Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Imitation Of Life |
Two-Movie Special Edition
Actors: Donald Bogle, Drew Casper, Avery Clayton, Jessica Funches, Steve Haberman
Imitation of Life, one of the most beloved and respected stories of all time, is now available in a new two-movie special edition! Based on the 1933 best-selling novel, this emotionally charged drama chronicles the lives o... more »
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Review for 2-Movie Special Edition
Dave | San Diego, CA | 02/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having studied the 1959 version of "Imitation of Life" in film class, it has become one of my favorite films, one that is rich with many subtexts that may not be visible upon first glance. This special 2-disc DVD set contains both the 1934 and 1959 versions based on a Fannie Hurst tear-jerker novel. Tackling a sensitive issue for the times (in both versions), these movies deal with an African-American girl who wants to pass for white to have more opportunities open up for her. The girl's mother develops a friendship and working/subserviant relationship with a white woman who has her own daughter of the same age. How the two women function in their environments and the conflicts that occur due to the daughter's "passing" constitute the basis of both stories.
The 1934 film stars Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers as the mothers. The film seems very dated and old fashioned on the surface; watching it a 2nd time with the commentary track is very beneficial. Avery Clayton, an African-American Cultural Scholar, gives slight information on the making of the film, but gives the story plenty of explanation of the subtexts and is very helpful in putting some of the slightly offensive elements into the context of the times that the film was made. Beavers' character becomes the icon for Aunt Delilah's pancake mix, a thinly veiled version of Aunt Jemima. Colbert's character is given the idea to market Delilah's recipe and the two become rich; the fact that Beaver's character doesn't want any of the riches and is actually afraid NOT to be in a subserviant role to Colbert is somewhat uncomfortable. Colbert gives her typical warm performance and even today, she is a joy to watch. The rest of the film does seem very dated. Interestingly enough, Fredi Washington, an African-American actress, portrays Beaver's daughter; in the 1959 version, Susan Kohner, of Latino background, was the one who won that plum role.
The 1959 version still holds up well; granted, it is somewhat over the top with some of the plot & Lana Turner's performance. However, director Douglas Sirk was able to put in so many rich subtexts and subtle critiques that this film can be watched multiple times without catching all of them. There was a battle going on between Sirk wanting an honest crititque of the times, and producer Ross Hunter wanting a glossy soap opera. This film was dismissed as a tawdry melodrama and labeled a dud by critics initially, but has become a cinema classic in the years that followed. Juanita Moore's performance as the African-American maid is one of the keys to the success of the film, and the rest of the casting is brillant: Turner, Sandra Dee, Kohner, and John Gavin. You'll also see a cameo by Sandra Gould, who later achieved minor fame as the 2nd Gladys Kravitz in TV's "Bewitched." For the 1959 film, the story is that Lana Turner plays an actress seeking fame, and Moore's character plays her maid and companion. Thankfully, there is no Aunt Delilah business here. Many of the scenes are powerhouses of acting: the final scene between mother and daughter when Moore agrees to let her daughter live her life as a white woman is a guaranteed tear-jerker. Turner also gives one of her best (if not most hysterical) performances during Annie's death scene. The commentary for this version is by Foster Hirsch, a film historian. As with Clayton's, his commentary is mainly limited to examining the film itself, not so much the making of the film. There are a few facts that he shares from his friendships with Susan Kohner and Juanita Moore that are very interesting, but overall, his commentary helps to pick out the hidden meanings that Sirk placed throughout.
There is a short featurette calls "Lasting Legacy - An Imitation of Life" that talks about both films. Juanita Moore and respected film historians are on hand to talk about the movies. The featurette is very well done, but does leave one wishing there were more to it. It is approximately half an hour long.
The quality of both films is fairly good; neither one looks like it came from the original negative, but they are both relatively clean and appear to have had some minor restoration work.
This 2-Disc set is a real value, and highly recommended for those who love to study film."
Great Double Feature
Dennis J. Pauly | Evanston, IL USA | 01/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One must remember that both versions of this film were produced before the
Civil Rights Movement so must be viewed that way. The 1934 version is
extremely dated at this time but the superior version because of the
brilliant performance of Louise Beavers. Fredi Washington who plays her
daughter is also excellent. Had times been diffrent Beavers might have
beaten Halle Barry to the Oscar by some 70 years instead of being relegated to 5th billing. The 1959 version directed by Douglas Sirk is superb and
is more than a Lana Turner glitzy weeper. Juanita Moore is superb in the
Beavers role and was nominated for an Oscar. This dvd with both versions is a must for collections."
Jay L. Hefner | Missouri | 03/25/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great pair of classic films. The only issue I have is with the companies that produce these dvds. I purchased the same "double feature" about a year ago, but it didn't have commentary or featurette. Then, like they seem to do so many times, just knowing that we will buy the same product over and over, with a few improvements, they come out with the "super duper deluxe director's cut expanded version epic with commentary and featurette." Truth be told, I really think the commentaries are good, and worth the "double purchase" for the "double feature." But I will not be buying it again, even if they have a computer generated Lana Turner or Claudette Colbert introducing the "new" edition next year."
A Quarter Century Separates Two Versions of the Classic Soap
Ed Uyeshima | San Francisco, CA USA | 03/13/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Fannie Hurst's tear jerking 1933 novel about the sacrifices mothers make for their daughters spawned two popular movies separated by a quarter century of glacially-changing social attitudes - a highly regarded 1934 version (****) that remains faithful to the book's narrative and an elaborate 1959 remake (***1/2) which changes certain plot details to service German-born filmmaker Douglas Sirk's heavily Baroque style of filmmaking. Both films maintain the same basic time-spanning storyline of two widows - one is a white woman who finds professional success but at a price that causes an unintended estrangement from her daughter, while the other is a black woman whose light-skinned daughter causes nothing but grief for all concerned. Universal already released both movies on the same DVD disc in 2004, but now some worthwhile extras are provided in a new 2008 two-disc set as part of the Universal Legacy series.
Directed by John M. Stahl, the earlier black-and-white film focuses on Beatrice Pullman, a downtrodden white woman who bonds with Delilah Johnson, a cheery black woman, and opens up a waffle shop to support their daughters Jessie and Peola respectively. Their business becomes such a success that it gets franchised into a chain of coffee shops that market Delilah's waffle recipe and turns into a major business venture producing the waffle mix en masse. Meantime, Delilah stays devoted to Beatrice as her maid (despite earning twenty percent of the company's profits), and together they raise their daughters.
Beatrice eventually finds love with Stephen Archer, an ichthyologist for whom Jessie develops a crush. Meanwhile, Peola runs away to escape her black identity, which puts Delilah into an emotional tailspin. In the same year she made It Happened One Night and DeMille's Cleopatra, Claudette Colbert showcases her trademark natural élan and provides the emotional gravitational force her character Beatrice requires her to be. Louise Beavers, who made a career of playing sunny-faced maids, gets her one shot at a first-class role and plays Delilah with great poignancy despite the inherent racism behind the conception of the role. The rest of the cast is merely adequate with the exception of Fredi Washington, a seminal mulatto actress who portrays Peola with searing resentment and deepening regret.
Produced by Ross Hunter with all his hold-no-expense lushness, the Technicolor 1959 film stars Lana Turner (Peyton Place) as ambitious actress Lora Meredith, who meets downtrodden but optimistic Annie Johnson accidentally when their daughters Susie and Sarah Jane get lost playing with each other at Coney Island. Same as the first story, Annie becomes Lora's maid, but this time, Annie does not play a direct role in Lora's professional success. Again, Steve Archer enters the picture, this time as a photographer, and despite arguments and separations between the two (including a liaison she has with a Svengali-like playwright), their romance turns serious just as Susie falls in love with him, too. Sarah Jane becomes a more kittenish figure in this version, running away to become a chorus girl in a seedy nightclub but claiming to work in a library. Regrets soon crystallize into actions with inevitably tragic consequences.
Looking frankly too mature for the early scenes, the heavily glamorized Turner is such an exaggerated presence from the outset that it is hard to take her seriously as Lora, even though she manages some skillfully rendered moments throughout. Probably an appropriate move at the time, Juanita Moore downplays Annie away from stereotype, but her character's irrelevance in Lora's career seems like a big step backward from the first version. Susan Kohner lends a Natalie Wood-like petulance as Sarah Jane, but with her light-skinned half-Latina lineage, she lacks the racial credibility of Fredi Washington, even when she is brutalized by a racist boyfriend (played by a nasty Troy Donahue) in the film's most powerful scene. A very young Sandra Dee is simply too perky as Susie, though she has one surprisingly honest moment when she nails her mother for being pretentiously noble. Sirk's melodramatic touch is assured throughout, and he even uses gospel great Mahalia Jackson to sing a roof-raising hymn at the end ("Trouble All Over the World").
Both films are intriguing curios of a bygone era and worthy of a broader sociological discussion of the evolving landscape of feminism and racism in the 20th century. The 2008 DVD package offers commentary tracks for both films. The 1934 feature commentary is provided by African-American cultural scholar Avery Clayton, who provides interesting sociological insights about the breakthrough the film represented. Film historian Foster Hirsch's commentary for the 1959 film reflects not only an academic perspective but also the insights of a genuinely enthusiastic fan. There is also a half-hour featurette, "Lasting Legacy - An Imitation of Life", in which 1959 cast member Moore and respected historians reflect upon the making of the films and examine the racial themes and production complications. Leftover from the 2004 DVD are the original theatrical trailers."