Few movies inspire the devotion of Douglas Sirk’s 1959 drama “Imitation of Life”—an irresistible story of two single mothers raising daughters together and also commentary on ambition, sex, and racial identity.
Born to be Hurt is the first in-depth “biography” of “Imitation of Life.” Lana Turner, on the brink of personal and professional ruin after her mobster boyfriend Johnny Stompanato was stabbed by her daughter, starred as glamorous actress Lora Meredith. Juanita Moore played the greatest role up to that time for an African-American actress: Lora’s loyal maid and dearest friend. And America’s cutie pie, Sandra Dee, and powerful newcomer Susan Kohner played the daughters, one sunny and blonde and popular, the other tortured and black-passing-for-white.
Staggs traces the movie’s arc from Fannie Hurst’s novel through the writing and casting to the filming, the promotion, and the reception it received. In Born to be Hurt, he combines vast research, extensive interviews with surviving cast members, and superb storytelling to create a rich, revelatory work about one of the twentieth century’s most iconic movies.
Sign up to receive information about new books, author events, and special offers.
“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
“A bona fide film archaeologist.”—Chicago Tribune
Sam Staggs is the author of four film books, including Close-Up on Sunset Boulevard and When Blanche Met Brando: The Scandalous Story of “A Streetcar Named Desire”. He has written for a variety of publications, including Vanity Fair and Architectural Digest. He lives in Dallas, Texas.