Imitation of Life (1959)


“How do you tell a child that she was born to be hurt? ” – Annie

Number of Times Seen – 1 (27 May 2019)

Brief Synopsis – An aspiring actress with a young daughter takes in a black housekeeper and her daughter which starts a lifelong friendship between the two.

My Take on it – This is a film that I have been interested in seeing for a few years ever since I saw the original version from 1934.

I had heard that this version wasn’t as powerful as the original, so I didn’t rush to watch it.

Since it is among the films that have garnered an Oscar nomination for one or more of its performances, I recently came across it in my quest to watch all films in that category.

The film is quite interesting despite the fact that it takes the original story in new directions as isn’t quite as poignant as the original version.

The choice to take this story idea into the entertainment world changes the story too much and hinders the strong relationship that these two women should have in the story.

Lana Turner is fine in the lead role, but she doesn’t manage to make her character as memorable as Claudette Colbert did in the original.

Juanita Moore does a superb job here as Annie, the maid and was quite deserving of her Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.

Susan Kohner was also nominated for an Oscar in the same category playing her troubled daughter who tries too hard to blend in to her surroundings.

Even after all of my previous criticism of the way this film is weaker than the original, it still is quite solid in the way that it shows the importance of its message with regard to the issue of racial tolerance and by showing the lengths some people might choose to go to in order to avoid those kind of problems along the way.

The racial aspects of the story are much stronger that the aspects related to the theater and that lack of balance between the two highlights both the strengths and the weaknesses of this film which is quite a shame.

Bottom Line – Interesting film that takes the original story in new directions yet fails to be as poignant as the version made in 1934. The idea to take this story into the entertainment world changes things too much and unfortunately doesn’t manage to keep up the strong relationship between these two women. Turner is fine in the lead but her performance isn’t as memorable as Colbert’s was. Moore does a much better job with her role and was deservingly nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting actress for her performance here. Kohler was also nominated in the same category for playing her troubled daughter. The film is still quite solid and is able to show a clear message with regard to racial tolerance and to what length some might go to in order to avoid problems. Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – This film, which focuses on the relationship struggles of mothers and daughters, was Lana Turner’s first since a very public scandal involving Turner and her daughter Cheryl Crane. The previous year, the fourteen year old Crane had fatally stabbed Turner’s boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato. Stompanato, part of Mickey Cohen’s infamous gang, had been beating Turner, and the court ruled that Crane’s actions were justifiable homicide. Nonetheless, the killing and subsequent scandal created a rift between Turner and her daughter, and seriously threatened to end Turner’s film career. However, Turner channeled the pain from her experience into this film. It proved financially and critically successful, and served as a comeback vehicle for the actress. (From IMDB)

Rating – Globe Worthy (7/10)

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3 thoughts on “Imitation of Life (1959)

  1. Turner just isn’t as good an actress as Colbert. The original came in just as the code ended and probably would never had gotten made a year later. John Gavin and Sandra Dee aren’t much help. It’s Moore and Kohner that make the picture.

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  2. Pingback: Did They Get it Right? – Best Supporting Actress – Oscars 1959 | MovieRob

  3. Pingback: Temporal Top Ten – 1959 | MovieRob

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