Imitation of Life (1959) - Rotten Tomatoes

Imitation of Life1959

Imitation of Life (1959)



Critic Consensus: Douglas Sirk enriches this lush remake of Imitation of Life with racial commentary and a sharp edge, yielding a challenging melodrama with the power to devastate.

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Movie Info

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, Rovi

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Lana Turner
as Lora Meredith
Juanita Moore
as Annie Johnson
John Gavin
as Steve Archer
Sandra Dee
as Susie (age 16)
Dan O'Herlihy
as David Edwards
Troy Donahue
as Frankie
Susan Kohner
as Sarah Jane (age 18)
Robert Alda
as Allen Loomis
Karen Dicker
as Sarah Jane (age 8)
Terry Burnham
as Suzie (age 6)
John Vivyan
as Young Man
Lee Goodman
as Photographer
Ann Robinson
as Show Girl
Sandra Gould
as Receptionist
David Tomack
as Burly Man
Joel Fluellen
as Minister
Billy House
as Fat Man
Maida Severn
as Teacher
Than Wyenn
as Romano
Bess Flowers
as Geraldine Moore
Paul Bradley
as Preston Mitchell
Myrna Fahey
as Actress
Eddie Parker
as Policeman
George Barrows
as Furniture Mover
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News & Interviews for Imitation of Life

Critic Reviews for Imitation of Life

All Critics (27) | Top Critics (13)

This edition of Imitation of Life should do as much for Miss Kohner as did the original movie for Miss Colbert in 1934.

June 22, 2020 | Full Review…

Sirk unleashed a melodramatic torrent of rage at the corrupt core of American life-the unholy trinity of racism, commercialism, and puritanism.

November 16, 2015 | Full Review…

The toughest-minded, most irresolvable movie ever made about race in this country.

March 31, 2015 | Full Review…

Imitation of Life is still a potent onion. When passed before the moviegoer's eyes, it may force theater owners to install aisle scuppers to drain off the tears.

May 20, 2011 | Full Review…
Top Critic

A consummate display of populist weepie-making.

May 20, 2011 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

While this device lends more scope, it also results in the overdone busy actress/neglected daughter conflict.

March 19, 2009 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Imitation of Life

A lavish, touching melodrama that remains always focused and held together even when trying to flesh out the personal conflicts of so many characters - which it does in a way that is quite realistic and sincere despite how in the end Sirk tries way too hard to force us into tears.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

A sweet and sour pie of the morality and values of it's time. Tasty, colorful in the outside, with so much hipocrisy, prejudices lurking inside. Its deep sensitive core could only be reached by Sirk's nobility. His lyrical and non judgemental treatment , helped by one of the best cinematographers that ever was, Mr. Russell Metty, and amazing performers, beginning with a surprisingly good Lana Turner (This and "The Bad and the Beautiful" were without a doubt her finest acting moments).

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

Imitation of Life is sentimental without being sappy. It's also boldly allegorical without being preachy. I'm tempted to say that it was ahead of its time but, by 1959, it was long overdue.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

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