John M. Stahl

Imitation of Life

Imitation of Life

Melodrama master John M. Stahl brings his exquisite restraint and almost spiritually pure visual style to this devastating, enduringly relevant story of mothers and daughters. Imitation of Life explores the friendship between two struggling single mothers: one (Claudette Colbert) a working-class white woman who ascends to the top of the business world, the other (Louise Beavers) her Black housekeeper, whose life is shattered by the rejection of her rebellious, white-passing daughter (Fredi Washington). It is this latter relationship—attuned to America’s bitter racial realities and heartbreakingly enacted by trailblazing Black performers Beavers and Washington—that lends the film its transcendent emotional power. This first adaptation of Fannie Hurst’s best-selling novel boldly confronts the complexities and contradictions of racial identity, economic exploitation, and the limits of the American dream.

Film Info

  • United States
  • 1934
  • 110 minutes
  • Black & White
  • 1.33:1
  • English
  • Spine #1167

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES

  • 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • New introduction to the film by Imogen Sara Smith, contributor to The Call of the Heart: John M. Stahl and Hollywood Melodrama
  • New interview with Miriam J. Petty, author of Stealing the Show: African American Performers and Audiences in 1930s Hollywood, about the resonance of Louise Beavers’s and Fredi Washington’s performances
  • Trailer cut for segregated Black theaters at the time of the film’s release
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by Petty
New cover by Katya Mezhibovskaya

Purchase Options

Coming soon, available Jan 10, 2023

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES

  • 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • New introduction to the film by Imogen Sara Smith, contributor to The Call of the Heart: John M. Stahl and Hollywood Melodrama
  • New interview with Miriam J. Petty, author of Stealing the Show: African American Performers and Audiences in 1930s Hollywood, about the resonance of Louise Beavers’s and Fredi Washington’s performances
  • Trailer cut for segregated Black theaters at the time of the film’s release
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by Petty
New cover by Katya Mezhibovskaya
Imitation of Life
Cast
Claudette Colbert
Beatrice Pullman
Warren William
Stephen Archer
Rochelle Hudson
Jessie Pullman
Ned Sparks
Elmer Smith
Louise Beavers
Delilah
Fredi Washington
Peola
Baby Jane
Baby Jessie
Alan Hale
The furniture man
Henry Armetta
The painter
Wyndham Standing
The butler
Credits
Director
John M. Stahl
From the novel by
Fannie Hurst
Produced by
Carl Laemmle Jr.
Screenplay by
William Hurlbut
Art director
Charles D. Hall
Musical director
Heinz Roemheld
Photography by
Merritt Gerstad
Special effects by
John P. Fulton
Edited by
Philip Cahn
Edited by
Maurice Wright