The Golden Age of Hollywood: Imitation of Life (1959)
Ashamed of her heritage, Sarah Jane (Susan Kohner) — the light-skinned daughter of Annie (Juanita Moore), a live-in housemaid employed by a vainglorious actress (Lana Turner) — tries to pass for white. John Stahl’s magnanimous adaptation of Fannie Hurst’s best-selling sudser had proven successful enough in 1934 for Universal to commission a remake 25 years later. By the time Douglas Sirk was assigned the post, he had long revealed a master’s hand at using light, color, and composition as a running visual commentary, one frequently at odds with the subject matter at hand. Sirk follows the melodrama to the letter, but his camera gets the last word. This is a case of a film looking better today than when it was originally released. Why Universal failed to spring for Technicolor baffles the brain. For years, it was impossible to find a print worthy of cinematographer Russell “Sculpting With Light” Metty’s embossed hues. All it took was one pass through the projector and the EastmanColor stock on which this was originally printed had already faded to a washed shade of rare steak. The remastered DCP is a revelation. Not to be missed.