Imitation of Life

Imitation of Life

John M Stahl (1934)

119min
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Review

Our Score
This exemplary example of the kind of melodrama that became known as a "woman's picture" is masterfully directed by John M Stahl and earned an Oscar nomination for best picture. The versatile and accomplished Claudette Colbert stars as a struggling widow and mother of a small daughter who joins forces with her black maid (Louise Beavers), also the mother of a small daughter, to revitalise their lives and fortunes by opening a successful pancake business. Trouble strikes on all fronts when Beavers's light-skinned daughter grows up and sets out to pass for white, with devastating consequences, and Colbert's teenage daughter falls in love with her mother's beau (Warren William). This superb five-handkerchief weepie with a moral lesson about racism was effectively and successfully remade in glossy Technicolor by Douglas Sirk in 1959 with Lana Turner and Juanita Moore, but this earlier version wins in the acting stakes.

Cast & Crew

Beatrice "Bes" Pullman Claudette Colbert
Stephen Archer Warren William
Jessie Pullman Rochelle Hudson
Elmer Smith Ned Sparks
Delilah Johnson Louise Beavers
Peola Johnson Fredi Washington
Baby Jessie Juanita Quigley
Martin, the furniture man Alan Hale
Painter Henry Armetta
Butler Wyndham Standing
Jessie aged eight Marilyn Knowlden
Peola Johnson aged four Sebie Hendricks
Peola Johnson aged nine Dorothy Black
Landlord Clarence Hummel Wilson
Director John M Stahl
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Other Information

Language: EnglishBlack and whiteAvailable on: DVD