Juanita Moore, Groundbreaking Actress, Dies | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Juanita Moore, Groundbreaking Actress, Dies

Play associated audio

"Juanita Moore, a groundbreaking actress and an Academy Award nominee for her role as Lana Turner's black friend in the classic weeper Imitation of Life, has died," The Associated Press writes.

The wire service adds that "actor Kirk Kelleykahn, her grandson, said that Moore collapsed and died Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 99, according to Kelleykahn. Accounts of her age have differed over the years."

The Los Angeles Times calls Moore "a pioneering African American actress." She was "only the fifth African American ever to receive an Academy Award nomination, a rare honor in a racially divided era when actors of color seldom claimed rewarding roles." Imitation of Life, the Times says, "is a subversive masterwork of socially conscious cinema that gained a cultish popularity in later years."

BET's Celebrities blog writes that:

"Like many actresses of her time, Moore was forced to play maids in racially-charged Hollywood. But her Oscar-nominated role in the 1959 remake of Imitation of Life made her a star. Moore played Annie Johnson, a maid with a black child who passed [for] white and eventually rejected her mother. The film's handling of racial idenitity was controversial for the time and there have been talks of a remake for decades."

Moore once lamented that being an Oscar nominee had a downside, the AP says:

" 'The Oscar prestige was fine, but I worked more before I was nominated,' Moore told the Los Angeles Times in 1967. 'Casting directors think an Oscar nominee is suddenly in another category. They couldn't possibly ask you to do one or two days' work.' "

But she also realized that her portrayal of Annie in Imitation of Life broke a barrier. "Annie was a good role for me," she said in a 2005 interview posted by Black Star News. "I [had] been in a lot of pictures. However, most of them consisted of my opening doors for white people."

She also said then that: "I cried a lot in the making of [the] movie because it was real easy for me to cry. I had a lot to cry about. Conditions for black actors were unbelievable back then. Very few black actors got the opportunity to hone their craft in the same way white actors did."

As her profile at IMDB.com shows, Moore remained active into the 21st Century. She was a frequent guest on TV dramas, including The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Dragnet and Mannix.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Not My Job: Skier Mikaela Shiffrin Gets Quizzed On Downhill Cheese Races

If you think downhill ski racing is dangerous, then you've never seen the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling Races, in which competitors hurl their bodies down a steep hill, chasing a wheel of cheese.
NPR

Spread Of Palm Oil Production Into Africa Threatens Great Apes

Palm oil growers are setting their sights on Africa as they amp up production. More than half of the land that's been set aside for plantations in Africa overlaps with ape habitats, researchers say.
WAMU 88.5

Democrats Push To Overturn Hobby Lobby Ruling

Virginia's Tim Kaine and other Democrats are trying to overturn the ruling with legislation they say will protect female workers.
NPR

Friday Feline Fun: A Ranking Of The Most Famous Internet Cats

Forget the Forbes Celebrity 100. This is the Friskies 50 — the new definitive guide of the most influential cats on the Internet. The list is based on a measure of the cats' social media reach.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.