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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)
Reviews
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

Paul Lukas was the original choice for the male lead. See more »

Goofs

When Elmer first comes into the pancake shop on the boardwalk, Beatrice leans on the counter with one elbow. In the next wider shot, she's leaning on the counter with both elbows. See more »

Quotes

Delilah Johnson: Peola won't you be a good child like you can be, darling, and do something for your mammy?
Peola Johnson, Age 19: [annoyed] Oh, don't say "mammy."
Delilah Johnson: Look here, baby. You go down South, to one of them high-toned colleges, where only the high-toned goes. Wouldn't you do that for me, honey?
Peola Johnson, Age 19: [taken aback] A Negro school?
Delilah Johnson: Ain't nothin' to be ashamed of, daughter dear. Meet your cross half-way. It won't be near so heavy. Go amongst your own. Quit battlin'! Your little head's sore now from buttin' against stone walls. Open up ...
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

Reissue prints of this film, issued after Carl Laemmle's ouster and retirement from Universal, read "The New Universal Presents [Claudette Colbert and Warren William in 'Imitation of Life']" rather than "Carl Laemmle Presents [Claudette Colbert and Warren William in 'Imitation of Life']" 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 The Universal Story (1996) See more »

Soundtracks

Home, Sweet Home
(uncredited)
Music partly composed, and arranged by H.R. Bishop from a Sicilian air
Played by the band at the end of the party
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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