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Annie and Sarah Jane have their own problems, as Sarah Jane is struggling with her mixed-race identity and wants to pass for white because of its privileges in American society in the pre-civil rights era.
Eleven years later, in 1958, Lora is a highly regarded Broadway star living in a luxurious home in New York.
Imitation of Life is the second film adaptation of Fannie Hurst's novel of the same name; the first, directed by John M. The film's top-billed stars are Lana Turner and John Gavin, and the cast also features Sandra Dee, Dan O'Herlihy, Susan Kohner, Robert Alda and Juanita Moore.
When Annie learns the truth, she goes to the club to claim her daughter; Sarah Jane is fired.
The issue of Susie's crush on Steve becomes serious when Susie learns that Steve and Lora are to be married. After a confrontation with her mother, Susie decides to go away to school in Denver, Colorado, to forget about Steve. As she wished, Annie is given a lavish funeral in a large church, complete with a gospel choir, followed by an elaborate traditional funeral procession with brass band and horse-drawn hearse.
Just before the procession sets off, Sarah Jane pushes through the crowd of mourners to throw herself upon her mother's casket, begging forgiveness.
Annie, becoming weaker and more depressed by the day, flies out to California to see her daughter one last time and say goodbye.
Annie is bedridden upon her return to New York, and Lora and Susie look after her.