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Imitation of Life (1934)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 26 November 1934 (USA)
A struggling widow and her daughter take in a black housekeeper and her fair-skinned daughter; the two women start a successful business, but face familial, identity, and racial issues along the way.

Director:

John M. Stahl

Writers:

Fannie Hurst (novel), William Hurlbut (screenplay)
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Claudette Colbert ... Beatrice Pullman
Warren William ... Stephen Archer
Rochelle Hudson ... Jessie Pullman
Ned Sparks ... Elmer Smith
Louise Beavers ... Delilah Johnson
Fredi Washington ... Peola Johnson
Juanita Quigley ... Baby Jessie Pullman (as Baby Jane)
Alan Hale ... Martin the Furniture Man
Henry Armetta ... The Painter
Wyndham Standing ... Jarvis the Butler
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Storyline

Bea Pullman and her daughter Jessie have had a hard time making ends meet since Bea's husband died. Help comes in the form of Delilah Johnson, who agrees to work as Bea's housekeeper in exchange for a room for herself and her daughter Peola. Bea comes up with a plan to market Delilah's pancake recipe. The two soon become wealthy and as the years go on, their friendship deepens. Their relationships with their daughters, however, become strained. Ashamed of her mother, Peola seeks a new life by passing for white. Bea's love for her daughter is tested when she and Jessie fall for the same man. Written by <dbubbeo@cmp.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Claudette Colbert at her finest in Imitation of Life (re-release) See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 November 1934 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Imitación de la vida See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Fredi Washington (Peola, Aged 19) was a light-skinned African-American. After playing this role, she was criticized by some in the black community who labored under the misconception that the actress herself practiced self-hatred and would rather 'pass' herself off as white. Ms. Washington was, in fact, an avid civil rights activist. See more »

Goofs

Steven Archer tells Bea Pullman what it's like on his boat: "in 10 days you could be drifting in a tropic sea," where they'd "guide past mysterious little islands, black and silent...and on the shore breeze, that'd come to you, the perfume of warm lands--hyacinth, and jasmine..." Hyacinths originally come from Turkey, not commonly thought of as the "tropics," were part of Greek mythology,and now come commonly from the Netherlands, or possibly the UK....neither considered the "tropics" either. To be located in the tropics, you must be in that area between 23 1/2 degrees N and S of the equator. None of the countries associated with hyacinths fall in those areas. Hyacinths don't fill the air with their scent either, especially enough to perfume the air offshore. See more »

Quotes

Delilah Johnson: [to Peola] Bow your head! You got to learn to take it!
See more »

Crazy Credits

End credits titled at the top "A great cast is worth repeating". See more »

Alternate Versions

The original theatrical release print of Imitation of Life featured different title cards, including a title card containing a brief prologue, which read: "Atlantic City, in 1919, was not just a boardwalk, rolling-chairs and expensive hotels where bridal couples spent their honeymoons. A few blocks from the gaiety of the famous boardwalk, permanent citizens of the town lived and worked and reared families just like people in less glamorous cities." When the film was reissued by Universal in 1938, the title cards were changed, and the prologue card was removed. All current prints of the film, including those used for the VHS and DVD releases, are struck from the 1938 re-release version. See more »

Connections

Featured in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #2.21 (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Nobody Knows de Trouble I've Seen
(uncredited)
Traditional Negro Spiritual
Lyrics by Henry Thacker Burleigh
Played and sung by an offscreen chorus during the opening credits
Played as background music often
See more »

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User Reviews

It Was Nice to See the Original
29 September 2002 | by JaleaSee all my reviews

Although I liked the remake with Lana Turner, it does not compare with the original. The remake represents a slicker Hollywood formulaic version, yet, I really liked Juanita Moore's heartfelt performance in the 1959 version.

Some may find it was hard to believe that a Beatrice (Cobert) in the 30's could make money from a Delilah's (Beavers) secret recipe. It would have been quite a challenge (but, not impossible) for Delilah; a poor, black woman the 30's to make a fortune as a business woman! Also, people make fortunes on other people ideas all the time.

This is a well done soap opera. The cast was excellent. Not a beat was skipped in this movie. I am glad that I had the opportunity to see the original. I also think it was a brave move for the 30's. One of my favorite scenes was when at the end of their "girl talk," Beatrice goes upstairs and Delilah goes downstairs to the servant's quarters. That scene said it all. In spite of the fact that these two women were good friends and loved each other, they did not have equal status because of the color of their skin.


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