RIP Juanita Moore

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by Tambay A. Obenson
January 1, 2014 4:06 PM
7 Comments
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My word, what are the odds?

On the heels of news that actor James Avery died earlier today, comes word that actress Juanita Moore has also passed - this according to Variety.

Ms Moore is likely best known for her role as Annie, in Douglas Sirk's 1959 adaptation of Fannie Hurst's novel Imitation of Life, playing a black single mother challenged with raising a daughter struggling with her mixed-race identity, who opts to pass for white because of its societal privileges, and who comes to resent her mother's black identity. 

It is the second film adaptation of the novel. The first film was released in 1934. 

Sirk's version co-starred Lana Turner as a white widow also faced with challenges in trying to raise her own daughter.

Moore received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her performance in that film - the 5th African American to be nominated for an Oscar in any category at the time, and the 3rd in the Supporting Actress category.

A star of both stage and screen, and a former Cotton Club chorus girl, Moore began her career as a film extra, and honed her skills as an actress in local stage productions at the Ebony Showcase Theater

In 1949, she made her feature film acting debut in Elia Kazan's Pinky, playing a nurse, in an uncredited role. Interestingly enough, that film centered on a light-skinned African American nursing student, played by Jeanne Crain, passing for white. The film was released to both critical acclaim and controversy.

Like many black actresses during that era, the majority of the on-screen roles available to her were mostly stereotypical as domestics, until what would be her breakthrough casting as Annie Johnson, the hard-working housekeeper to actress Lora Meredith in Sirk's 1959 version of Imitation of Life

Following Imitation Of Life, during the 1960s, she would appear on-screen in films like Tammy, Tell Me True (1961), Papa's Delicate Condition (1963), and the The Singing Nun (1966), as she saw her casting fortunes expand somewhat, taking on matriarchal roles in movies like Uptight (1968), The Mack (1973) and Abby (1974). 

Her on-screen appearances tapered off in the 1980s, but saw something of a revival years later, when she was cast to play a grandmother in Disney's The Kid (2000), which led to her landing guest roles on popular TV shows like ER and Judging Amy.

Juanita Moore, born October 19, 1914, died today at her home in Los Angeles at 99 years old

Her grandson Kirk Kahn said today that, most recently, before her death, she was rehearsing to participate in a reading at the Saban Theater, set to take place in a few weeks. 

She didn’t candy-coat it for you... she said, ‘if you’re no good, the play’s no good. She gave back to the community in so many ways... Wherever we went she stopped and told black boys and girls they could do anything with their lives,” Kahn said to Variety.

In addition to her grandson, she is survived by two nephews.

May her soul rest in peace.

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7 Comments

  • latonia denise willis | January 2, 2014 3:44 PMReply

    Ms. Juanita Moore will be greatly missed. Another African-American talent lost too soon. I remember her in both Pinky and Imitation of Life and she was an incredible actress, regardless of societal racial restrictions and controversies, etc. Rest in peace, my sister.

  • Rahul Jain | January 2, 2014 6:59 AMReply

    Good article

  • LettyLiberatore | January 2, 2014 5:52 AMReply

    I am saying that I am feel full sympathy about RIP Juanita moore .
    http://beaudifynorway.com/

  • Alias | January 1, 2014 6:42 PMReply

    What a beautiful, talented woman. How lucky audiences were to see her brilliance shine on screen.
    May you rest in peace, Ms. Moore.

  • Jessica W | January 1, 2014 5:44 PMReply

    R.I.P. "Mama"

  • Alaia | January 1, 2014 5:13 PMReply

    Imitation of Life is one of my favorite movies. Rest in peace, Ms. Moore.

  • artbizzy | January 1, 2014 4:29 PMReply

    Juanita Moore absolutely floored me in Imitation of Life and made me love and respect my mother and my blackness so much more. An incredibly powerful and underrated actress. Heaven has got another angel.

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