Imitation of Life
last night i watched "Imitation of Life"-- the 1959 Douglas Sirk(directed-- Ross Hunter produced) remake of the 1934 Claudette Colbert classic. if you don't know it (ahem, glenn)--though you should, it's in the gay men's handbook--it's the story of a white woman and a black woman's (and their two daughters) friendship over several years -- the main drama being that the black woman's daughter tries to pass for white and the white woman's daughter is in love with her mother's boyfriend. it's all very soapy and weepy. in the original, Claudette Colbert becomes famous with an Aunt Jemima-type pancake recipe. In the 1954 version, the white woman, played rather coldly by the always glam Lana Turner, is a struggling actress who finally hits the big time with her black friend, played excellently (with an Oscar Nom) by Juanita Moore, by her side.
the movie is pure homo pleasure, from the glorious technicolor to the Sammy Fain title song, the Jean Louis costumes to the set design and art direction. it's the penultimate Douglas Sirk women's picture (and Todd Haynes would re-create it somewhat successfully with "Far From Heaven" in 2002)
Some things i really love about it are:
Lana Turner is a stage actress and the titles of a couple of her shows are something like the hilarious "No Time For Laughter" and "Always Another Tomorrow"
Sandra Dee plays Lana Turner's daughter.
John Gavin-- a major hunk (he still is, in his 70s) plays Lana Turner's boyfriend
Juanita Moore was a year YOUNGER than Lana but they make her up to look 20 years older.
Susan Kohner (also an Oscar Nom for this film)--who plays the daughter who tries to pass for white. she is incredibly beautiful. her last film was Freud in 1962 but she's still alive. where is she? what happened to her? actually, i remember, she's the mother of Paul and Chris Weitz--directors of American Pie and Without a Boy-- oh, i can totally see the resemblence-- dark hair, Mexican-Czech heritage.
No one speaks of Susan Kohner anymore. And THAT truly saddens me.