Imitation of Life is a strong picture with an unusual plot. A young white widow (Claudette Colbert) with a baby girl goes into a business partnership with her colored maid (Louise Beavers) who also has a baby girl. In the passage of years a small business becomes a factory and they are wealthy. But neither the white woman nor the negress derive much joy. And because of their daughters.
Most arresting part of the picture and overshadowing the conventional romance between the late thirtyish white widow and Warren William is the tragedy of Aunt Delilah’s girl born to a white skin and Negro blood. This subject is treated on the screen for the first time here. Girl is miserable being unable to adjust herself to the lot of her race and unable to take her place among the whites.
John M. Stahl directs this kind of thing very well. He keeps the Fannie Hurst ‘success story’ brand of snobbishness under control and the film flows with mounting interest, if at moments a trifle slowly.
Picture is stolen by the Negress, Beavers, whose performance is masterly. This lady can troupe. She takes the whole scale of human emotions from joy to anguish and never sounds a false note.
1934: Nominations: Best Picture, Sound, Assistant Director