7.5/10
3,875
69 user 28 critic

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:

Imitation of Life 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

1934 proved to be a banner year for Claudette Colbert with her acclaimed performance in this film, the Cecil B. DeMille blockbuster Cleopatra (1934) and the runaway Oscar-winning hit It Happened One Night (1934). 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

Baby Jessie Pullman, Age 3: I want my quack-quack!
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

Referenced in Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019) 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

 
Wonderful Movie.
29 December 2004 | by customer-2See all my reviews

I find the movie aptly named. My motivation for responding is due to an earlier opinion on this movie, specifically: "the central character of Delilah is the worst kind of racial stereotype; a relentlessly cheerful mammy, perfectly satisfied to spend her life tending to the needs of her white employer". I am an American Black (African-American) and I do not find Delilah offensive. In fact I applaud the reflection of honesty that this 1934 film attempts. The "mammy" of that time period had very few choices. That she was happy to help her very nice white employer for the safety provided does not make for a hate figure by Blacks. It makes for a reminder of the intense level of crap Black folks went through and how they dealt with the pain of it to stay honest, kind and helpful people. Should Delilah lived in the streets and hated white people the rest of her life? Should she have not had the fortitude and insight to find a situation with another caring human being, albeit this other human was white? And for this she is lauded as a the worst kind of racial stereotype? No. The answer is a resounding NO. Now if Delilah was beaten and raped on a regular basis and still wanted to please her white employer while denying her race the previous poster would have had a point.

Okay, I really didn't like the mournful gospel music, R&B would have made this movie perfect to me but that's just me. Live and Love. There is no shame in being a good person.


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