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Imitation of Life
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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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great characters. Excellent insight regarding human nature, identity, ambition, friendship, social & economic class boundaries, race relations, and racism. Read morePublished 5 days ago by zdoo
Woderful old movie, I dare anyone to watch this and keep a dry eye😭. Great cast!!!Published 1 month ago by Valerie
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