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Imitation of Life

Imitation of Life

Imitation of Life

1959 / 125min / 35mm

DIRECTOR: DOUGLAS SIRK

CAST: LANA TURNER, JOHN GAVIN, SANDRA DEE

SCREENPLAY - ELEANORE GRIFFIN, ALLAN SCOTT

Sirk’s supreme tearjerker, this stealth investigation into race in America takes the form of a deceptively glossy melodrama, with bottle-blonde Lana Turner as Lora, a single mother trying to raise a daughter and start an acting career. But as the film unfolds with Sirk’s usual visual splendor, he undercuts his own main narrative, focusing more intently on the fraught relationship between Lora’s African-American maid, Annie, and her mixed-race daughter, Sarah Jane, played by Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner in Oscar-nominated roles. Still potent, Imitation of Life is a subversive Hollywood masterpiece that brought the fifties to a close with a devastating wail—literally ending with a mournful spiritual by Mahalia Jackson.