Retro Rewind: ‘Imitation of Life’

Published: Saturday 11th Jul 2020 by David

Welcome to Retro Rewind, the TGJ original feature developed to celebrate some of TV and Film’s brightest moments.

Today, we revisit Douglas Sirk‘s version of Fannie Hurst‘s ‘Imitation of Life’ tale.

In it, a young woman living in a pre-Civil Rights world, makes her way into a violently racist society hiding a secret she hopes those closest to her will never uncover.

A secret, rooted in the reality that she is a black woman passing as a white one.

“How do you tell your child that she was born to be hurt”.

Full story below…

Sirk’s version of the story was released in 1959 and followed the first movie adaptation of the novel which was launched in 1934 by John M. Stahl.

In his version, Lana Turner plays a mother who befriends a woman (portrayed by Juanita Moore) whose daughter- despite being black- appears to be a white.

As Lana’s character seeks fame and glory in a male dominated world, Annie Johnson (Moore) finds herself forced to reckon with the fact that her daughter is developing a deep hatred for her race and African heritage. Tragedy ensues when the young girl dreams of passing as a white woman comes true.

Watch below….

At the time, movie goers stepped into theatres to watch Lana portray the character Lora Meredith but left finding themselves enamoured by Moore and Susan Kohner who dominated the screen with their tragic tale.


Quite interestingly, the first actress to portray the troubled girl was a lighter-skinned African-American star named Fredi Washington whose career was torpedoed by the Hollywood system when she refused to hide her heritage.

You see I’m a mighty proud gal, and I can’t for the life of me find any valid reason why anyone should lie about their origin, or anything else for that matter. Frankly, I do not ascribe to the stupid theory of white supremacy and to try to hide the fact that I am a Negro for economic or any other reasons. If I do, I would be agreeing to be a Negro makes me inferior and that I have swallowed whole hog all of the propaganda dished out by our fascist-minded white citizens.

Your thoughts?

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