Imitation of Life1934

Director: Douglas Sirk, John M. Stahl
Stars: Lana Turner, Juanita Moore, John Gavin, Sandra Dee, Dan O'Herlihy
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Runtime: 236 minutes

Imitation of Life (1959) The last film in Hollywood of director Douglas Sirk (Written on the Wind), the 1959 Imitation of Life--an adaptation of Fannie Hurst's novel--is an endlessly fascinating film that speaks volumes about the American journey toward materialism and the racial tensions that are inseparable from it. Lana Turner plays a white single mother and aspiring actress who takes in a black housekeeper (Juanita Moore) and her daughter (played by an adolescent Susan Kohner), the latter so light-skinned she passes for white. As the years pass and success mounts for Turner, Moore also becomes more comfortable but her status as a domestic never changes. Meanwhile, Kohner's character, chafing against social constraints, rebels at every opportunity and throws a wrench into the perfect order Sirk chillingly captures through the precise, architectural design of his images. On one hand a '50s weepie and on the other a daring allegory, Imitation of Life is an unusual masterpiece. --Tom Keogh

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