"Imitation Of Life" Is Released
Imitation of Life is a 1959 film directed by Douglas Sirk, adapted from Fannie Hurst's novel Imitation of Life, produced by Ross Hunter and released by Universal Pictures.
Starring Lana Turner, it is a remake of the 1934 Imitation of Life, the film also stars John Gavin and features Sandra Dee, Dan O'Herlihy, Susan Kohner, Robert Alda and Juanita Moore as Annie Johnson. Gospel music star Mahalia Jackson appears as a church choir soloist.
This version of Imitation of Life was director Sirk's final major film, and is considered among his best. In the film, Lora Meredith (Turner), a white widowed single mother with dreams of becoming a famous actress, takes in Annie Johnson (Moore), a black widowed single mother who becomes a nanny for Lora's daughter Suzie (Dee). Although Lora eventually becomes a successful stage and screen star, she sacrifices a healthy relationship with her daughter. In addition, Annie's light-complexioned daughter Sarah Jane (Kohner) causes her mother much pain and heartache as she attempts to pass for white and shuns both her heritage and her mother's love.
This glamorized remake of the 1934 film Imitation of Life bears only a passing resemblance to its source, the best-selling novel by Fannie Hurst. Originally, the heroine was a widowed mother who kept the wolf from the door by setting up a successful pancake business with her black housemaid. In the remake, Lana Turner stars as a would-be actress who is raising her daughter on her own. She chances to meet another single mother at the beach: African-American Juanita Moore. Moore goes to work as Turner's housekeeper, bringing her light-skinned daughter along. As Turner's stage career goes into high gear, Moore is saddled with the responsibility of raising both Turner's daughter and her own. Exposed to the advantages of the white world, Moore's grown-up daughter (Susan Kohner) passes for white, causing her mother a great deal of heartache. Meanwhile, Turner's grown daughter (Sandra Dee), neglected by her mother, seeks comfort in the arms of handsome photographer John Gavin. When Moore dies, her daughter realizes how selfish she's been; simultaneously, Turner awakens to the fact that she hasn't been much of a mother for her own daughter, whose romance has gone down the tubes. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide