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Imitation of Life

Imitation of Life

Genders: Romance, Drama

Director: Douglas Sirk

Writer: Eleanore Griffin (screenplay), Allan Scott (screen

Actors: Lana Turner, John Gavin, Sandra Dee, Susan Kohner

Year: 1959
Run time: 125min
IMDB score: 7.9
Updated: 3 years ago

Movie infomation

Movie name: Imitation of Life

Genders: Romance, Drama

Imdb Score: 7.9

Runtime: 125min

Released: 30 Apr 1959

Director: Douglas Sirk

Writer: Eleanore Griffin (screenplay), Allan Scott (screen

Actors: Lana Turner, John Gavin, Sandra Dee, Susan Kohner

Company: Universal Studios

Imdb Link

Imitation of Life Available Subtitles

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Beauty! Romance! Betrayal!

10/10 This Five Hanky Weeper is a classic Lana Turner vehicle. She never looked better.

This is a remake of a 1934 Claudette Colbert movie of the same name from a popular Fannie Hurst novel.

The 1934 version is more true to the original story but it is difficult to find and is seldom shown on television.

The story has been rewritten to take full advantage of Ms. Turner's luminescent beauty. Now, instead of a restaurant owner she is a glamorous star of stage and film.

But the underlying pathos is the same -- two women, each with a daughter that does not appreciate the sacrifices their mothers have made.

Before I saw this film I had no idea who Susan Kohner was. She turns out quite a performance and I wonder why she didn't do more films.

Sandra Dee as Ms. Turner's daughter is Sandra Dee playing a daughter -- you've seen it before.

In the final scences when Susan Kohner's character does her "That's my momma..." piece you can hear sobs coming from the people in the audience...

Do not be surprised if some of them are yours.

4 years ago

100% Sirky. Accept No Imitations!

10/10 As others have pointed out, IMITATION OF LIFE is an important film for many reasons. Seeing it again recently, I was reminded of the top three reasons why it has earned a cult following among women, African Americans and gay men. For women, it's all about letting go of a child and allowing them to live their own life. For African Americans, it's a reminder of how much they've had to struggle for equality in American society. It's the message of not hiding who you are and not living a lie just to please other people that resonates with gay men. This film was one of the first to expose the cultural divide between black and white in America. That really wasn't being addressed in the cinema up to that point. So it must be put in it's historical context to be fully appreciated.

This film marked a crossroads not only for American society, but for the acting profession as well. Sandra Dee and Susan Kohner seemed to be of the new school of method acting. By contrast, Lana Turner and Juanita Moore seemed to be of the old school of melodramatic acting. Perhaps this is why the older actors come off as far less believable than the younger one's do. That's what makes Sandra Dee's line, "Oh mother, stop acting!" so hilarious. I really thought Sandra Dee was too perky to be taken seriously until that scene. Then she showed she could act by keeping it real. Compared to Lana Turner, she's Katherine Hepburn! Also, anyone serious about an acting career should study Susan Kohner's amazing performance. She steals the show in a role that would be a challenge for any young actress. I think she was one of the most talented actors to ever leave the business for married life.

IMITATION OF LIFE is one of those rare films that gets better every time I see it. I guess that's because it's important on more levels than you can take in on a single viewing. I could go into how it's also about a single mother's struggle for independence in 1950's male dominated society. I could argue that it's not as sappy and melodramatic as it's reputed to be. I could argue that John Gavin's performance was better than a lot of people say. However, I think I'll save those discussions for when I see it again.

4 years ago

canned goods as caviar: Sirks last masterpiece.

10/10 For a long time Douglas Sirk was dismissed by all but he most insightful critics. It was thought that he made a series of well crafted, well acted, but ultimately empty"weepies"(as well as "americana" films, a swashbuckler( Captain Lightfoot), a revisionist western( Taza Son of Cochise),and a sandals and toga epic(Sign of the Pagan.)

However, the "weepies" have been reevaluated( and the Americana films may be reevaluated as well).Sirk is now seen as one of the most significant American directors of the fifties, and, perhaps, as one of the hundred greatest directors of all time. Imitation of Life was his last Hollywood pictures, and one of his best. I call this film, "Canned goods as caviar", because it is an example of taking a "low brow" genre and transforming it into art. Sure, the music is melodramatic, sure the performances by Gavin and Turner are somewhat contrived), sure, the story is campy, but Sirk in his genius transforms melodrama into a scathing critique of materialism, conformity, and racism. Sirk was no cynic, but a rigorous moralist-a superbly educated and sensitive man, steeped in European and American literature.

One of the most astonishing-and misunderstood- elements in this picture is the incandescent performance by Juanita Moore. Moore achieves what is almost impossible; she portrays human goodness. Ican rarely think of a time when an American film has more saintly, more purely Christian figure.

4 years ago

You Can Feel the Soap Coming Right Out of the TV.

8/10 Douglas Sirk did not do subtle romances; he embellished his stories with interesting yet vaguely exploitative elements more suited to the soap opera genre and then amped the melodrama to eleven.

IMITATION OF LIFE, basically a romantic potboiler by Fannie Hurst that would not be out of place in an Oprah's Book of the Month, is here given the grand Technicolor treatment and stars Lana Turner -- not particularly known for warmth or romantic heroines. This for the most part, is her movie and even as a struggling actress (hard to believe given her icy beauty) she is dressed impeccably and seems quite well-to-do despite her character being a waitress. That she improbably forms an alliance with Juanita Moore and her daughter Sarah Jane in tow (who cries at the drop of a hat and later has what seems to be a moment when she quietly cracks as she says "White, like me") is only to set the stage for the "racial confusion" that develops later on (and drives the majority of events) and would color the film with "controversial elements".

That Turner's success as an actress seems as forced as her romance with daughter's love interest doesn't detract the soapy elements of IMITATION, but Susan Kohner, playing Sarah Jane all grown up, steals the show and is the only one who rises above the drivel that surrounds her, carrying a lot of the film's weight in its second half. In playing her racial trauma and need for survival at least her story fits the times; light skinned blacks admit that they did have to "pass for white" in order to move on up, and with Kohner being half white, half Mexican only hammers the point home even more and exposes a lot of hypocrisy that at the time a light-skinned African-American actress would and could not be cast for this part.

The best scene comes when Kohner's beau, on discovering she is actually black, all but rapes her in a dark alley. It's the only sequence that doesn't reek of soap, and although Kohner's storyline eventually becomes muddled with her melodramatic interaction with Moore and her later appearance at her mother's funeral, it's really the most poignant part of this film and manages to reveal its soul. This was the cornerstone of Douglas Sirk movies: tell a good, tissue-friendly yarn that in its second half and conclusion would punch the audience with a strong moral and in this he succeeded, with followers in Herbert Ross' STEEEL MAGNOLIAS and James L. Brooks TERMS OF ENDEARMENT.

Douglas Sirk, after this film, would basically retire and leave behind a collection of overblown melodramas that have quite a following.

4 years ago

A Real Tear Jerker

5/10 I have seen this movie a countless number of times and know the dialogue by heart. Each time I watch it, I say, "I'm not going to cry this time". Sometimes I almost make it, but then Mahalia Jackson starts to sing and I lose it. My children don't understand why Sarah Jane wanted to pass for white. I tried to explain to them that in that day and age, it was sometimes necessary. The beautiful Susan Kohner steals the film. It's a shame that she only made a handful of movies. To me the most heart-wrenching scene is where Annie visits Sarah Jane in her hotel room. She says' "I want to hold you my arms one more time. Just like you were my baby." I puddle up just writing about it.

In Lana Turner's biography, she writes about the making of this movie. It was made shortly after her daughter stabbed Lana's gangster boyfriend to death. She said that when you see her crying in the funeral scene, those tears were real. When Mahalia started to sing "Troubles of the World", all of her troubles started to come back to her and she got up and ran out of the church. They had to run after her and bring her back to complete the scene.

4 years ago