Friday, August 3, 2012
|7:00 p.m.||Imitation of Life|
John M. Stahl (U.S., 1934)
In director John Stahl’s transformation of Fannie Hurst’s warhorse tearjerker, the lives of a black maid (Louise Beavers) and a white widow (Claudette Colbert) intersect in a scheme to manufacture pancake batter, but their common bond is a self-manufactured suffering at the hands of their daughters. Colbert’s hypocritical self-sacrifice is presented with amazing objectivity; and the drama of Miss Beavers’s light-skinned daughter who tries to pass for white has a valid desperation that passes by racial stereotypes of the era. From the opening re-creation of a 1919 Atlantic City boardwalk (period solidity is a Stahl specialty) to the unexpectedly uncompromising ending, Imitation Of Life preserves a unity of tone and emotional consistency that are truly remarkable for its genre, and serve as confirmations of the individualistic talent of its unfortunately little-known director.
• Written by William Hurlbut, from the novel by Fannie Hurst. Photographed by Merritt Gerstad. With Claudette Colbert, Ned Sparks, Louise Beavers, Fredi Washington. (116 mins, B&W, 35mm)