Imitation of Life (1934) torrent download

Imitation of Life

1934

Action / Drama / Romance

7.5

Synopsis

Bea Pullman and her daughter Jessie have had a hard time making ends meet since Bea's husband died. Help comes in the form of Delilah Johnson, who agrees to work as Bea's housekeeper in exchange for a room for herself and her daughter Peola. Bea comes up with a plan to market Delilah's pancake recipe. The two soon become wealthy and as the years go on, their friendship deepens. Their relationships with their daughters, however, become strained. Ashamed of her mother, Peola seeks a new life by passing for white. Bea's love for her daughter is tested when she and Jessie fall for the same man.

Director

John M. Stahl

Cast

Claudette Colbert
as Beatrice 'Bea' Pullman
Warren William
as Stephen 'Steve' Archer
Rochelle Hudson
as Jessie Pullman, Age 18
Ned Sparks
as Elmer Smith
Louise Beavers
as Delilah Johnson
Fredi Washington
as Peola Johnson, Age 19
Juanita Quigley
as Baby Jessie Pullman, Age 3

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Ron Oliver 10 /10

A Film Ahead Of Its Time - For All Time

A black mother worries that her light skinned daughter will have only an IMITATION OF LIFE if she continually tries to pass for white.

Let it be stated unequivocally that this is one of the most remarkable films of the 1930's - unique in that it deals squarely with aspects of the racial question decades before it became common to do so. After becoming accustomed to the casual racism of most Hollywood movies of the era, this honesty is quite astonishing.

As the black mother, Louise Beavers is heartbreaking in the simple power of her performance. Joyously serving up love & pancakes, or devastated by her daughter's rejection of their race, Miss Beavers makes her audience feel her every emotion. This was the finest role of her film career, and she makes the most of it. However, the movie over, the studio system returned her to mammy parts. This is a tremendous blot on Hollywood's record.

Beautiful Claudette Colbert is scintillating, as always. Playing a tenderhearted maple syrup saleslady who first employs Miss Beavers, and later befriends her, Miss Colbert adds a distinct touch of class to the film. But she is also sympathetic to the concerns of the story and helps to quietly push along the plea for racial equality.

Elegant actor Warren William, he of the sophisticated profile, brings his considerable talents to the role of Miss Colbert's ichthyologist boyfriend. Refreshingly, he plays a solid, decent fellow - instead of the rake or cad which he portrayed so often & so well. His involvement is a definite asset to the film.

The rest of the cast adds to the overall excellence of the production: acerbic Ned Sparks as Miss Colbert's business manager; lovely Rochelle Hudson as her ready-for-love daughter; Henry Armentta & Alan Hale as businessmen cajoled by Miss Colbert's charms; and especially Fredi Washington, memorable as Miss Beavers' daughter, a stranger inside her own skin.

Movie mavens will spot Clarence Wilson as the pancake shop's landlord, Franklin Pangborn as a party guest & Paul Porcasi as a restaurant manager, all uncredited.

IMITATION OF LIFE preached a powerful sermon on racial justice & equality, but the Hollywood congregation was not paying attention. It would be a very long time before black performers & black roles would be treated with the dignity they so desperately deserved.

Reviewed by fussyfreddy 9 /10

Offensive? Not to this black film fan!

Let's get down to it! Here's Hollywood's best pre-WWII effort to portray not only white-black racism, but its subtleties. I doubt many women shared the caring relationship of Bea and Delilah.

What offends some I strikes me as honest. For the one or two absurd moments (e.g., the faithful, mourning Negro servants in the you-know-what scene), many more are deft and moving. The lavish 1959 version cannot compare.

(Love Lana Turner, but she and Juanita Moore are wooden and embarrassing in the remake; it's worth seeing for Mahalia Jackson and of course, Susan Kohner's scenes at the cocktail party and getting beaten in the back alley. Susan's scenes are so showy that they kill any hope of honesty, which was never in the script to begin with)!

At the beginning of this version, do you remember Delilah's response when Bea asks why she hadn't taken the streetcar? Racism is accepted as a given; the characters cast their lot from there. Both women have seen tragedy, and The Depression looms. In this crucial aspect, Bea and Delilah are equals. But to get anywhere with such a touchy gambit, the lead performances had better be good.

Louise Beavers is mesmerizing. I cannot say she gives the best performance I've seen on the silver screen, but it's hard for me to name a more focused one.

It is easy to dismiss her lines as demeaning or simple-minded. With each viewing, I see a woman whose circumstance and inner strength enables her to look beyond the mortal sorrows of this life. Doesn't she ring a bell, especially if you grew up black in the South? She was so many of our mothers, aunts and grandmothers. Ms. Beavers nails it.

In this plot, she's more: She is a a mystic whose spirituality not only complements but critiques Bea's get-ahead pragmatism. Pre-feminist themes ricochet in this picture: successfully, I think.

I'm gonna get slammed for my only significant reservation: I don't feel Fredi Washington's performance. She's more than adequate, but in no league with Louise Beavers or Claudette Colbert. From all that I have read and heard about her, I conclude that Ms. Washington let her own good taste get the best of her. She seems to underplay on purpose, to evoke a smoldering quality of rage. If I am correct, I appreciate her instincts, but they cannot work over every scene she has in this potboiler plot.

Nothing about this movie is weak. Even the few headslapping moments are so sincere that they come off as camp, at worst. Frankly, I'm not sure I could otherwise bear Louise Beavers' last scene.

Notice that her face is almost immobile; a single glycerin tear rolls down her cheek; her final, wrenching line reading is actually disembodied, off-camera (a master stroke of direction).

This, folks, is the killer scene for me -- not the histrionics at the hearse, which grabbed me mainly inasmuch as they showed an unqualified moment of dignity in black America, rare for 30's Hollywood. Note the sympathetic white mourners who have a line or two...

Claudette Colbert is radiant, as previous posters have said. Her performance is less memorable than Ms. Beavers', yet she hits the bull's-eye. Bea is warm but just distant enough to put across a real woman of her time, a white one who can never hope to understand black folks or the many contradictions of her relationship to them. In her best moments, which are without dialogue, Colbert conveys this delicate point. (Anyway...Bea has her own slutty daughter to worry about, right?)

It was said that Ms. Colbert had the best figure on the Paramount lot -- not lost on Universal, which dressed her to the nines in scene after scene.

It's hard to believe Colbert was barely 30 at the time. She looks no older, but acts as if she were going on a hard 50. And what a year for her! She won the Oscar for "It Happened One Night," and also scored this second huge hit, which artistically speaking is hardly chopped liver.

She made both movies on loan to other studios after Paramount suspended her! Talk about having the last laugh: if only Louise Beavers could have shared it in her own career!

I first saw this film on the big screen about 20 years ago at a now-defunct repertory cinema in Chicago. The matinée comprised me and a handful of elderly black women. We applauded as the curtain rang down; the clapping had the satisfied quality that follows a parable.

Reviewed by customer-2 9 /10

Wonderful Movie.

I find the movie aptly named. My motivation for responding is due to an earlier opinion on this movie, specifically: "the central character of Delilah is the worst kind of racial stereotype; a relentlessly cheerful mammy, perfectly satisfied to spend her life tending to the needs of her white employer". I am an American Black (African-American) and I do not find Delilah offensive. In fact I applaud the reflection of honesty that this 1934 film attempts. The "mammy" of that time period had very few choices. That she was happy to help her very nice white employer for the safety provided does not make for a hate figure by Blacks. It makes for a reminder of the intense level of crap Black folks went through and how they dealt with the pain of it to stay honest, kind and helpful people. Should Delilah lived in the streets and hated white people the rest of her life? Should she have not had the fortitude and insight to find a situation with another caring human being, albeit this other human was white? And for this she is lauded as a the worst kind of racial stereotype? No. The answer is a resounding NO. Now if Delilah was beaten and raped on a regular basis and still wanted to please her white employer while denying her race the previous poster would have had a point.

Okay, I really didn't like the mournful gospel music, R&B would have made this movie perfect to me but that's just me. Live and Love. There is no shame in being a good person.

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