Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Imitation of Life (1959)

Another brilliant melodrama from Douglas Sirk. Like most of his films, it moves at that characteristic 1950s studio pace (something akin to molasses) but it is more than the sum of its pokey parts. A selfish but strong actress (Lana Turner) helps out a black woman down on her luck (Juanita Moore) by bringing her into her home and employing her as a maid. Both women are single mothers and together they raise their daughters while the men come and go. The maid's daughter grows up obsessed with race, especially since she can pass for white, and all the horrors of a divided society hammer down on her. The scene with Troy Donohue (you'll know it if you've seen it) is truly terrible to witness.

Susan Kohner, who retired young from acting, is the standout as the daughter trying to pass as white, and John Gavin is suitably handsome in the role that usually goes to Rock Hudson in one of these films. 

It's a Sirk film so I have to include at least a few more of his perfect compositions.

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