Imitation of Life

1934

Action / Drama / Romance

20
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 100%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 84%
IMDb Rating 7.5 10 3667

Synopsis


Uploaded By: OTTO
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Director

Cast

Hattie McDaniel as Woman at Funeral
Claudette Colbert as Beatrice 'Bea' Pullman
Alan Hale as Martin, the Furniture Man
Jane Withers as Peola's Frontrow Classmate
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
814.60 MB
1280*720
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 51 min
P/S 1 / 7
1.65 GB
1920*1080
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 51 min
P/S 3 / 3

Movie Reviews

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 paulknobloch 9 / 10

A Flawless Imitation

Melodrama relies heavily on archetype and hyperbole, and when it's done right, when it's pushed to the limit, it almost resembles Noh theatre: human existence as highly stylized ritual; pain, suffering and loss all boiled down into a series of tableaux so rigid that they almost become hieratic. It's a thoroughly unironic and direct means of getting at the truth, and that lack of irony is probably why it's fallen out of fashion. Done wrong, it's unpalatable kitsch. Done right it's high art. Few people understand how far to push it. Fassbinder did, and so did Douglas Sirk.

And so did John M. Stahl…

Unfortunately, Stahl is rarely mentioned alongside those other two stalwarts. In fact, he's often treated like a hack, an unfortunate buffoon who drove Tiffany Productions into the ground and had to resort to producing talking chimpanzee movies in order to survive.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It's no wonder that Sirk remade three of Stahl's masterpieces: Imitation of Life, Magnificent Obsession, and When Tomorrow Comes. But where Sirk serves up subversion via camera angles, lighting, and a painterly control of Technicolor, Stahl comes right at you with static shots, costuming, big chunks of dialogue. A lot of my filmgeeky friends wince when I tell them that Stahl's Imitation of Life is even better than Sirk's, and it is.

Stahl's 1934 version is as ostensibly political as any Hollywood film I have ever seen, dealing with issues of class and race and gender as directly as Straub-Huillet or Chantal Ackerman, only in the framework of mainstream cinema, which makes it all the more subversive. The fact that it was made pre-code probably has something to do with it, but still, this film pulls no punches. Imagine Marx and Freud filtered through a lens at a back lot in Burbank.

The film, based on a Fannie Hurst novel, follows Claudette Colbert's character, Beatrice Pullman (there is more than one reference to Dante throughout the film, a reminder of the hell we all live in), who gets rich by boxing and mass-producing her African-American maid Delilah's pancake batter (see it for Louise Beavers' performance alone). For publicity's sake, Delilah is turned into an Aunt Jemimah-esque cliché, and later she's abandoned by her light-skinned daughter, who wants nothing more than to pass in the white world. In turn, Beatrice's life is complicated when her own daughter, Jessie, decides she wants to bed mommy's new beau, famed ichthyologist Stephen Archer. Ultimately, the film ends with a grim reminder that in a male-dominated world, female subjectivity, even for someone as insanely successful as Beatrice, is defined by a woman's ability to fill the gaping hole inside her with male adoration.

Again, in the hands of most directors, this would be pablum, camp, kitsch. In the hands of John M. Stahl, it's as real as it gets.

Reviewed by zoeyhardy 9 / 10

So much better than the remake.

I saw the remake years ago. I liked it, but not enough to watch it again. I didn't know there was an original, and stumbled upon it by accident. I was so glad I did. I read others reviews about it being racist, but this was in 1934. Obviously, today this movie wouldn't be relevant, but 83 years ago, I think it was realistic for Delilah to want her life to be the same. When she's told she's made enough money to buy her own house, and a car, she tells Bea not to send her away. She explains she's her cook, and wants to stay her cook, (In real life, Louise Beavers hated to cook) and she only wanted money for her funeral.

It was very heartwarming, and probably the most touching movie I've seen in years. Even though Louise Beavers was credited 4th, she was the star. She was so kind, selfless, never complained, and always put everyone before herself.

The two women, Delilah and Bea, formed a friendship that spanned 15 years. Together, they built a business that became very successful. I was intrigued by Elmer's million dollar idea, with only two words, "Box it."

But, the daughters of two women, brought emotional, and heartbreaking issues to the second half of the movie. I felt so bad for Delilah, and then for her daughter who realized too late, how sorry she was for being ashamed of her mother. Movies don't make me cry, but this one had me in tears. Not so much for Bea's issues with her daughter; but, from the heartbroken Delilah, after her daughter told her she leaving. And how she didn't want anyone to know she was her daughter. Nothing could have been more painful than that, and her death was proof that a you can die from that kind of pain. Watch it with the mindset it was written in, as well as the year. It's emotional, but worth watching. It also makes you appreciate the issues people had to deal with then, aren't at all issues of today.

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