Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of Imitation of Life

Born to Be Hurt: The Untold Story of Imitation of Life

by Sam Staggs
     
 

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In a passionate and witty behind-the-scenes expose, the author of All About "All About Eve" takes on the classic 1959 Douglas Sirk film starring Lana Turner

Few films inspire the devotion of Imitation of Life, one of the most popular films of the '50s--a split personality drama that's both an irresistible women's picture and a dark commentary on

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Overview

In a passionate and witty behind-the-scenes expose, the author of All About "All About Eve" takes on the classic 1959 Douglas Sirk film starring Lana Turner

Few films inspire the devotion of Imitation of Life, one of the most popular films of the '50s--a split personality drama that's both an irresistible women's picture and a dark commentary on ambition, motherhood, racial identity, and hope lost and found.

Born to be Hurt is the first in-depth account of director Sirk's masterpiece. Lana Turner, on the brink of personal and professional ruin starred as Lora Meredith. African-American actress Juanita Moore played her servant and dearest friend, and Sandra Dee and Susan Kohner their respective daughters, caught up in the heartbreak of the black-passing-for-white daughter in the 1950s. Both Moore and Kohner were Oscar-nominated as Best Supporting Actress.

The author combines vast research, extensive interviews with surviving cast members, and superb storytelling into a masterpiece of film writing. Entertaining, saucy, and incisive, this is irresistible reading for every film fan.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Douglas Sirk's film Imitation of Life sparks another beguiling celebration of Old Hollywood for Staggs, author of All About "All About Eve." Staggs sections the 1959 melodrama's subplots into a campy "blonde side" (Lana Turner and Sandra Dee as a Broadway star and her daughter, battling over a man), and a tragic "dark side" (Juanita Moore and Susan Kohner as a black maid and the light-skinned daughter who repudiates her). Refracting themes of racial anxiety, confused identity and the mutual wounds parents and children inflict through Sirk's subtly ironic direction, the movie, Staggs writes, is "a florid valentine with a death's-head where Cupid ought to be." Staggs's luxuriously digressive account ranges far beyond the featured attraction. Drawing on chatty interviews with those who worked on or in the film, he profiles studio executives, stars and makeup men alike, assesses their oeuvre and gossips about their scandals, and takes extraneous potshots at everything from modern-day starlets ("nasal-voiced and rather dim overall") to the Catholic Church ("a monolithic theocracy verging on fascism"). Staggs is an often incisive critic, but one who leaves himself raptly open to the emotional impact of movies; he shows readers how compelling Hollywood's imitation of life can be.

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Library Journal

Fifty years after its release, Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life endures, still raising thought-provoking questions about racial injustice, relationships, and gender through its heartrending depiction of two friends-one whose theatrical career overshadows her personal life and the other whose daughter renounces her heritage to pass for white. In this meticulously researched and finely written book, Staggs (When Blanche Met Brando) incisively delves into plot, characters, settings, cinematography, costumes, dialog, mise-en-scène, and musical motifs-at the same time referencing other films, including the original 1934 version. Details and perceptive commentary on the careers, lives, and artistic approaches of the major players-Lana Turner, Juanita Moore, Susan Kohner, Sandra Dee, John Gavin, and Troy Donahue-are deftly interwoven along with the controlling vision of director and input from producer Ross Hunter. Staggs also turns the spotlight on the smaller roles and technical and creative staff. This book is no mere recitation of details and behind-the-scenes anecdotes but rather a comprehensive analysis of the people, concepts, cinematic components, and social issues of a classic film. Essential for film scholars and enthusiasts.
—Carol J. Binkowski

From the Publisher
“If you believe there is such a thing as politics in movie tastes, Born to Be Hurt is the book for you. Sam Staggs’s inside story of the entire ‘Imitation of Life’ phenomenon is funny, obsessive and quite revealing and, like any good fanatic, he takes sides.”—John Waters

“Sam Staggs is one of our liveliest and most likable pop-culture historians. His chronicle of ‘Imitation of Life’, one of the iconic movies of the late 1950s, is beautifully researched and told in his own singular, engaging voice. Thanks to this book, I finally understand the peculiar hold that this movie has had on me for all these years.” — Brian Kellow, author of Ethel Merman: A Life and The Bennetts: An Acting Family

“[A]nother beguiling celebration of Old Hollywood for Staggs…Staggs's luxuriously digressive account ranges far beyond the featured attraction…he shows readers how compelling Hollywood's imitation of life can be.”—Publishers Weekly

"Scrupulously scholarly, yet always droll."—Huffington Post

"There's something compelling about this approach to film history."—Los Angeles Times

"A passionate and witty behind-the-scenes expose."—Turner Classic Movies, www.tcm.com

“A bona fide film archaeologist.”—Chicago Tribune

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429942089
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
02/17/2009
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
432
Sales rank:
618,283
File size:
1 MB

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