skip navigation
Imitation of Life

Imitation of Life(1934)

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here

Remind Me

TCMDb Archive MaterialsView all archives (1)


powered by AFI

After her husband's death, Beatrice Pullman continues his maple syrup business and hires Delilah Johnson to take care of her home and daughter Jessie. Delilah moves in with her daughter Peola, who, although she is light-skinned, is black like her mother. After tasting Delilah's delicious pancakes, made from a family recipe, Bea uses her gumption and ingenuity to open Aunt Delilah's Pancake House. The restaurant is a success and they are finally able to live comfortably, but Peola grows up resenting her heritage, as she feels it separates her from the rest of society. On the suggestion of vagrant Elmer Smith, Bea boxes the pancake mix, and hires Elmer as her manager. Bea prints Delilah's likeness on every box, and the business becomes a multimillion dollar corporation. Although she makes twenty percent of the profits, Delilah chooses to stay on as Bea's maid. At a party celebrating the tenth anniversary of the business, Bea meets ichthyologist Stephen Archer, who is a friend of Elmer. Bea and Stephen fall in love and make plans to marry, but decide to wait until Jessie meets him. Jessie returns home for a vacation from college, but Bea asks Stephen to look after her as she is compelled to go to Virginia with Delilah to find Peola, who has run away from college. In Virginia, Delilah finds Peola working at a restaurant that prohibits black customers. Peola bitterly denies knowing Delilah, and runs out of the restaurant. She returns home briefly, however, where she disowns Delilah so that she can lead a non-segregated life. In the meantime, Jessie has fallen in love with Stephen, although he has given her no encouragement, and thinks of her as a mere child. Peola's departure proves too much for Delilah, who becomes gravely ill. On her deathbed, Delilah asks Bea to take care of Peola should she ever return. Peola attends Delilah's funeral, and becomes overwhelmed by her own selfishness and the loss of her mother. Bea takes her home, and in time Peola agrees to return to college. Acknowledging Jessie's love for Stephen, Bea postpones their wedding indefinitely until Jessie no longer loves him, so that there will be no obstacles. Stephen promises to wait, and Bea and Jessie reminisce about the time when their beloved Delilah first arrived.