Ms. Juanita Moore's Academy nominated performance in Imitation of Life defined a point of view for my mother. She had spoken to me, my sisters, my Dad and herself about this film since my earliest recollection.
Long before I ever saw the movie, I knew the plot, cold.
The movie was also made in one of my favorite periods in the coverage of sociopolitical topics of blackness in film and theater. There was an opening for the discussion of real topics in films like Imitation of Life or Guess who's Coming to Dinner, and plays like Raisin in the Sun. The field of topics narrowed for more than a decade until the emergence of She's Gotta Have It.
I also love movies made in this period because they are free from limitations of the category: Black film/movie/theater as it exists does today. People saw Imitation of Life because the acting was good and the premise was powerful.
I've always longed for more films that dealt with the challenging issues and an emerging desegregated mindset, in the context of an evolving society.
Why did those great movies stop? Maybe because of the powerful community impact and the real life pressure of civil rights resolution.
As I reflect on the post originally written in 2014 at the announcement of Ms. Moore's death, I am in awe of Meghan Markle. Meghan embodies the complexity of race portrayed in Imitation of Life. And, yet, unlike the movie plot, she stands proudly in her identity and her love for her mother. I wish both Juanita and my Hyacinth had lived to witness.
The times have changed.
Written for Hyacinth Grenville.
Photo: Juanita Moore, left, and Susan Kohner in “Imitation of Life.”Universal Pictures
See more about the film here:https://www.nytimes.com/watching/titles/imitation-of-life