1934 vs 1959 Versions
The 1959 version of Imitation of Life that we all know and love is actually a remake of the 1934 classic, based on the 1933 book by Fannie Hurst. There were several differences between the 1934 version and the 1959. In the original book, Lora–played by Lana Turner–only became famous because Delilah (Annie in the ’59 version)–played by Juanita Moore– gave her a waffle recipe. In the first movie adaptation Lora offers Delilah, her maid, 20 percent of the profits from the waffle recipe, but she refuses the money and decides to stay on as her maid.
In an interview with Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Juanita Moore said that Blacks did not like the first movie because Delilah’s character was so subservient. In fact, she said producer Ross Hunter, wouldn’t even let Juanita see it. Good decision.
In the ’59 version though, on the cusp of the Civil Right’s Movement, screenwriters decided to play up the genuine friendship between Lora and Annie. And in the second film adaptation, Lora becomes famous because of her own merits.