Imitation of Life (1959)

imitationoflife_bornunicorn (1)Lora Meredith (Lana Turner) has finally achieved her dream of being a famous Broadway actress, but her life is still inextricably connected to Annie Johnson, her maid, who helps her backstage, too. Lora’s dressing room is not particularly fancy, but some objects on her table are.

caronbellodgia_bornunicornThe big bottle on the left is Caron Bellodgia, a floral fragrance created in 1927 by Ernest Daltroff. This bottle with a prism-shaped stopper was designed by Félicie Vanpouille Bergaud.

lucienlelong_openingnight_bornunicornThe other bottle is Opening Night by Lucien Lelong. Originally launched as Orage in 1935, it was re-named for the English market. The original bottle had a pyramid shape, but in 1938 this one (designed by Philippe Hiolle) was introduced on the market.

imitationoflife_bornunicorn (2)As for the make-up, one item is immediately recognizable – Max Factor Pan Stik, the revolutionary foundation in stick form launched in 1947.

maxfactorpanstick_lanaturner_bornunicorn1.jpgLana Turner was among the Hollywood stars who served as testimonials for Max Factor products. The ad above is from 1951.


caronbellodgia_bornunicornLater in the film, Caron Bellodgia can be seen on Sarah Jane’s vanity. I can imagine Lora giving a bottle of her perfume to her maid’s daughter, because she really cares about her. Despite providing for both of them all through the movie, there’s an undercurrent racism in the actress’ attitude towards the girl: she often reprimands her for rejecting her “blackness”, but ends up with reinforcing her being “different”.

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