In Douglas Sirk's emotionally and visually extravagant final film IMITATION OF LIFE, a life's work of subverted melodrama and razor-sharp social commentary are brought to a resounding and baroque climax. In a role that closely resembles and perhaps parodies her own life, Lana Turner plays Lora Meredith, an aspiring actress and single mother who meets Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore), a black and similarly single and struggling mother. When they move in together, Annie assumes the role of domestic servant and the two women struggle together to raise their two daughters. Annie's daughter, Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner), favors her father whose skin tone resembles her own extremely light skin, and she slowly comes to resent her mother's black identity. Transcending the feminist labeling that IMITATION OF LIFE risked, the film freely mixes Meredith's rags to riches (with a hefty moral price tag) tale with Annie's scarring struggles to teach her daughter to accept her identity. As Meredith climbs higher and higher in her glamorous rise to stage and screen stardom, she ignores her vulnerable daughter Susie (Sandra Dee) and creates a devastating contrast for the racial and social tragedy that transpires in her own household. With a deft mixture of icy detachment and morose sentimentality rendered through a transcendent art direction, Sirk leads the film onto an inimitable crescendo of highly adorned emotion and tragedy.
This two disc set also contains the 1934 version directed by John M. Stahl, based on the same novel by Fannie Hurst.