My Favorite Movie: The Imitation of Life


From time to time American Movie Classis cable channel airs The Imitation of Life. In order to prepare to watch this movie I make sure all my tasks are completed, the answering machine is on and snacks are well within reach.


Imitation of Life, a movie about two young single mothers, one African
American and one White, who are raising daughters in New York City in the 1950�is a portrayal of the trials single mothers experience. The movie opens on Coney Island in Brooklyn where the two women meet. The African American, woman who has just broken up with her husband, needs to find work. The white women, a struggling actress, needs someone to help her around the house while she pursues her career and raises her daughter. As a result the two women live together and help each other raise their children. It also has a subplot of  the inner conflict of racial identity.


As the movie progresses we see the challenges each of the women face  in general and as working women in particular. Although a strong relationship develops between the two women, the relationship between the girls is strained. Sara, is a light skinned black girl, who realizes that if she pretends to be White life may be easier for her. Consequently, she leads  two lives: a private one where she is a black girl who is ashamed of her nationality and the other a public life that hides the fact that she is black and as a result �passes� as White.


The fact that this movie was made in the 1950�s at a time when race relations between Blacks and Whites  in America were rife with conflict and distrust of each other caused me to presume that many conversations ensued as a result of the content of the film. For the most part these topics  were rarely discussed openly among the races. The issue of �passing�  was and still is an important topic in the African American community and was portrayed with the sensitivity and understanding necessary to broach such an explosive topic. Nevertheless I still enjoy watching this movie and its sad ending.