subtexts that may not be visible upon first glance. This special 2-disc DVD set contains both the 1934 and 1959 versions based on a Fannie Hurst tear-jerker novel. Tackling a sensitive issue for the times (in both versions), these movies deal with an African-American girl who wants to pass for white to have more opportunities open up for her. The girl's mother develops a friendship and working/subserviant relationship with a white woman who has her own daughter of the same age. How the two women function in their environments and the conflicts that occur due to the daughter's "passing" constitute the basis of both stories.

    The 1934 film stars Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers as the mothers. The film seems very dated and old fashioned on the surface; watching it a 2nd time with the commentary track is very beneficial. Avery Clayton, an African-American Cultural Scholar, gives slight information on the making of the film, but gives the story plenty of explanation of the subtexts and is very helpful in putting some of the slightly offensive elements into the context of the times that the film was made. Beavers' character becomes the icon for Aunt Delilah's pancake mix, a thinly veiled version of Aunt Jemima. Colbert's character is given the idea to market Delilah's recipe and the two become rich; the fact that Beaver's character doesn't want any of the riches and is actually afraid NOT to be in a subserviant role to Colbert is somewhat uncomfortable. Colbert gives her typical warm performance and even today, she is a joy to watch. The rest of the film does seem very dated.
    Read more ›
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    58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars The original, and still the best version November 20, 2002
    Format:VHS Tape
    Most viewers are far more familiar with the campy, 1959 version of this film, starring Lana Turner. But, this is the original version, and I find it far superior to the remake for so many reasons.
    First of all, it takes place in the early 1930's, putting us smack dab in the Depression, and a time period which suits the subject matter. Claudette Colbert, a much better actress than Lana Turner, is one of the first reasons I prefer this version. But, mainly, the incredible Louise Beavers is absolutely unforgettable as the black maid, Delilah Johnson, whose light-skinned daughter, Peola, is raised alongside Colbert's daughter, Jessie.
    When the girls grow up, Peola realizes that she can "pass" for white, and in the 1930's, with racism and joblessness rampant, her choice makes sense, for the times. When Peola, played by Fredi Washington, completely rejects her mother, it is heartbreaking. To see Louise Beavers sobbing onto the counter in the department store is truly painful.
    Peola breaks her mother's heart in order to fit into a world that would not accept her otherwise. In the end, she regrets the pain she causes her mother. This is another time and place, and we don't hate Peola for hurting her mother. Still, our heart bleeds for Delilah.
    The acting is top notch, and I will take this more entertaining and serious version of the film over the campy re-make any day.
    Was this review helpful to you?
    175 of 195 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars The original is better then the remake February 11, 2004
    By Dasher
    Format:DVD
    Finally both of these movies are released together. Most people do not even know the 1934 version exists. In my opinion the 34 version is the better of the two. Even though both are really over the top, at least the first version portrays the black and the white woman more as equals. The remake actually is more racist and condesending. The black woman in the original whose name is Delilah is a business woman not a maid. She is treated like a real person. Claudette Colbert who portrays the the white woman treats Delilah as a partner, her friends treat her equally. They actually try to talk to Delilah about her daughter and try to help her as a friend would not as a person who is pitied as in the remake. "Poor Annie" as Sandra Dee's character mentions. PLUS I find it insulting that in 1959 Hollywood could not find one black actress to play the part of the daughter, but way back in 1934 they did. Ferdi Washington. Delilah's job was not to take care of the white woman and her daughter. But in the 1959 version that was Annie's job. Also I like the story of the independent woman that the first version told. It is very strange how Hollywood has regressed. Because most movies would never be about a black and white middle aged single working women with almost grown daughters. The movie today would be more about the daughters then the mothers. Don't get me wrong the remake I enjoyed but more as a camp over the top melodrama and I do like the actress's in the roles. But the 1934 version was a better movie. The fact the the daughter tried to pass as white back in the 30's is more understandable then someone who would try to pass in the later version. I feel that is more out of self hatred and some bad parenting. Read more ›
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    67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars Great To Have Both Versions February 3, 2004
    Format:DVD
    Both versions of the Fannie Hurst book were filmed before the
    Civil Rights and Black Power Movements so must be viewed with
    that in mind.must have been controversial. The 1934 version is
    quite dated now but was probably controversial at the time. Louise Beavers is magnificent as
    the mother whose heart is broken by her light-skinned daughter who
    wants to pass in the white world. Had times been different, she
    might have beaten Halle to the Oscar by 70 years instead of being
    relegated to 5th billing. Fredi Washington as her daughter is also escellent.
    The 1959 version features a magnificent performance by Juanita Moore who received
    an Oscar nomination for her work. This is more than a glitzy
    Lana Turner weeper. Douglas Sirk use of color is fantastic and
    even if the movie is hokey you can't stop watching. This double
    bill is great for collectors who wish to have both versions.
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    Topic From this Discussion
    What's the difference?
    Both films have new transfers and restored sound (there's an obvious difference in quality, but it isn't that much better than the previous versions due likely to the conditions of the masters).

    Each film also has an audio commentary, and the disc for the '59 version also includes a half-hour... Read More
    Feb 14, 2008 by K. |  See all 2 posts
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