Still from "Imitation of Life" (1959) IMDB

ARKANSAS TIMES FILM SERIES: ‘IMITATION OF LIFE’
TUESDAY 12/19. Riverdale 10 VIP Cinema. 7 p.m. $12-$14.

Best remembered for his commercially successful melodramas with outsize acting and bold Technicolor, director Douglas Sirk was initially dismissed by critics. A reevaluation of his work, however, has brought into focus the way in which his films subversively critique American notions of race, gender and class. “Imitation of Life” (1959), his last Hollywood picture, is no exception. After a chance encounter at Coney Island, Lora (Lana Turner), an aspiring actress and single mother to 6-year-old Susie, takes in another widow, Annie, and her daughter Sarah Jane. The first pair is white, the second is Black.

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But what’s supposed to be a one-night arrangement becomes permanent, as Annie is persuaded to look after the household while Lora pursues work on the stage. Eleven years later, Lora is obliviously busy with a thriving Broadway career, leaving Annie to be Susie’s surrogate mother. Annie’s relationship with Sarah Jane, though, is where the real conflict lies. Fair-skinned and struggling with her identity, Sarah Jane becomes obsessed with passing as white, driving Annie into a deep depression. Tickets are available here

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