Imitation of Life


2h 5m 1959
Imitation of Life

Brief Synopsis

Two mothers, one white, one black, face problems with their rebellious daughters.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Apr 1959
Premiere Information
World premiere in Chicago, IL: 17 Mar 1959; Los Angeles opening: 20 Mar 1959; New York opening: 17 Apr 1959
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Hollywood, California, United States; Los Angeles--Moulin Rouge nightclub, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Imitation of Life by Fannie Hurst (New York, 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 5m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1
Film Length
11,155ft

Synopsis

After frantically searching for her lost daughter Susie at Coney Island, an attractive widow named Lora Meredith finds her playing with Sarah Jane, a light-skinned black girl. Lora then meets Sarah Jane's single black mother, Annie Johnson, and a white photographer named Steve Archer, who takes some photographs of the girls. Lora discovers that Annie and Sarah Jane have no place to go, and although she is poor herself, having come to New York in search of an acting career, she invites the two to stay the night in her small apartment. In exchange for her small room, Annie offers to keep house and look after Susie while Lora seeks acting and modeling jobs.

One evening, Steve comes by with the photographs, and the next day, he takes Lora to lunch, obviously smitten with her. Later, Lora invents a lie that gets her into the office of Allen Loomis, a well-known theatrical agent, but when he tries to make love to her, arguing that a successful actress must be willing to satisfy such requests, she angrily leaves. Back home, she sobs in frustration while Annie attempts to comfort and encourage her. One cold day, Annie brings Sarah Jane's galoshes to school, where she discovers that her daughter has been trying to conceal her race from her classmates. When Sarah Jane runs from Annie, her distressed mother turns to Lora and asks, "How do you explain to your child that she was born to be hurt?"

Soon afterward, Steve, who has just been hired to promote a brand of beer, proposes to Lora, but she turns him down, saying that even though she loves him, marriage would prevent her from steadfastly pursuing a life in the theater. Just then, Loomis offers her a role in a new comedy by well-known writer David Edwards, but Steve forbids her to visit Loomis, prompting her to accuse him of settling for less in his own career. During her audition, Lora suggests that David rewrite portions of his play, and though angry at first, he soon realizes she is right. After Lora is cast and the play and its new leading actress are hugely successful, the papers report that "a new star is born" on Broadway. For the next ten years, Lora stars in one hit David Edwards play after another. The playwright wants to marry her, but as she admits one day to Annie, who still works for her, she does not really love him. Lora and David argue when she decides to appear in another writer's drama, but her performance is brilliant, and this play, too, becomes an instant hit. Surprised and overjoyed by a visit from Steve, Lora confesses she still loves him, and the two are reunited.

Susie, who has suffered from her busy mother's lack of attention despite the material advantages Lora has provided her, looks forward to taking a trip with Steve and Lora, but the plans are canceled when Lora excitedly accepts a coveted role in an Italian film. Meanwhile, Sarah Jane tells Susie that she secretly has been seeing her white boyfriend, and that she would rather die than be considered black. When the young man learns that Sarah Jane's mother is black, however, he beats her. While Lora is filming in Italy, Steve looks after Susie, and the eager teenager soon falls in love with him. Sarah Jane, meanwhile, claims to have accepted a job in a New York library, but Annie finds her singing and dancing in a seedy New York nightclub. Her mother's appearance gets Sarah Jane fired, and she again runs from her, causing Annie to faint.

Back home, Annie tells Lora, who has just returned from Europe, that she will no longer interfere in her daughter's life, adding that she does hope to help her wayward daughter somehow. Steve, now a company vice-president, learns that Sarah Jane is working as a chorus girl in Los Angeles, and Annie, convinced she is dying, flies to California for one last look at her daughter. Sarah Jane is furious, exclaiming, "I'm somebody else, I'm white." Annie then introduces herself to Sarah Jane's white friend as Sarah Jane's former nanny and leaves, but not before Sarah Jane tearfully embraces her. Meanwhile, Lora and Susie argue over Steve. When Susie accuses Lora of loving her career more than her, Lora offers to give Steve up, but Susie has decided to go away to college. The two mothers are now alone in the house.

One day, Annie tells Lora to make certain all her possessions are left to Sarah Jane and then, after reassuring her old friend that she is "going to glory," dies. Lora breaks down, but sees to it that Annie has the elaborate funeral she had requested. As the long cortege moves slowly along the street, Sarah Jane pushes through the crowds, flings herself on her mother's coffin, and weeps hysterically. Lora and Susie gently lead her into the hearse, where they reassure her that she did not cause her mother's death. As Steve looks on, the three women join hands in a gesture of comfort and love.

Videos

Movie Clip

Imitation Of Life (1959) - A Maid To Live In After wide shots establishing the real Coney Island, director Douglas Sirk switches to location shooting in Long Beach, CA, introducing principals Lana Turner, John Gavin and Juanita Moore, opening producer Ross Hunter's hit re-make, Imitation Of Life, 1959.
Imitation Of Life (1959) - Ten Seconds Before You Die Out of work model and/or actress and single mom Lora (Lana Turner) has schemed her way into an after-hours meeting at the office of theatrical agent Loomis (Robert Alda) who, it turns out, lacks certain scruples, early in Douglas Sirk's Imitation Of Life, 1959.
Imitation Of Life (1959) - A Falling Star! Susie (Sandra Dee) and Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner) are now teens, Lora (Lana Turner) now a Broadway star and Annie (Juanita Moore) still her backup, when old flame Steve (John Gavin) shows up at a premiere party ten years later, in producer Ross Hunter's Imitation Of Life, 1959.
Imitation Of Life (1959) - Foolish Together Single mom and aspiring actress Lora (Lana Turner), embarrassed by Christmas attention from Steve (John Gavin), as housekeeper/roommate Annie (Juanita Moore) takes a call from agent Loomis (Robert Alda), representing Edwards (Dan O'Herlihy), in Douglas Sirk's hit Imitation Of Life, 1959.
Imitation Of Life (1959) - Title Song, Credits Earl Grant's vocal, Sammy Fain and Paul Thomas Webster's song, the especially evocative title sequence, from producer Ross Hunter and director Douglas Sirk's hit melodrama Imitation Of Life, starring Lana Turner, John Gavin, Sandra Dee and Juanita Moore.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Apr 1959
Premiere Information
World premiere in Chicago, IL: 17 Mar 1959; Los Angeles opening: 20 Mar 1959; New York opening: 17 Apr 1959
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Hollywood, California, United States; Los Angeles--Moulin Rouge nightclub, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel Imitation of Life by Fannie Hurst (New York, 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 5m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1
Film Length
11,155ft

Award Nominations

Best Supporting Actress

1959
Susan Kohner

Best Supporting Actress

1959
Juanita Moore

Articles

Imitation of Life: The Essentials


SYNOPSIS

Two mothers discover that success is not necessarily the key to happiness, particularly when it comes between mother and child. Actress Lora Meredith claws her way to stardom only to realize the daughter (Sandra Dee) she has neglected for years is now a stranger to her and --worse yet-- her rival for the love of a younger man. At the same time, her African-American housekeeper finds herself rejected by her light-skinned daughter who wants to pass for white.

Director: Douglas Sirk
Producer: Ross Hunter
Screenplay: Eleanor Griffin, Allan Scott
Based on the novel by Fannie Hurst
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Editing: Milton Carruth
Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen, Richard H. Riedel
Music: Frank Skinner
Cast: Lana Turner (Lora Meredith), John Gavin (Steve Archer), Sandra Dee (Susie), Dan O'Herlihy (David Edwards), Susan Kohner (Sarah Jane), Robert Alda (Allen Loomis), Juanita Moore (Annie Johnson), Mahalia Jackson (Herself), Troy Donahue (Frankie), Sandra Gould (Receptionist), Jack Weston (Stage Manager), Bess Flowers (Geraldine Moore), Myrna Fahey (Actress)
C-125m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

Why IMITATION OF LIFE is Essential

In April of 1958, Lana Turner's teenage daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed Lana's mobster lover, Johnny Stompanato, to death. Although the killing was ruled justifiable homicide because Cheryl was defending her mother, the scandal rocked Hollywood, and many people thought Lana's film career was over. Enter Ross Hunter, producer of lavish women's pictures for Universal, who had breathed new life into the careers of aging stars like Jane Wyman and Barbara Stanwyck. Hunter offered Turner the starring role in a remake of Imitation of Life (1934).

For Lana Turner, that hit a little too close to home, and she hesitated. But she was deeply in debt, and she needed to work. Hunter offered a first-class production, with Jean Louis gowns and Laykin et Cie jewels, the leading women's director, Douglas Sirk, and a chance to make a lot of money, if Lana would work for a small salary plus half the net profits. Turner agreed, and the film succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Lana Turner was back on top, and a rich woman as well. In particular, Imitation of Life (1959) proved that her fans had not rejected her after the scandals surrounding the death of her lover Johnny Stompanato. It also reshaped her image to reflect the public's perception of her as a glamorous sex symbol who was a victim of her own success.

Fannie Hurst's novel, Imitation of Life, was the story of two single mothers, one white and one black, who join forces and become successful businesswomen. But both women suffer heartbreak caused by their daughters. (The idea for the book was born when Hurst traveled with black author Zora Neale Hurston and encountered racism, although the story was not remotely based on either of their lives.) The novel was a huge success and it was made into a film in 1934, starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers, directed by John Stahl. Ross Hunter wanted to update the story, making the leading character an actress instead of a businesswoman, but keeping the race issue and the conflicts between mothers and daughters. The film's treatment of race, considered daring in its day, provides a powerful view of liberal sentiments at the birth of the civil rights movement.

Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscars for their searing portrayals of the African-American mother and daughter. Imitation of Life became Universal's biggest moneymaker to date, and a 1995 poll by the New York Daily News still ranked it as one of the top-ten all-time favorite films.

Imitation of Life was the last collaboration for producer Ross Hunter and director Douglas Sirk, who previously had teamed for such hit melodramas as Magnificent Obsession (1954) and All That Heaven Allows (1955).

Despite its success, it was also Sirk's last commercial feature. He eventually returned to his native Germany, where he taught film and made a few experimental pictures.

With Sirk's other melodramas, Imitation of Life has become one of the central films for proponents of the auteur theory, who point to his filmmaking technique as a clear reflection of his personality and his attitude toward the often exaggerated soap opera plots in his films.

by Margarita Landazuri & Frank Miller
Imitation Of Life: The Essentials

Imitation of Life: The Essentials

SYNOPSIS Two mothers discover that success is not necessarily the key to happiness, particularly when it comes between mother and child. Actress Lora Meredith claws her way to stardom only to realize the daughter (Sandra Dee) she has neglected for years is now a stranger to her and --worse yet-- her rival for the love of a younger man. At the same time, her African-American housekeeper finds herself rejected by her light-skinned daughter who wants to pass for white. Director: Douglas Sirk Producer: Ross Hunter Screenplay: Eleanor Griffin, Allan Scott Based on the novel by Fannie Hurst Cinematography: Russell Metty Editing: Milton Carruth Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen, Richard H. Riedel Music: Frank Skinner Cast: Lana Turner (Lora Meredith), John Gavin (Steve Archer), Sandra Dee (Susie), Dan O'Herlihy (David Edwards), Susan Kohner (Sarah Jane), Robert Alda (Allen Loomis), Juanita Moore (Annie Johnson), Mahalia Jackson (Herself), Troy Donahue (Frankie), Sandra Gould (Receptionist), Jack Weston (Stage Manager), Bess Flowers (Geraldine Moore), Myrna Fahey (Actress) C-125m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Why IMITATION OF LIFE is Essential In April of 1958, Lana Turner's teenage daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed Lana's mobster lover, Johnny Stompanato, to death. Although the killing was ruled justifiable homicide because Cheryl was defending her mother, the scandal rocked Hollywood, and many people thought Lana's film career was over. Enter Ross Hunter, producer of lavish women's pictures for Universal, who had breathed new life into the careers of aging stars like Jane Wyman and Barbara Stanwyck. Hunter offered Turner the starring role in a remake of Imitation of Life (1934). For Lana Turner, that hit a little too close to home, and she hesitated. But she was deeply in debt, and she needed to work. Hunter offered a first-class production, with Jean Louis gowns and Laykin et Cie jewels, the leading women's director, Douglas Sirk, and a chance to make a lot of money, if Lana would work for a small salary plus half the net profits. Turner agreed, and the film succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Lana Turner was back on top, and a rich woman as well. In particular, Imitation of Life (1959) proved that her fans had not rejected her after the scandals surrounding the death of her lover Johnny Stompanato. It also reshaped her image to reflect the public's perception of her as a glamorous sex symbol who was a victim of her own success. Fannie Hurst's novel, Imitation of Life, was the story of two single mothers, one white and one black, who join forces and become successful businesswomen. But both women suffer heartbreak caused by their daughters. (The idea for the book was born when Hurst traveled with black author Zora Neale Hurston and encountered racism, although the story was not remotely based on either of their lives.) The novel was a huge success and it was made into a film in 1934, starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers, directed by John Stahl. Ross Hunter wanted to update the story, making the leading character an actress instead of a businesswoman, but keeping the race issue and the conflicts between mothers and daughters. The film's treatment of race, considered daring in its day, provides a powerful view of liberal sentiments at the birth of the civil rights movement. Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscars for their searing portrayals of the African-American mother and daughter. Imitation of Life became Universal's biggest moneymaker to date, and a 1995 poll by the New York Daily News still ranked it as one of the top-ten all-time favorite films. Imitation of Life was the last collaboration for producer Ross Hunter and director Douglas Sirk, who previously had teamed for such hit melodramas as Magnificent Obsession (1954) and All That Heaven Allows (1955). Despite its success, it was also Sirk's last commercial feature. He eventually returned to his native Germany, where he taught film and made a few experimental pictures. With Sirk's other melodramas, Imitation of Life has become one of the central films for proponents of the auteur theory, who point to his filmmaking technique as a clear reflection of his personality and his attitude toward the often exaggerated soap opera plots in his films. by Margarita Landazuri & Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101 - IMITATION OF LIFE


In conjunction with the film version, a new paperback edition of Imitation of Life hit bookstores, selling half a million copies.

The same year Imitation of Life hit movie theatres and became a best seller all over again, the book's inspiration, Zora Neale Hurston, died forgotten and penniless in Florida.

A year after the film came out, Brazilian television presented a telenovella based on the book.

Helping boost the success of Imitation of Life was the studio's unprecedented decision to release it simultaneously to both white and black theatres in the South. At the time, Hollywood didn't release films to black theatres until they had played out in other markets. A demographic study of the film audience in 1960 surprised executives by revealing that 30 percent of the audience for movies was African-American.

The Douglas Sirk revival started in 1968 when film critic Andrew Sarris placed him in his second ranking of directors, just behind such geniuses as Orson Welles and Charles Chaplin, in The American Cinema. This was followed by major attention in academic film journals and retrospectives at film festivals.

As recently as 1995, readers of the New York Daily News voted Imitation of Life a place among their ten favorite films.

Among the directors citing Sirk as an influence on their own work are John Waters and the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Waters featured references to the film in both Female Trouble (1974) and Desperate Living (1977).

Todd Haynes' Far from Heaven (2002), starring Julianne Moore, is a pastiche of scenes and themes from Sirk's films.

by Frank Miller

Pop Culture 101 - IMITATION OF LIFE

In conjunction with the film version, a new paperback edition of Imitation of Life hit bookstores, selling half a million copies. The same year Imitation of Life hit movie theatres and became a best seller all over again, the book's inspiration, Zora Neale Hurston, died forgotten and penniless in Florida. A year after the film came out, Brazilian television presented a telenovella based on the book. Helping boost the success of Imitation of Life was the studio's unprecedented decision to release it simultaneously to both white and black theatres in the South. At the time, Hollywood didn't release films to black theatres until they had played out in other markets. A demographic study of the film audience in 1960 surprised executives by revealing that 30 percent of the audience for movies was African-American. The Douglas Sirk revival started in 1968 when film critic Andrew Sarris placed him in his second ranking of directors, just behind such geniuses as Orson Welles and Charles Chaplin, in The American Cinema. This was followed by major attention in academic film journals and retrospectives at film festivals. As recently as 1995, readers of the New York Daily News voted Imitation of Life a place among their ten favorite films. Among the directors citing Sirk as an influence on their own work are John Waters and the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Waters featured references to the film in both Female Trouble (1974) and Desperate Living (1977). Todd Haynes' Far from Heaven (2002), starring Julianne Moore, is a pastiche of scenes and themes from Sirk's films. by Frank Miller

Trivia and Fun Facts About IMITATION OF LIFE


Imitation of Life is one of only two dramatic films to feature gospel legend Mahalia Jackson. The other, St. Louis Blues (1958), actually gave her a character name.

During the publicity tour for the film, one reporter asked Susan Kohner if she had "minded" playing a black character.

At a suburban theatre in the Philadelphia area, the manager stood in the lobby at the film's end with a box of Kleenex for sobbing patrons.

Juanita Moore's Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actress was such a surprise the studio didn't even have a biography on hand to distribute to the press.

Although Imitation of Life put Kohner on the fast track to stardom (she had three other features that year), she retired from acting in 1964 when she wed fashion designer John Weitz. Her sons, Chris and Paul Weitz, are film producers/directors best known for the American Pie films and About a Boy (2002).

Despite the film's success with black audiences, there also were African-Americans who resented the sympathetic depiction of Annie's (Moore) subservient nature and the casting of a white actress as her daughter. Troy Donahue claimed that after the film's release, blacks actually came up to him and thanked him for beating up Kohner on screen.

Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane, visited the set during location shooting for Sandra Dee's high school graduation. The scenes were shot at the Town and Country School, where Crane had been a student.

At the studio's suggestion, Turner took her daughter to the premiere. She even arranged a special advance screening for the girl so she could get her tears out of the way with the first screening and look her best for the critics at the premiere.

Ads for the film showed Sandra Dee saying "You've given me everything a mother could but the thing I wanted most…your love!" and Turner saying "I'll get the things I want out of life…one way -- or another."

Famous Quotes from IMITATION OF LIFE

"Sarah Jane is your child?" -- Lana Turner, as Lora Meredith, expressing surprise that the light-skinned little girl is the daughter of African-American Juanita Moore, as Annie Johnson.

"Why do we always have to sleep in the back?" -- Karin Dicker, as the young Sarah Jane Johnson, beginning to question her position as an African-American.

"My camera could easily have a love affair with you." -- John Gavin, as Steve Archer, coming on to Turner, as Lora Meredith.

"If the dramatist's club want to eat and sleep with you, you'll eat and sleep with them. If some producer with a hand as cold as a toad wants to do a painting of you in the nude, you'll accommodate him for a very small part." -- Robert Alda, as Allen Loomis, explaining the business to Turner, as Lora.

"I'm going up and up and up, and nobody's going to pull me down!" -- Turner refusing a marriage proposal from Gavin, as Steve Archer.

"It's drama. No clothes, no sex. No fun." -- Dan O'Herlihy, as David Edwards, dismissing Turner's decision to tackle a serious drama.

"You know I still have you in my blood, don't you?" -- Gavin, as Steve, meeting Turner after she's become a star.

"All the kids talking behind my back! Is it true? Are you black?" -- Troy Donahue, as Frankie, confronting Susan Kohner, as Sarah Jane, about her race.

"I'm white. White! White! If we should ever pass on the street, please don't recognize me." -- Kohner, as Sarah Jane, rejecting her mother, Moore, as Annie Johnson.

"Oh, Mama, stop acting. Stop trying to shift people around as though they were pawns on a stage." -- Sandra Dee, as Susie.

"Tell her I know I was selfish -- and if I loved her too much, I'm sorry -- but I didn't mean to cause her any trouble. She was all I had." -- Moore's deathbed confession.

"I'm sorry, Mama. Mama, I love you. Miss Lora, I killed my mother." -- Kohner realizing the error of her ways.

Compiled by Frank Miller

Trivia and Fun Facts About IMITATION OF LIFE

Imitation of Life is one of only two dramatic films to feature gospel legend Mahalia Jackson. The other, St. Louis Blues (1958), actually gave her a character name. During the publicity tour for the film, one reporter asked Susan Kohner if she had "minded" playing a black character. At a suburban theatre in the Philadelphia area, the manager stood in the lobby at the film's end with a box of Kleenex for sobbing patrons. Juanita Moore's Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actress was such a surprise the studio didn't even have a biography on hand to distribute to the press. Although Imitation of Life put Kohner on the fast track to stardom (she had three other features that year), she retired from acting in 1964 when she wed fashion designer John Weitz. Her sons, Chris and Paul Weitz, are film producers/directors best known for the American Pie films and About a Boy (2002). Despite the film's success with black audiences, there also were African-Americans who resented the sympathetic depiction of Annie's (Moore) subservient nature and the casting of a white actress as her daughter. Troy Donahue claimed that after the film's release, blacks actually came up to him and thanked him for beating up Kohner on screen. Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane, visited the set during location shooting for Sandra Dee's high school graduation. The scenes were shot at the Town and Country School, where Crane had been a student. At the studio's suggestion, Turner took her daughter to the premiere. She even arranged a special advance screening for the girl so she could get her tears out of the way with the first screening and look her best for the critics at the premiere. Ads for the film showed Sandra Dee saying "You've given me everything a mother could but the thing I wanted most…your love!" and Turner saying "I'll get the things I want out of life…one way -- or another." Famous Quotes from IMITATION OF LIFE "Sarah Jane is your child?" -- Lana Turner, as Lora Meredith, expressing surprise that the light-skinned little girl is the daughter of African-American Juanita Moore, as Annie Johnson. "Why do we always have to sleep in the back?" -- Karin Dicker, as the young Sarah Jane Johnson, beginning to question her position as an African-American. "My camera could easily have a love affair with you." -- John Gavin, as Steve Archer, coming on to Turner, as Lora Meredith. "If the dramatist's club want to eat and sleep with you, you'll eat and sleep with them. If some producer with a hand as cold as a toad wants to do a painting of you in the nude, you'll accommodate him for a very small part." -- Robert Alda, as Allen Loomis, explaining the business to Turner, as Lora. "I'm going up and up and up, and nobody's going to pull me down!" -- Turner refusing a marriage proposal from Gavin, as Steve Archer. "It's drama. No clothes, no sex. No fun." -- Dan O'Herlihy, as David Edwards, dismissing Turner's decision to tackle a serious drama. "You know I still have you in my blood, don't you?" -- Gavin, as Steve, meeting Turner after she's become a star. "All the kids talking behind my back! Is it true? Are you black?" -- Troy Donahue, as Frankie, confronting Susan Kohner, as Sarah Jane, about her race. "I'm white. White! White! If we should ever pass on the street, please don't recognize me." -- Kohner, as Sarah Jane, rejecting her mother, Moore, as Annie Johnson. "Oh, Mama, stop acting. Stop trying to shift people around as though they were pawns on a stage." -- Sandra Dee, as Susie. "Tell her I know I was selfish -- and if I loved her too much, I'm sorry -- but I didn't mean to cause her any trouble. She was all I had." -- Moore's deathbed confession. "I'm sorry, Mama. Mama, I love you. Miss Lora, I killed my mother." -- Kohner realizing the error of her ways. Compiled by Frank Miller

The Big Idea


Popular novelist Fannie Hurst got the idea for Imitation of Life during a road trip to Canada with African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston during which she saw first-hand the depth of racial prejudice. The result was the story of two mothers, businesswoman Bea and housekeeper Delilah, who find success with a chain of waffle restaurants using Bea's business skills and Delilah's recipes. Their success is tainted by problems with their daughters. Bea's daughter, Jessie, becomes her romantic rival, while Delilah's light-skinned daughter, Peola, rejects her mother and attempts to pass for white.

Hurst wasn't happy with the book, but after a year of writing, she couldn't afford to turn down an offer of $45,000 for the rights to serialize it in Pictorial Review under the title Sugar House. Then she panicked and tried to return the $5,000 advance Harper & Bros. had paid for the book rights. Instead of accepting her offer, they made Imitation of Life their major offering for spring 1933.

Imitation of Life hit number nine on the New York Times best seller list and went through nine printings in its initial release.

The book's reviews were mixed, with the best notices going to the depiction of Delilah and the story's racial issues. Those issues also brought Hurst an impressive amount of fan mail thanking her for her depiction of the African-American characters.

Universal bought the screen rights to Imitation of Life and produced a faithful screen adaptation in 1934 under John Stahl's direction (he had previously directed the very successful first version of Hurst's Back Street in 1932). Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers played the mothers, with Rochelle Hudson and Fredi Washington as their daughters. The film was a major box office success.

Universal Pictures was suffering from financial problems in the late '50s. Only producer Ross Hunter was consistently delivering solid box office returns. Executives particularly valued his ability to deliver glamorous productions on relatively small budgets.

The idea for remaking Imitation of Life came up in 1956, when Hunter was looking for a follow-up to All That Heaven Allows (1955), a hit romance co-starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson in the romance of an older woman and younger man.

While developing the re-make, Hunter took Fannie Hurst to lunch and asked for her ideas about updating the story.

After Lana Turner's success in Peyton Place (1957), which pointed to a new career for her as the star of big-screen soap operas, she was Universal's only choice for the female lead. Even though she was currently the subject of a major scandal after daughter Cheryl Crane killed Turner's lover, mobster Johnny Stompanato, Hunter insisted on offering her the role.

Turner hesitated about accepting the role, fearing that the combination of the scandal and the recent financial disappointment of Another Time, Another Place (1958) had put her in a very tenuous position. Not only could she not risk another flop, but she wasn't sure she was ready to go back to work. She also thought the plot about a single mother who discovers her teenaged daughter and she are in love with the same man was a little too close to the rumors about a romantic triangle involving herself, her daughter and Stompanato.

Finally, Hunter and Turner's agent, Paul Kohner, convinced her that making the film was the only way to lay the rumors to rest.

To keep the budget under control, Turner agreed to lower her fee in return for half of the film's profits.

Director Douglas Sirk suggested changing the leading lady from a businesswoman to an actress. Stories about women in the workplace had declined in popularity since the '30s, and the change also reflected Turner's notoriety as an actress and single mother.

Although the Sarah Jane role had been played by black actress Washington in the original film version, for the re-make Universal cast white actress Susan Kohner, the daughter of Turner's agent Paul Kohner and Mexican actress Lupita Tovar.

More than 40 women were considered for the role of Annie (Delilah in the original), including Pearl Bailey and classical singer Marian Anderson. The role finally went to Juanita Moore, who had mostly played uncredited roles as African-American domestics to that point. The 36-year-old actress was barely old enough to play 22-year-old Susan Kohner's mother.

Natalie Wood was first considered for the part of Turner's daughter, but eventually Universal went with its own contract player, Sandra Dee, whom they were grooming for stardom. Two other popular releases in 1959, Gidget and A Summer Place, would make her a star and contribute to Imitation of Life's box office success.

Leading man John Gavin was being groomed for stardom at Universal, where he was seen as a younger version of Rock Hudson. He had already played the lead in Douglas Sirk's A Time to Love, and a Time to Die (1958). Casting him opposite Lana Turner seemed a logical step in his development, mirroring Hudson's casting opposite Jane Wyman in Sirk's Magnificent Obsession (1954).

Agent Henry Willson had hoped that new client Troy Donahue would fare as well working with Sirk as had his most famous client, Rock Hudson. Sirk had given Donahue a small role in The Tarnished Angels (1958), but when he offered him the role of the fraternity boy who discovers girlfriend Kohner is black and beats her up, Willson almost turned down the role. He was afraid playing a violent racist would damage Donahue's career.

by Frank Miller

The Big Idea

Popular novelist Fannie Hurst got the idea for Imitation of Life during a road trip to Canada with African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston during which she saw first-hand the depth of racial prejudice. The result was the story of two mothers, businesswoman Bea and housekeeper Delilah, who find success with a chain of waffle restaurants using Bea's business skills and Delilah's recipes. Their success is tainted by problems with their daughters. Bea's daughter, Jessie, becomes her romantic rival, while Delilah's light-skinned daughter, Peola, rejects her mother and attempts to pass for white. Hurst wasn't happy with the book, but after a year of writing, she couldn't afford to turn down an offer of $45,000 for the rights to serialize it in Pictorial Review under the title Sugar House. Then she panicked and tried to return the $5,000 advance Harper & Bros. had paid for the book rights. Instead of accepting her offer, they made Imitation of Life their major offering for spring 1933. Imitation of Life hit number nine on the New York Times best seller list and went through nine printings in its initial release. The book's reviews were mixed, with the best notices going to the depiction of Delilah and the story's racial issues. Those issues also brought Hurst an impressive amount of fan mail thanking her for her depiction of the African-American characters. Universal bought the screen rights to Imitation of Life and produced a faithful screen adaptation in 1934 under John Stahl's direction (he had previously directed the very successful first version of Hurst's Back Street in 1932). Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers played the mothers, with Rochelle Hudson and Fredi Washington as their daughters. The film was a major box office success. Universal Pictures was suffering from financial problems in the late '50s. Only producer Ross Hunter was consistently delivering solid box office returns. Executives particularly valued his ability to deliver glamorous productions on relatively small budgets. The idea for remaking Imitation of Life came up in 1956, when Hunter was looking for a follow-up to All That Heaven Allows (1955), a hit romance co-starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson in the romance of an older woman and younger man. While developing the re-make, Hunter took Fannie Hurst to lunch and asked for her ideas about updating the story. After Lana Turner's success in Peyton Place (1957), which pointed to a new career for her as the star of big-screen soap operas, she was Universal's only choice for the female lead. Even though she was currently the subject of a major scandal after daughter Cheryl Crane killed Turner's lover, mobster Johnny Stompanato, Hunter insisted on offering her the role. Turner hesitated about accepting the role, fearing that the combination of the scandal and the recent financial disappointment of Another Time, Another Place (1958) had put her in a very tenuous position. Not only could she not risk another flop, but she wasn't sure she was ready to go back to work. She also thought the plot about a single mother who discovers her teenaged daughter and she are in love with the same man was a little too close to the rumors about a romantic triangle involving herself, her daughter and Stompanato. Finally, Hunter and Turner's agent, Paul Kohner, convinced her that making the film was the only way to lay the rumors to rest. To keep the budget under control, Turner agreed to lower her fee in return for half of the film's profits. Director Douglas Sirk suggested changing the leading lady from a businesswoman to an actress. Stories about women in the workplace had declined in popularity since the '30s, and the change also reflected Turner's notoriety as an actress and single mother. Although the Sarah Jane role had been played by black actress Washington in the original film version, for the re-make Universal cast white actress Susan Kohner, the daughter of Turner's agent Paul Kohner and Mexican actress Lupita Tovar. More than 40 women were considered for the role of Annie (Delilah in the original), including Pearl Bailey and classical singer Marian Anderson. The role finally went to Juanita Moore, who had mostly played uncredited roles as African-American domestics to that point. The 36-year-old actress was barely old enough to play 22-year-old Susan Kohner's mother. Natalie Wood was first considered for the part of Turner's daughter, but eventually Universal went with its own contract player, Sandra Dee, whom they were grooming for stardom. Two other popular releases in 1959, Gidget and A Summer Place, would make her a star and contribute to Imitation of Life's box office success. Leading man John Gavin was being groomed for stardom at Universal, where he was seen as a younger version of Rock Hudson. He had already played the lead in Douglas Sirk's A Time to Love, and a Time to Die (1958). Casting him opposite Lana Turner seemed a logical step in his development, mirroring Hudson's casting opposite Jane Wyman in Sirk's Magnificent Obsession (1954). Agent Henry Willson had hoped that new client Troy Donahue would fare as well working with Sirk as had his most famous client, Rock Hudson. Sirk had given Donahue a small role in The Tarnished Angels (1958), but when he offered him the role of the fraternity boy who discovers girlfriend Kohner is black and beats her up, Willson almost turned down the role. He was afraid playing a violent racist would damage Donahue's career. by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera


Because of the heavy public interest in Turner's first film after the Stompanato scandal, producer Ross Hunter threw the set open to the press on the first day of shooting. They even staged a press conference with the stipulation that Turner would not answer any questions about the case.

Hunter insisted on maintaining a lavish production, despite a tight budget. He always used real flowers on the sets, and the jewelry was the real thing, too, supplied by Laykin et Cie. It was appraised at $1 million.

He also had a reputation for pampering his female stars. During filming, he sent flowers and gifts to Turner's dressing room regularly. She also had a limousine and driver at her disposal. Not only was there a music system in her dressing room, but Hunter even hired somebody to operate it for her.

Director Douglas Sirk worked gently with his actors. Rather than dictating the way a scene should be played, he would take each actor aside, suggest what he wanted and ask how he or she felt about it.

The funeral scene hit a little too close to home for Turner. As Mahalia Jackson started singing, she lost control and fled to her trailer in tears. When no arguments could convince her to return to the church and shoot the scene, her makeup woman slapped her in the face, breaking her out of her hysterics. She then returned to the set and completed the scene perfectly.

In New York, the film premiered at the Roxy, the same theatre at which the 1934 version had opened.

Although she has the second largest role in the film, Juanita Moore was billed seventh, behind actors with much smaller roles. As some form of compensation, her on-screen billing reads "presenting Juanita Moore as Annie Johnson," but that credit didn't make it into the film's advertising.

Imitation of Life became Universal's top-grossing film to that time, and Turner's most successful film ever. Her deal for half the profits kept her financially comfortable for the rest of her life, particularly after fifth husband Fred May invested much of the money in real estate.

by Frank Miller

Behind the Camera

Because of the heavy public interest in Turner's first film after the Stompanato scandal, producer Ross Hunter threw the set open to the press on the first day of shooting. They even staged a press conference with the stipulation that Turner would not answer any questions about the case. Hunter insisted on maintaining a lavish production, despite a tight budget. He always used real flowers on the sets, and the jewelry was the real thing, too, supplied by Laykin et Cie. It was appraised at $1 million. He also had a reputation for pampering his female stars. During filming, he sent flowers and gifts to Turner's dressing room regularly. She also had a limousine and driver at her disposal. Not only was there a music system in her dressing room, but Hunter even hired somebody to operate it for her. Director Douglas Sirk worked gently with his actors. Rather than dictating the way a scene should be played, he would take each actor aside, suggest what he wanted and ask how he or she felt about it. The funeral scene hit a little too close to home for Turner. As Mahalia Jackson started singing, she lost control and fled to her trailer in tears. When no arguments could convince her to return to the church and shoot the scene, her makeup woman slapped her in the face, breaking her out of her hysterics. She then returned to the set and completed the scene perfectly. In New York, the film premiered at the Roxy, the same theatre at which the 1934 version had opened. Although she has the second largest role in the film, Juanita Moore was billed seventh, behind actors with much smaller roles. As some form of compensation, her on-screen billing reads "presenting Juanita Moore as Annie Johnson," but that credit didn't make it into the film's advertising. Imitation of Life became Universal's top-grossing film to that time, and Turner's most successful film ever. Her deal for half the profits kept her financially comfortable for the rest of her life, particularly after fifth husband Fred May invested much of the money in real estate. by Frank Miller

The Critics Corner - IMITATION OF LIFE


Made for $2 million, Imitation of Life grossed $6.4 million during its initial U.S. release, placing number five on the year's list of top box-office films. By 1970, it had made over $25 million worldwide.

AWARDS & HONORS

Imitation of Life received Photoplay magazine's Laurel Award for Best Drama.

Both Susan Kohner and Juanita Moore were nominated for Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actress, with Kohner winning the award.

Douglas Sirk was nominated for the Directors Guild Award but lost to William Wyler for Ben-Hur (1959).

Both Kohner and Moore won Oscar® nominations for Best Supporting Actress. They lost to Shelley Winters in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959).

"Imitation of Life crosses a succession of emotional bridges, hitting the heart with each step in one of the best Universal films of recent years. It's a film that will benefit from word-of-mouth, particularly of lipsticked mouth." Variety.

"...Miss Turner and the others act unreally and elaborately...[They] do not give an imitation of life. They give an imitation of movie acting at its less graceful level twenty-five years ago." -- Bosley Crowther, The New York Times.

"When passed before the moviegoer's eyes, it may force theatre owners to install aisle scuppers to drain off the tears." -- Time Magazine

"…it has a genuinely touching sub-plot involving a stanch Negro woman and her wayward daughter. To these two roles Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner bring a degree of emotion that virtually dissolved the audience watching the film with me. This is life as they would like to believe it, and it makes good movie material -- at least for a matinee." -- Arthur Knight, The Saturday Review.

"Sirk's last movie in Hollywood is a coldly brilliant weepie, a rags-to-riches tale of two intertwined families, in which the materialist optimism is continually counterpointed by an emphasis upon racial tension and the degeneration of family bonds...Forget those who decry the '50s Hollywood melodrama: it is through the conventions of that hyper-emotional genre that Sirk is able to make such a devastatingly embittered and pessimistic movie." - Geoff Andrew, TimeOut Movie Guide (Penguin).

"Fine performances and direction overcome possible soapiness to make this quite credible and moving." - Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide (Plume).

"Stunningly produced but dully acted, making its racially sensitive plot seem insincere." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide (HarperPerennial).

"I think it's impeccably made Hollywood trash - a watchable, laughable, lamentable soap opera/"women's picture"/"problem" picture....The most honest scene has white Troy Donahue brutally beating date Kohner, who he has learned is black." - Danny Peary, Guide For the Film Fanatic (Fireside).

"Imitation of Life may be the most important movie ever made. It has everything: mother love, musical numbers, backstage intrigue, race relations, gowns by Jean Louis, garish Technicolor, irony, Oscar®-nominated performances. You name it, it's got it!" -- Lypsinka, "My Favorite Things."

Compiled by Frank Miller & Jeff Stafford

The Critics Corner - IMITATION OF LIFE

Made for $2 million, Imitation of Life grossed $6.4 million during its initial U.S. release, placing number five on the year's list of top box-office films. By 1970, it had made over $25 million worldwide. AWARDS & HONORS Imitation of Life received Photoplay magazine's Laurel Award for Best Drama. Both Susan Kohner and Juanita Moore were nominated for Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actress, with Kohner winning the award. Douglas Sirk was nominated for the Directors Guild Award but lost to William Wyler for Ben-Hur (1959). Both Kohner and Moore won Oscar® nominations for Best Supporting Actress. They lost to Shelley Winters in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). "Imitation of Life crosses a succession of emotional bridges, hitting the heart with each step in one of the best Universal films of recent years. It's a film that will benefit from word-of-mouth, particularly of lipsticked mouth." Variety. "...Miss Turner and the others act unreally and elaborately...[They] do not give an imitation of life. They give an imitation of movie acting at its less graceful level twenty-five years ago." -- Bosley Crowther, The New York Times. "When passed before the moviegoer's eyes, it may force theatre owners to install aisle scuppers to drain off the tears." -- Time Magazine "…it has a genuinely touching sub-plot involving a stanch Negro woman and her wayward daughter. To these two roles Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner bring a degree of emotion that virtually dissolved the audience watching the film with me. This is life as they would like to believe it, and it makes good movie material -- at least for a matinee." -- Arthur Knight, The Saturday Review. "Sirk's last movie in Hollywood is a coldly brilliant weepie, a rags-to-riches tale of two intertwined families, in which the materialist optimism is continually counterpointed by an emphasis upon racial tension and the degeneration of family bonds...Forget those who decry the '50s Hollywood melodrama: it is through the conventions of that hyper-emotional genre that Sirk is able to make such a devastatingly embittered and pessimistic movie." - Geoff Andrew, TimeOut Movie Guide (Penguin). "Fine performances and direction overcome possible soapiness to make this quite credible and moving." - Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide (Plume). "Stunningly produced but dully acted, making its racially sensitive plot seem insincere." - Halliwell's Film & Video Guide (HarperPerennial). "I think it's impeccably made Hollywood trash - a watchable, laughable, lamentable soap opera/"women's picture"/"problem" picture....The most honest scene has white Troy Donahue brutally beating date Kohner, who he has learned is black." - Danny Peary, Guide For the Film Fanatic (Fireside). "Imitation of Life may be the most important movie ever made. It has everything: mother love, musical numbers, backstage intrigue, race relations, gowns by Jean Louis, garish Technicolor, irony, Oscar®-nominated performances. You name it, it's got it!" -- Lypsinka, "My Favorite Things." Compiled by Frank Miller & Jeff Stafford

Imitation of Life (1959)


In April of 1958, Lana Turner's teenage daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed Lana's mobster lover, Johnny Stompanato to death. Although the killing was ruled justifiable homicide because Cheryl was defending her mother, the scandal rocked Hollywood, and many people thought Lana's film career was over. Enter Ross Hunter, producer of lavish women's pictures for Universal, who had breathed new life into the careers of aging stars like Jane Wyman and Barbara Stanwyck. Hunter offered Turner the starring role in a remake of Imitation of Life (1959).

Fannie Hurst's novel, Imitation of Life (1933), was the story of two single mothers, one white and one black, who join forces and become successful businesswomen. But both women suffer heartbreak caused by their daughters. (The idea for the book was born when Hurst traveled with black author Zora Neale Hurston and encountered racism, although the story was not remotely based on either of their lives.) Thanks to its provocative themes, the novel was a huge success. It was made into a film in 1934, starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers, directed by John Stahl. Ross Hunter wanted to update the story, making the leading character an actress instead of a businesswoman, but keeping the race issue and the conflicts between mothers and daughters.

For Lana Turner, that hit a little too close to home, and she hesitated. But she was deeply in debt, and she needed to work. Hunter offered a first-class production, with Jean Louis gowns and Laykin et Cie jewels, the leading women's director, Douglas Sirk, and a chance to make a lot of money, if Lana would work for a small salary plus half the net profits. Turner agreed, and the film succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Lana Turner was back on top, and a rich woman as well. Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscars for their searing portrayals of the African-American mother and daughter. Imitation of Life became Universal's biggest moneymaker to date, and a 1995 poll by the New York Daily News still ranked it as one of the top-ten all-time favorite films.

Director: Douglas Sirk
Producer: Ross Hunter
Screenplay: Eleanore Griffin, Allan Scott, based on the novel by Fannie Hurst
Editor: Milton Carruth
Cinematography: Russell Metty
Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen, Richard H. Riedel
Music: Frank Skinner
Principal Cast: Lana Turner (Lora Meredith), John Gavin (Steve Archer), Sandra Dee (Susie, age 16), Juanita Moore (Annie Johnson), Susan Kohner (Sara Jane, age 18), Dan O'Herlihy (David Edwards), Robert Alda (Allen Loomis).
C-125m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

By Margarita Landazuri

Imitation of Life (1959)

In April of 1958, Lana Turner's teenage daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed Lana's mobster lover, Johnny Stompanato to death. Although the killing was ruled justifiable homicide because Cheryl was defending her mother, the scandal rocked Hollywood, and many people thought Lana's film career was over. Enter Ross Hunter, producer of lavish women's pictures for Universal, who had breathed new life into the careers of aging stars like Jane Wyman and Barbara Stanwyck. Hunter offered Turner the starring role in a remake of Imitation of Life (1959). Fannie Hurst's novel, Imitation of Life (1933), was the story of two single mothers, one white and one black, who join forces and become successful businesswomen. But both women suffer heartbreak caused by their daughters. (The idea for the book was born when Hurst traveled with black author Zora Neale Hurston and encountered racism, although the story was not remotely based on either of their lives.) Thanks to its provocative themes, the novel was a huge success. It was made into a film in 1934, starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers, directed by John Stahl. Ross Hunter wanted to update the story, making the leading character an actress instead of a businesswoman, but keeping the race issue and the conflicts between mothers and daughters. For Lana Turner, that hit a little too close to home, and she hesitated. But she was deeply in debt, and she needed to work. Hunter offered a first-class production, with Jean Louis gowns and Laykin et Cie jewels, the leading women's director, Douglas Sirk, and a chance to make a lot of money, if Lana would work for a small salary plus half the net profits. Turner agreed, and the film succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Lana Turner was back on top, and a rich woman as well. Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner were both nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscars for their searing portrayals of the African-American mother and daughter. Imitation of Life became Universal's biggest moneymaker to date, and a 1995 poll by the New York Daily News still ranked it as one of the top-ten all-time favorite films. Director: Douglas Sirk Producer: Ross Hunter Screenplay: Eleanore Griffin, Allan Scott, based on the novel by Fannie Hurst Editor: Milton Carruth Cinematography: Russell Metty Art Direction: Alexander Golitzen, Richard H. Riedel Music: Frank Skinner Principal Cast: Lana Turner (Lora Meredith), John Gavin (Steve Archer), Sandra Dee (Susie, age 16), Juanita Moore (Annie Johnson), Susan Kohner (Sara Jane, age 18), Dan O'Herlihy (David Edwards), Robert Alda (Allen Loomis). C-125m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. By Margarita Landazuri

Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of Imitation of Life


In a passionate and witty behind-the-scenes expose, Sam Staggs, the author of All About "All About Eve" takes on the classic 1959 Douglas Sirk film starring Lana Turner in Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of Imitation of Life (St. Martin's Press).

Few films inspire the devotion of Imitation of Life, one of the most popular films of the '50s--a split personality drama that's both an irresistible women's picture and a dark commentary on ambition, motherhood, racial identity, and hope lost and found.

Born to be Hurt is the first in-depth account of director Sirk's masterpiece. Lana Turner, on the brink of personal and professional ruin starred as Lora Meredith. African-American actress Juanita Moore played her servant and dearest friend, and Sandra Dee and Susan Kohner their respective daughters, caught up in the heartbreak of the black-passing-for-white daughter in the 1950s. Both Moore and Kohner were Oscar®-nominated as Best Supporting Actress.

The author combines vast research, extensive interviews with surviving cast members, and superb storytelling into a masterpiece of film writing. Entertaining, saucy, and incisive, this is irresistible reading for every film fan.

SAM STAGGS is the author of four books, including three previous biographies of movies: All About All About Eve, Close-Up On Sunset Boulevard, and When Blanche Met Brando. He lives in Dallas, Texas.

Born to be Hurt will be available from most major bookstores and online book retailers on February 17th.

Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of Imitation of Life

In a passionate and witty behind-the-scenes expose, Sam Staggs, the author of All About "All About Eve" takes on the classic 1959 Douglas Sirk film starring Lana Turner in Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of Imitation of Life (St. Martin's Press). Few films inspire the devotion of Imitation of Life, one of the most popular films of the '50s--a split personality drama that's both an irresistible women's picture and a dark commentary on ambition, motherhood, racial identity, and hope lost and found. Born to be Hurt is the first in-depth account of director Sirk's masterpiece. Lana Turner, on the brink of personal and professional ruin starred as Lora Meredith. African-American actress Juanita Moore played her servant and dearest friend, and Sandra Dee and Susan Kohner their respective daughters, caught up in the heartbreak of the black-passing-for-white daughter in the 1950s. Both Moore and Kohner were Oscar®-nominated as Best Supporting Actress. The author combines vast research, extensive interviews with surviving cast members, and superb storytelling into a masterpiece of film writing. Entertaining, saucy, and incisive, this is irresistible reading for every film fan. SAM STAGGS is the author of four books, including three previous biographies of movies: All About All About Eve, Close-Up On Sunset Boulevard, and When Blanche Met Brando. He lives in Dallas, Texas. Born to be Hurt will be available from most major bookstores and online book retailers on February 17th.

Sandra Dee, 1944-2005


For a brief, quicksilver period of the early '60s, Sandra Dee was the quintessential sweet, perky, All-American girl, and films such as Gidget and Tammy Tell Me True only reinforced the image that young audiences identified with on the screen. Tragically, Ms. Dee died on February 20 at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks. She had been hospitalized for the last two weeks for treatment of kidney disease, and had developed pneumonia. She was 60.

She was born Alexandra Cymboliak Zuck on April 23, 1944 (conflicting sources give 1942, but the actual birth year has been verified by the family) in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was abandoned by her father by age five, and her mother, Mary Douvan, lied about Sandra's age so that she could put her in school and get a job. She was only five when she entered the 2nd grade. Mature for her age, Sandra's mother kept the lie going when she began her modeling career. With her fetching blonde curls and pretty face, Dee found herself moving up quickly on the modeling ladder. By the time she was 10, she was one of the top child models in the country, and by age 13, she met producer Ross Hunter, who signed her to a seven-year contract for Universal. She had her named changed to Sandra Dee (a stage name combining her shortened first name and using her stepfather's surname initial D to sign vouchers) and made her film debut in Until They Sail (1957), starring Joan Fontaine, John Gavin.

Her next film, The Reluctant Debutante, a bubbly romantic comedy with Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall and John Saxon, proved Dee to be adept in light comedy. Yet she would prove her versatility as a performer the following year - 1959, when she scored in the three biggest films of the year:A Summer Place, a brooding melodrama with fellow teen-heartthrob, Troy Donohue; Imitation of Life, a glossy, Ross Hunter sudser; and of course Gidget, the archetypical, sand and surf movie. By the dawn of the '60s, Sandra Dee mania ruled the movie fanzines worldwide.

Her personal life took a surprising turn when she hooked up with singer Bobby Darin. She met Darin in 1960 in Portofino, Italy, where they were both cast in Come September with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida as the older romantic couple. They eventually married and she gave birth to a son, Dodd Mitchell Darin in 1961. All the while, Dee still plugged away with a series of hit films over the next few years: Romanoff and Juliet a charming satirical comedy directed by Peter Ustinoff; Tammy Tell Me True with John Gavin (both 1961; If a Man Answers (1962) a surprisingly sharp comedy of manners with husband Bobby Darin; Tammy and the Doctor, another corn-fed entry that was her leading man's Peter Fonda's big break; and Take Her, She's Mine (1963), a rather strained generation-gap comedy with James Stewart.

Her success was not to last. By the late `60s, as "youth culture" movies became more confrontational and less frivolous with references to open sexuality and drugs in the American landscape, Dee's career began to peter out. Her few films of that period : Rosie, and Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding (both 1967) were pretty dreadful and were disasters at the box-office; and her divorce from Bobby Darin that same year, put a dent in her personal life, so Dee wisely took a sabbatical from the limelight for a few years.

The '70s actually saw Dee improve as an actress. Although by no means a classic, her role as woman falling pray to a warlock (Dean Stockwell) who sexually and psychologically dominates her in the The Dunwich Horror (1970), was nothing short of startling. Yet despite her competency as actress, her career never regained its footing, and she appeared in only a few television movies later on: The Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1972), Fantasy Island (1977).

Dee resurfaced in 1991, when she gave an interview with People magazine about her personal demons: molestation by her stepfather, anorexia, drug use and alcoholism, that had haunted her her entire life. That same year, much to the delight of her fans, she resurfaced briefly when she starred in a stage production of Love Letters at the Beverly Hill's Canon Theatre with her friend and former co-star, John Saxon. Since she was diagnosed with throat cancer and kidney failure in 2000, Dee had been in and out of hospitals for her failing health. She is survived by her son Dodd; and two granddaughters -Alexa and Olivia.

by Michael T. Toole

Sandra Dee, 1944-2005

For a brief, quicksilver period of the early '60s, Sandra Dee was the quintessential sweet, perky, All-American girl, and films such as Gidget and Tammy Tell Me True only reinforced the image that young audiences identified with on the screen. Tragically, Ms. Dee died on February 20 at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks. She had been hospitalized for the last two weeks for treatment of kidney disease, and had developed pneumonia. She was 60. She was born Alexandra Cymboliak Zuck on April 23, 1944 (conflicting sources give 1942, but the actual birth year has been verified by the family) in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was abandoned by her father by age five, and her mother, Mary Douvan, lied about Sandra's age so that she could put her in school and get a job. She was only five when she entered the 2nd grade. Mature for her age, Sandra's mother kept the lie going when she began her modeling career. With her fetching blonde curls and pretty face, Dee found herself moving up quickly on the modeling ladder. By the time she was 10, she was one of the top child models in the country, and by age 13, she met producer Ross Hunter, who signed her to a seven-year contract for Universal. She had her named changed to Sandra Dee (a stage name combining her shortened first name and using her stepfather's surname initial D to sign vouchers) and made her film debut in Until They Sail (1957), starring Joan Fontaine, John Gavin. Her next film, The Reluctant Debutante, a bubbly romantic comedy with Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall and John Saxon, proved Dee to be adept in light comedy. Yet she would prove her versatility as a performer the following year - 1959, when she scored in the three biggest films of the year:A Summer Place, a brooding melodrama with fellow teen-heartthrob, Troy Donohue; Imitation of Life, a glossy, Ross Hunter sudser; and of course Gidget, the archetypical, sand and surf movie. By the dawn of the '60s, Sandra Dee mania ruled the movie fanzines worldwide. Her personal life took a surprising turn when she hooked up with singer Bobby Darin. She met Darin in 1960 in Portofino, Italy, where they were both cast in Come September with Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida as the older romantic couple. They eventually married and she gave birth to a son, Dodd Mitchell Darin in 1961. All the while, Dee still plugged away with a series of hit films over the next few years: Romanoff and Juliet a charming satirical comedy directed by Peter Ustinoff; Tammy Tell Me True with John Gavin (both 1961; If a Man Answers (1962) a surprisingly sharp comedy of manners with husband Bobby Darin; Tammy and the Doctor, another corn-fed entry that was her leading man's Peter Fonda's big break; and Take Her, She's Mine (1963), a rather strained generation-gap comedy with James Stewart. Her success was not to last. By the late `60s, as "youth culture" movies became more confrontational and less frivolous with references to open sexuality and drugs in the American landscape, Dee's career began to peter out. Her few films of that period : Rosie, and Doctor, You've Got To Be Kidding (both 1967) were pretty dreadful and were disasters at the box-office; and her divorce from Bobby Darin that same year, put a dent in her personal life, so Dee wisely took a sabbatical from the limelight for a few years. The '70s actually saw Dee improve as an actress. Although by no means a classic, her role as woman falling pray to a warlock (Dean Stockwell) who sexually and psychologically dominates her in the The Dunwich Horror (1970), was nothing short of startling. Yet despite her competency as actress, her career never regained its footing, and she appeared in only a few television movies later on: The Daughters of Joshua Cabe (1972), Fantasy Island (1977). Dee resurfaced in 1991, when she gave an interview with People magazine about her personal demons: molestation by her stepfather, anorexia, drug use and alcoholism, that had haunted her her entire life. That same year, much to the delight of her fans, she resurfaced briefly when she starred in a stage production of Love Letters at the Beverly Hill's Canon Theatre with her friend and former co-star, John Saxon. Since she was diagnosed with throat cancer and kidney failure in 2000, Dee had been in and out of hospitals for her failing health. She is survived by her son Dodd; and two granddaughters -Alexa and Olivia. by Michael T. Toole

TCM Remembers - Pauline Kael/Troy Donahue


PAULINE KAEL 1919-2001

Pauline Kael, who died September 3rd at the age of 82, was one of the handful of film critics who made a noticable impact on the way we view movies. Her mix of personal feelings with more abstract aesthetics inspired numerous other critics (sometimes called "Paulettes") and in a few cases even made big hits of movies like Bonnie and Clyde (1967). She claimed to never see a movie more than once or to change her mind about it later. Several collections of her work are available, most with mildly risque titles like I Lost It at the Movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Going Steady.

Kael was born June 19, 1919 in Petaluma, California but moved with her family to San Francisco during her teens. There she majored in philosophy at University of California at Berkeley though she didn't graduate (the school later gave her an honorary degree). That's when she started to develop a serious interest in movies. In addition to the usual writer's assortment of jobs (seamstress, cook, retail clerk) she started writing about film in 1953; her first review was of Charlie Chaplin's Limelight which she disliked. She wrote for several small publications and did a radio show on the groundbreaking network KPFA before finally landing a job at the high-profile McCall's only to be fired shortly after she panned The Sound of Music (1965) (which she called The Sound of Money). During this period she was also managing and programming Berkeley Cinema Guild Theatres (one of the country's earliest repertoire cinemas despite being basically small rooms above a laundry), and was briefly married to avant-garde filmmaker James Broughton.

The turning point came in 1965 when I Lost It at the Movies not only attracted major critical attention but became a strong seller in book stores. Two years later legendary editor William Shawn hired Kael as film critic for The New Yorker, completing her jump into the limelight. Kael never shied away from controversy as two other events proved. In the early Sixties she engaged in an infamous and surprisingly bitter debate with critic Andrew Sarris among others about the merits of auteurism, the French-born philosophy that believes the director is the chief creative person behind any film. Kael's anti-intellectual streak came forward but since auteurism wasn't meant to be a genuinely rigorous theory (such attempts came later in the 70s) this was a sort of Brer Rabbit vs. tar baby fight that Kael could never win. The other notorious controversy occured in 1971 with her essay "Raising Kane" which was intended to show that screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz deserved as much if not more credit for Citizen Kane (1941) than Orson Welles. While Mankiewicz's contribution had clearly been underappreciated, most of Kael's conclusions and even some of her factual basis have been disproven though she never bothered to revise the essay.

In 1979, Kael made a detour to Hollywood by the urging of Warren Beatty. She was meant to be an "executive consultant" at Paramount but actually making movies is quite a different matter than writing about them so Kael lasted only five months. She went back to The New Yorker, eventually retiring in 1991 partly as a result of Parkinson's Syndrome. She still kept up with movies though, loving such smaller films as Vanya on 42nd Street and actors like Jim Carrey (who "has practically kept movies alive the past few years" she said in 1998).

By Lang Thompson

Troy Donahue 1936-2001

Troy Donahue died September 2nd at the age of 65. He was a fixture in movies during the 1950s, playing an assortment of heartthrobs and borderline tough guys. Donahue was actually Merle Johnson Jr, born in New York City on Jan 27, 1936. He went to Columbia University and started acting in small theatrical roles which eventually led to film appearances, the earliest ones uncredited. His first was Man Afraid (1957) but Donahue also made brief TV appearances at the time on shows like Wagon Train. He signed with Warner Brothers in 1959 and immediately jumped to stardom in films like A Summer Place and Imitation of Life (both 1959). He was busy in a variety of films during this periods - notably Parrish (1961) and Rome Adventure (1962) - but also starred in the TV series Surfside 6 (1960) and Hawaiian Eye (1962 and predating Hawaii Five-O by several years). Donahue's career declined as the Sixties became more turbulent but he still made notable appearances in The Godfather Part II (1974), playing a character with Donahue's own real name, and Monte Hellman's Cockfighter (1974). Most of Donahue's later films were direct-to-video efforts like Nudity Required and Omega Cop but trash aesthete John Waters, a huge fan, used him for Cry-Baby (1990).

By Lang Thompson

TCM REMEMBERS CARROLL O'CONNOR 1924-2001

Carroll O'Connor - who died June 21st at the age of 76 - will be best remembered for portraying Archie Bunker on TV's All in the Family but his career actually was much more extensive. Born in New York on August 2nd, 1924, O'Connor served in the merchant marine during World War II before attending the University of Montana where he worked on the school newspaper. Before graduating, he followed his brother to another college in Ireland (he would later get a Masters in speech from Montana). It was in Ireland that O'Connor started acting in several local productions. He returned to the U.S. for his Broadway debut in 1958 and shortly after started to appear on numerous TV shows like The Untouchables and Naked City. His first film was Parrish (1961) though he eventually acted in over a dozen films during the Sixties including Cleopatra (1963), Marlowe (1969), Hawaii (1966) and Point Blank (1967). O'Connor even auditioned for the part of the Skipper in the TV series, Gilligan's Island, but it was his role as Archie Bunker in a 1971 sitcom that made him a star. All in the Family was an American version of the British sitcom Till Death Do Us Part that met some initial resistance (ABC rejected the first two pilots) but quickly captivated American audiences and became the country's top-rated TV show. Archie became such an icon that his chair is now preserved in the Smithsonian. The series lasted until 1979 and brought O'Connor four Emmys, even leading to a four-year spinoff Archie Bunker's Place starring O'Connor. (It also produced one of TV's oddest spinoffs in1994's 704 Hauser about a multi-racial family living in Archie Bunker's old house. It had no cast members from the earlier series and only lasted six episodes.) In 1988, O'Connor took the role of a Southern sheriff in a TV series based on the movie In the Heat of the Night and found himself in another hit, this one lasting until 1995. He also occasionally played Helen Hunt's father on Mad About You. By all accounts, O'Connor was nothing like Archie Bunker; in fact, O'Connor was an active anti-drug crusader, partly the result of his son's drug-related suicide.

By Lang Thompson

TCM REMEMBERS JACK LEMMON 1925-2001

Whether playing a cross-dressing jazz bassist or a bickering roommate, Lemmon has kept his fans in stitches for fifty years. But beneath that comedian's facade, the actor had a very serious side, which occasionally surfaced in such films as Days of Wine and Roses (1962) or Costa-Gavras' political thriller Missing (1982). Lemmon was truly a one-of-a-kind actor and his track record for acclaimed performances is truly remarkable: 8 Oscar nominations (he won Best Supporting Actor for Mister Roberts (1955) and Best Actor for Save the Tiger (1973), a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, 8 British Academy Award nominations, 4 Emmy Award nominations, numerous Golden Globe nominations, a two-time Best Actor winner at the Cannes Film Festival, the list goes on and on.

Lemmon entered the world in a completely novel fashion; he was born prematurely in an elevator in Boston in 1925. The son of a doughnut manufacturer, Lemmon later attended Harvard University but was bitten by the acting bug and left the prestigious college for Broadway. Between theatrical gigs, he played piano accompaniment to silent films shown at the Knickerbocker Music Hall in New York. Later, Lemmon claimed that he learned more about comic technique by watching these Chaplin, Keaton and Harold Lloyd two-reelers than acting school could have ever taught him.

From Broadway and early TV appearances to Hollywood, Lemmon moved West to make his screen debut in It Should Happen to You (1954), opposite Judy Holliday in a variation of her 'dumb blonde' persona that had won her an Oscar for Born Yesterday (1952). In It Should Happen to You, Holliday plays a struggling actress who soon wins fast fame as the product of promotion. Lemmon plays her levelheaded boyfriend but finds himself on the sidelines when the suave and sophisticated Peter Lawford appears on the scene. It Should Happen to You, directed by George Cukor, was a popular success and Lemmon and Holliday were quickly teamed again in Phffft! (1954), another lightweight romantic comedy. A year later, Lemmon hit the major leagues when he supported Hollywood heavyweights Henry Fonda, James Cagney and William Powell in Mister Roberts (1955). As Ensign Pulver, a deckhand who avoids work whenever possible, Lemmon won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar®.

Onscreen, Lemmon's characters often found that they were the wrong men for their jobs. In Cowboy (1958), Lemmon plays a city slicker venturing out on the wild frontier. His romantic visions of the West are soon changed by the hard-living, hard-drinking reality. Cowboy is based on the autobiography of Frank Harris, and, like the author, Lemmon found himself adapting to the rough and tumble lifestyle on the trail.

Lemmon brought a new comic persona to Hollywood films. He combined elements of screwball and slapstick comedy with his own self-deprecating humor to create satiric portraits of the contemporary American male. The sometimes cynical comic sense of director Billy Wilder provided Lemmon with the perfect complement. Together they made seven films, but it was their first, Some Like It Hot (1959), that captured the sheer comic genius of their collaborations together.

From sexual antics to social critique, Lemmon and Wilder sharpened their comic knives on the hypocrisies they saw in American culture. The Apartment (1960) focused on a working stiff who lends his home to his supervisors for their extramarital affairs. Problems arise when Lemmon falls for his boss's paramour - it gets even more complicated when she tries to kill herself in his pad! Though The Apartment was a comic success, with each passing year the film's serious side seems even more dark and derisive. Illicit love and the corruption of big business might not seem to be the stuff of hit comedies, but Wilder and Lemmon found humor in the most unlikeliest of places. Director and comic star went on to make five more films: Irma la Douce (1963), The Fortune Cookie (1966), Avanti! (1972), The Front Page (1974) and Buddy Buddy (1981).

Billy Wilder and Lemmon's lifelong comic foil Walter Matthau (nine collaborations with Lemmon in 32 years, including their most popular film, The Odd Couple, 1968) brought some of the comedian's finest funny moments to the screen. But there was a serious side too. Lemmon waived his salary to act in Save the Tiger (1973), the 'great American tragedy' of a businessman at the end of his rope. Lemmon won his second Academy Award for the film. In Missing (1982), directed by the uncompromising Costa-Gavras, Lemmon played a patriotic father searching for his kidnapped son in Latin America. The closer he gets to his goal, the clearer it becomes that a government conspiracy is behind his son's disappearance. Missing was inspired by a true story - the production was condemned by the Reagan administration and awarded the Golden Palm at the Cannes film festival.

Very few actors today can match Lemmon's range on the screen. He has acted in everything from lightweight sex farces (How to Murder Your Wife, 1965) to musicals (My Sister Eileen, 1955) to social dramas (Days of Wine and Roses, 1962) to political thrillers (The China Syndrome, 1979). Turner Classic Movies cherishes the memory of this remarkable talent.

By Cino Niles & Jeff Stafford

ANTHONY QUINN, 1915-2001

Not many actors can boast that they've inspired a Bob Dylan song but Anthony Quinn - who passed away June 3rd at the age of 86 - was one of the select few. But that's just one of many incidents in a life that can only be described as colorful. If a novelist had invented a character like Quinn, she would be accused of unbelievable invention. But in Quinn's case, it's all true.

Quinn was born April 21, 1915 in Mexico. His parents were involved in Pancho Villa's revolutionary struggle and must have made a striking couple since the father was half Irish and mother Mexican Indian. The couple were married on a train of rebel soldiers. After Quinn's birth, the family soon moved to East Los Angeles (after a quick Texas detour) where Quinn grew up in the shadow of Hollywood. (A branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library now occupies the site of Quinn's childhood home; in 1981 it was renamed in his honor.) At the age of 11 he won a sculpture award and shortly after began studying architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright. It was Wright in fact who suggested the possibility of acting to Quinn and even paid for an operation to cure a speech impediment. Along the way, Quinn also dabbled in professional boxing (he quit after his 17th match, the first he lost) and street-corner preaching. He continued to sculpt and paint for the rest of his life while also becoming a noted art collector.

Quinn's acting debut was in 1936 initially in a handful of barely noticable spots as an extra until he landed a speaking role in Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman, supposedly on the recommendation of the film's star, Gary Cooper. One unanticipated result was that Quinn married DeMille's daughter the following year; they appeared together in Phil Karlson's Black Gold (1947) and had five children. Quinn also appeared on stage in 1936 playing opposite Mae West. Quinn continued in film parts that gathered acclaim: Crazy Horse in They Died With Their Boots On (1941), a gambler in The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), a soldier in Guadalcanal Diary (1943).

But it was the 1950s when Quinn broke out. Viva Zapata!(1952) provided him a wonderful role which he used to win a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. Oddly enough, in Viva Zapata! Quinn worked with Marlon Brando who he had replaced in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. (Director Elia Kazan tried to start a rivalry between the two actors but they were great admirers of each other.) Quinn again won Best Supporting Actor playing painter Paul Gauguin Lust for Life (1956) which at the time was the shortest on-screen time to win an acting Oscar. The following year came was a Best Actor nomination for George Cukor's Wild Is the Wind (1957). As he did throughout his career, Quinn rarely hesitated to take work whereever he found it, which resulted in dozens of potboilers like Seven Cities of Gold (1955) but also a few cult favorites like Budd Boetticher's The Magnificent Matador (1955). It was a trip to Italy that brought Quinn one of his most acclaimed roles: a simple-minded circus strongman in Federico Fellini's La Strada (1954). Quinn directed his only film in 1958, The Buccaneer, a commercial failure he later attributed to producer Cecil DeMille's interference. Towards the end of that decade he appeared in Nicholas Ray's The Savage Innocents (1959) as an Eskimo, inspiring Bob Dylan to write "Quinn the Eskimo" (a Top Ten hit for Manfred Mann in 1968). In 1965, his relationship with an Italian costumer created a minor scandal when it was revealed that the couple had two children. Quinn divorced DeMille's daughter and married the costumer.

He continued the same mix of classics and best-forgotten quickies throughout the 1960s and '70s. A key role in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) only confirmed his talents while he again earned a Best Actor nomination for the unforgettable lead role in Zorba the Greek (1964). The gritty crime drama Across 110th Street (1972) is one of the best American movies of its decade, enhanced by Quinn's turn as an embattled police captain. Quinn was a pope in The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968), an Islamic leader in The Message (1976), a thinly disguised Aristotle Onassis in The Greek Tycoon (1978) and an assortment of gangsters, con men, military leaders and what have you. The rest of his career might be summed up by the year 1991 when he gathered critical acclaim for his appearance in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, was nominated for a Razzie as Worst Actor in Mobsters, co-starred with Bo Derek in Ghosts Can't Do It, worked beside John Candy and Macaulay Culkin in Chris Columbus' Only the Lonely and made a film so obscure it appears to have never appeared on video. Quinn married his third wife in 1997; they had one son. He had just completed the title role in Avenging Angelo (with Sylvester Stallone) at the time of his death.

By Lang Thompson

TCM Remembers - Pauline Kael/Troy Donahue

PAULINE KAEL 1919-2001 Pauline Kael, who died September 3rd at the age of 82, was one of the handful of film critics who made a noticable impact on the way we view movies. Her mix of personal feelings with more abstract aesthetics inspired numerous other critics (sometimes called "Paulettes") and in a few cases even made big hits of movies like Bonnie and Clyde (1967). She claimed to never see a movie more than once or to change her mind about it later. Several collections of her work are available, most with mildly risque titles like I Lost It at the Movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Going Steady. Kael was born June 19, 1919 in Petaluma, California but moved with her family to San Francisco during her teens. There she majored in philosophy at University of California at Berkeley though she didn't graduate (the school later gave her an honorary degree). That's when she started to develop a serious interest in movies. In addition to the usual writer's assortment of jobs (seamstress, cook, retail clerk) she started writing about film in 1953; her first review was of Charlie Chaplin's Limelight which she disliked. She wrote for several small publications and did a radio show on the groundbreaking network KPFA before finally landing a job at the high-profile McCall's only to be fired shortly after she panned The Sound of Music (1965) (which she called The Sound of Money). During this period she was also managing and programming Berkeley Cinema Guild Theatres (one of the country's earliest repertoire cinemas despite being basically small rooms above a laundry), and was briefly married to avant-garde filmmaker James Broughton. The turning point came in 1965 when I Lost It at the Movies not only attracted major critical attention but became a strong seller in book stores. Two years later legendary editor William Shawn hired Kael as film critic for The New Yorker, completing her jump into the limelight. Kael never shied away from controversy as two other events proved. In the early Sixties she engaged in an infamous and surprisingly bitter debate with critic Andrew Sarris among others about the merits of auteurism, the French-born philosophy that believes the director is the chief creative person behind any film. Kael's anti-intellectual streak came forward but since auteurism wasn't meant to be a genuinely rigorous theory (such attempts came later in the 70s) this was a sort of Brer Rabbit vs. tar baby fight that Kael could never win. The other notorious controversy occured in 1971 with her essay "Raising Kane" which was intended to show that screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz deserved as much if not more credit for Citizen Kane (1941) than Orson Welles. While Mankiewicz's contribution had clearly been underappreciated, most of Kael's conclusions and even some of her factual basis have been disproven though she never bothered to revise the essay. In 1979, Kael made a detour to Hollywood by the urging of Warren Beatty. She was meant to be an "executive consultant" at Paramount but actually making movies is quite a different matter than writing about them so Kael lasted only five months. She went back to The New Yorker, eventually retiring in 1991 partly as a result of Parkinson's Syndrome. She still kept up with movies though, loving such smaller films as Vanya on 42nd Street and actors like Jim Carrey (who "has practically kept movies alive the past few years" she said in 1998). By Lang Thompson Troy Donahue 1936-2001 Troy Donahue died September 2nd at the age of 65. He was a fixture in movies during the 1950s, playing an assortment of heartthrobs and borderline tough guys. Donahue was actually Merle Johnson Jr, born in New York City on Jan 27, 1936. He went to Columbia University and started acting in small theatrical roles which eventually led to film appearances, the earliest ones uncredited. His first was Man Afraid (1957) but Donahue also made brief TV appearances at the time on shows like Wagon Train. He signed with Warner Brothers in 1959 and immediately jumped to stardom in films like A Summer Place and Imitation of Life (both 1959). He was busy in a variety of films during this periods - notably Parrish (1961) and Rome Adventure (1962) - but also starred in the TV series Surfside 6 (1960) and Hawaiian Eye (1962 and predating Hawaii Five-O by several years). Donahue's career declined as the Sixties became more turbulent but he still made notable appearances in The Godfather Part II (1974), playing a character with Donahue's own real name, and Monte Hellman's Cockfighter (1974). Most of Donahue's later films were direct-to-video efforts like Nudity Required and Omega Cop but trash aesthete John Waters, a huge fan, used him for Cry-Baby (1990). By Lang Thompson TCM REMEMBERS CARROLL O'CONNOR 1924-2001 Carroll O'Connor - who died June 21st at the age of 76 - will be best remembered for portraying Archie Bunker on TV's All in the Family but his career actually was much more extensive. Born in New York on August 2nd, 1924, O'Connor served in the merchant marine during World War II before attending the University of Montana where he worked on the school newspaper. Before graduating, he followed his brother to another college in Ireland (he would later get a Masters in speech from Montana). It was in Ireland that O'Connor started acting in several local productions. He returned to the U.S. for his Broadway debut in 1958 and shortly after started to appear on numerous TV shows like The Untouchables and Naked City. His first film was Parrish (1961) though he eventually acted in over a dozen films during the Sixties including Cleopatra (1963), Marlowe (1969), Hawaii (1966) and Point Blank (1967). O'Connor even auditioned for the part of the Skipper in the TV series, Gilligan's Island, but it was his role as Archie Bunker in a 1971 sitcom that made him a star. All in the Family was an American version of the British sitcom Till Death Do Us Part that met some initial resistance (ABC rejected the first two pilots) but quickly captivated American audiences and became the country's top-rated TV show. Archie became such an icon that his chair is now preserved in the Smithsonian. The series lasted until 1979 and brought O'Connor four Emmys, even leading to a four-year spinoff Archie Bunker's Place starring O'Connor. (It also produced one of TV's oddest spinoffs in1994's 704 Hauser about a multi-racial family living in Archie Bunker's old house. It had no cast members from the earlier series and only lasted six episodes.) In 1988, O'Connor took the role of a Southern sheriff in a TV series based on the movie In the Heat of the Night and found himself in another hit, this one lasting until 1995. He also occasionally played Helen Hunt's father on Mad About You. By all accounts, O'Connor was nothing like Archie Bunker; in fact, O'Connor was an active anti-drug crusader, partly the result of his son's drug-related suicide. By Lang Thompson TCM REMEMBERS JACK LEMMON 1925-2001 Whether playing a cross-dressing jazz bassist or a bickering roommate, Lemmon has kept his fans in stitches for fifty years. But beneath that comedian's facade, the actor had a very serious side, which occasionally surfaced in such films as Days of Wine and Roses (1962) or Costa-Gavras' political thriller Missing (1982). Lemmon was truly a one-of-a-kind actor and his track record for acclaimed performances is truly remarkable: 8 Oscar nominations (he won Best Supporting Actor for Mister Roberts (1955) and Best Actor for Save the Tiger (1973), a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, 8 British Academy Award nominations, 4 Emmy Award nominations, numerous Golden Globe nominations, a two-time Best Actor winner at the Cannes Film Festival, the list goes on and on. Lemmon entered the world in a completely novel fashion; he was born prematurely in an elevator in Boston in 1925. The son of a doughnut manufacturer, Lemmon later attended Harvard University but was bitten by the acting bug and left the prestigious college for Broadway. Between theatrical gigs, he played piano accompaniment to silent films shown at the Knickerbocker Music Hall in New York. Later, Lemmon claimed that he learned more about comic technique by watching these Chaplin, Keaton and Harold Lloyd two-reelers than acting school could have ever taught him. From Broadway and early TV appearances to Hollywood, Lemmon moved West to make his screen debut in It Should Happen to You (1954), opposite Judy Holliday in a variation of her 'dumb blonde' persona that had won her an Oscar for Born Yesterday (1952). In It Should Happen to You, Holliday plays a struggling actress who soon wins fast fame as the product of promotion. Lemmon plays her levelheaded boyfriend but finds himself on the sidelines when the suave and sophisticated Peter Lawford appears on the scene. It Should Happen to You, directed by George Cukor, was a popular success and Lemmon and Holliday were quickly teamed again in Phffft! (1954), another lightweight romantic comedy. A year later, Lemmon hit the major leagues when he supported Hollywood heavyweights Henry Fonda, James Cagney and William Powell in Mister Roberts (1955). As Ensign Pulver, a deckhand who avoids work whenever possible, Lemmon won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar®. Onscreen, Lemmon's characters often found that they were the wrong men for their jobs. In Cowboy (1958), Lemmon plays a city slicker venturing out on the wild frontier. His romantic visions of the West are soon changed by the hard-living, hard-drinking reality. Cowboy is based on the autobiography of Frank Harris, and, like the author, Lemmon found himself adapting to the rough and tumble lifestyle on the trail. Lemmon brought a new comic persona to Hollywood films. He combined elements of screwball and slapstick comedy with his own self-deprecating humor to create satiric portraits of the contemporary American male. The sometimes cynical comic sense of director Billy Wilder provided Lemmon with the perfect complement. Together they made seven films, but it was their first, Some Like It Hot (1959), that captured the sheer comic genius of their collaborations together. From sexual antics to social critique, Lemmon and Wilder sharpened their comic knives on the hypocrisies they saw in American culture. The Apartment (1960) focused on a working stiff who lends his home to his supervisors for their extramarital affairs. Problems arise when Lemmon falls for his boss's paramour - it gets even more complicated when she tries to kill herself in his pad! Though The Apartment was a comic success, with each passing year the film's serious side seems even more dark and derisive. Illicit love and the corruption of big business might not seem to be the stuff of hit comedies, but Wilder and Lemmon found humor in the most unlikeliest of places. Director and comic star went on to make five more films: Irma la Douce (1963), The Fortune Cookie (1966), Avanti! (1972), The Front Page (1974) and Buddy Buddy (1981). Billy Wilder and Lemmon's lifelong comic foil Walter Matthau (nine collaborations with Lemmon in 32 years, including their most popular film, The Odd Couple, 1968) brought some of the comedian's finest funny moments to the screen. But there was a serious side too. Lemmon waived his salary to act in Save the Tiger (1973), the 'great American tragedy' of a businessman at the end of his rope. Lemmon won his second Academy Award for the film. In Missing (1982), directed by the uncompromising Costa-Gavras, Lemmon played a patriotic father searching for his kidnapped son in Latin America. The closer he gets to his goal, the clearer it becomes that a government conspiracy is behind his son's disappearance. Missing was inspired by a true story - the production was condemned by the Reagan administration and awarded the Golden Palm at the Cannes film festival. Very few actors today can match Lemmon's range on the screen. He has acted in everything from lightweight sex farces (How to Murder Your Wife, 1965) to musicals (My Sister Eileen, 1955) to social dramas (Days of Wine and Roses, 1962) to political thrillers (The China Syndrome, 1979). Turner Classic Movies cherishes the memory of this remarkable talent. By Cino Niles & Jeff Stafford ANTHONY QUINN, 1915-2001 Not many actors can boast that they've inspired a Bob Dylan song but Anthony Quinn - who passed away June 3rd at the age of 86 - was one of the select few. But that's just one of many incidents in a life that can only be described as colorful. If a novelist had invented a character like Quinn, she would be accused of unbelievable invention. But in Quinn's case, it's all true. Quinn was born April 21, 1915 in Mexico. His parents were involved in Pancho Villa's revolutionary struggle and must have made a striking couple since the father was half Irish and mother Mexican Indian. The couple were married on a train of rebel soldiers. After Quinn's birth, the family soon moved to East Los Angeles (after a quick Texas detour) where Quinn grew up in the shadow of Hollywood. (A branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library now occupies the site of Quinn's childhood home; in 1981 it was renamed in his honor.) At the age of 11 he won a sculpture award and shortly after began studying architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright. It was Wright in fact who suggested the possibility of acting to Quinn and even paid for an operation to cure a speech impediment. Along the way, Quinn also dabbled in professional boxing (he quit after his 17th match, the first he lost) and street-corner preaching. He continued to sculpt and paint for the rest of his life while also becoming a noted art collector. Quinn's acting debut was in 1936 initially in a handful of barely noticable spots as an extra until he landed a speaking role in Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman, supposedly on the recommendation of the film's star, Gary Cooper. One unanticipated result was that Quinn married DeMille's daughter the following year; they appeared together in Phil Karlson's Black Gold (1947) and had five children. Quinn also appeared on stage in 1936 playing opposite Mae West. Quinn continued in film parts that gathered acclaim: Crazy Horse in They Died With Their Boots On (1941), a gambler in The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), a soldier in Guadalcanal Diary (1943). But it was the 1950s when Quinn broke out. Viva Zapata!(1952) provided him a wonderful role which he used to win a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. Oddly enough, in Viva Zapata! Quinn worked with Marlon Brando who he had replaced in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. (Director Elia Kazan tried to start a rivalry between the two actors but they were great admirers of each other.) Quinn again won Best Supporting Actor playing painter Paul Gauguin Lust for Life (1956) which at the time was the shortest on-screen time to win an acting Oscar. The following year came was a Best Actor nomination for George Cukor's Wild Is the Wind (1957). As he did throughout his career, Quinn rarely hesitated to take work whereever he found it, which resulted in dozens of potboilers like Seven Cities of Gold (1955) but also a few cult favorites like Budd Boetticher's The Magnificent Matador (1955). It was a trip to Italy that brought Quinn one of his most acclaimed roles: a simple-minded circus strongman in Federico Fellini's La Strada (1954). Quinn directed his only film in 1958, The Buccaneer, a commercial failure he later attributed to producer Cecil DeMille's interference. Towards the end of that decade he appeared in Nicholas Ray's The Savage Innocents (1959) as an Eskimo, inspiring Bob Dylan to write "Quinn the Eskimo" (a Top Ten hit for Manfred Mann in 1968). In 1965, his relationship with an Italian costumer created a minor scandal when it was revealed that the couple had two children. Quinn divorced DeMille's daughter and married the costumer. He continued the same mix of classics and best-forgotten quickies throughout the 1960s and '70s. A key role in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) only confirmed his talents while he again earned a Best Actor nomination for the unforgettable lead role in Zorba the Greek (1964). The gritty crime drama Across 110th Street (1972) is one of the best American movies of its decade, enhanced by Quinn's turn as an embattled police captain. Quinn was a pope in The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968), an Islamic leader in The Message (1976), a thinly disguised Aristotle Onassis in The Greek Tycoon (1978) and an assortment of gangsters, con men, military leaders and what have you. The rest of his career might be summed up by the year 1991 when he gathered critical acclaim for his appearance in Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, was nominated for a Razzie as Worst Actor in Mobsters, co-starred with Bo Derek in Ghosts Can't Do It, worked beside John Candy and Macaulay Culkin in Chris Columbus' Only the Lonely and made a film so obscure it appears to have never appeared on video. Quinn married his third wife in 1997; they had one son. He had just completed the title role in Avenging Angelo (with Sylvester Stallone) at the time of his death. By Lang Thompson

Quotes

Well, I'm going up and up and up--and nobody's going to pull me down!
- Lora Meredith
You're aiming high.
- Lora
Why not? It doesn't cost anymore. Don't you believe in chasing rainbows?
- Steve
I'm someone else. I'm white...white...WHITE!
- Sarah Jane
I'd be happy knowin' you're meetin' nice young folk...
- Annie
Busboys! Cooks! Chauffeurs! (Hmph) Like Hawkins. No thank you; I've seen your "nice young folk."
- Sarah Jane
I don't wanna fight with you, honey. Not tonight. I don't feel too good. While I get started on the anchovies, will you take this tray in to Miss Lora and her friends.
- Annie
Why, certainly. Anything at all for Miss Lora and her friends.
- Sarah Jane
Fetched y'all up a mess 'a crawdads, Miss Lora...fo' you an' yo' friends!
- Sarah Jane
Well, that's quite a trick, Sarah Jane...where did you learn it?
- Lora
Oh, 'tain't no trick ta' totin', Miss Lora! I learned it from my mammy, an' she learned it from ol' massa, 'fo' she belonged to you...
- Sarah Jane

Trivia

Lana Turner took no salary and worked for 50% of the film's profits, which earned her over $2 million (setting a record for an actress at the time).

Notes

The opening and closing cast credits vary in order. Actress Karen Dicker's name is misspelled as "Karin" in the onscreen credits. This picture, Douglas Sirk's last feature, was a remake of the 1934 Universal film of the same title directed by John M. Stahl and starring Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). According to a July 19, 1956 Hollywood Reporter news item, producer Ross Hunter originally planned to make a musical version of the story starring Shirley Booth and Ethel Waters. In April 1957 and January 1958, "Rambling Reporter" items in Hollywood Reporter stated that Deborah Kerr and Richard Egan were being considered for starring roles.
       Hollywood Reporter noted that in the novel on which the film is based, and in the 1934 film adaptation, the character played by Lana Turner "combined her business acumen with a recipe for pancakes invented by a Negro woman and reaped a fortune. The characters lived together, loved one another and faced tragedy through their respective daughters. The plot formula would not have stood up in today's era of integration when a Negro who owned half a successful corporation could buy her own home in any area that pleased her." Of the change in plot, Variety commented about the 1959 film, "While this device lends more scope, it also results in the over-done busy actress-neglected daughter conflict, and thus the secondary plot of a fair-skinned Negress passing as white becomes the film's primary force." A modern source reported that Sirk had read the novel before directing this film, but had not seen the 1934 film.
       Universal borrowed costume designer Jean Louis from Columbia for the film. According to August 1958 Hollywood Reporter news items, portions of the picture were shot at the Warner Bros. studio, the Methodist Church in Hollywood, CA, and at the Moulin Rouge nightclub in Los Angeles. A August 21, 1958 Hollywood Reporter article states that thirty members of the Donn Arden Revue appeared in the musical number shot at the Moulin Rouge nightclub.
       According to Daily Variety, Universal encountered some resistance to the promotion of the film and tailored its advertising campaign for the South, where, a studio representative said, "white southerners avoid films that are advertised as dealing with the race problem." On February 2, 1959, Hollywood Reporter reprinted the following wire sent by LA Tribune editor Almena Lomac to numerous white publications: "Imitation of Life...is a libel on the Negro race. It libels our children and the Negro mother [and] should be banned in the interest of national unity, harmony, peace, decency and inter-racial respect. The Tribune is refusing all advertising of it and will picket it in the Los Angeles area and call upon the N.A.A.C.P. to condemn, oppose and picket it, too." The outcome of this boycott is not known. Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner both received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress, and Kohner won a Golden Globe in the same category. According to a April 3, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, Turner contracted for a five percent participation in the film's profits.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States July 1999

Released in United States March 1977

Released in United States March 1997

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1959

Shown at London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival March 13-27, 1997.

Remake of "Imitation of Life" directed by John Stahl in 1934. Director Douglas Sirk's last film; he returned to the theater in Europe. He died in Lugano, Switzerland January 14, 1987.

Re-released in Tel Aviv January 11, 1991.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1959

Released in United States March 1977 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Double Vision-Two different classics made from the same story) March 9-27, 1977.)

Released in United States March 1997 (Shown at London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival March 13-27, 1997.)

Released in United States July 1999 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Universal Sirk" July 9-22, 1999.)