Best known for her role as Annie Johnson in the groundbreaking film, Imitation of Life (1959), Moore played a housekeeper and single mother in the racially explorative movie. The movie also starred Lana Turner.
It’s been deemed a classic and noteworthy film, especially for its time, as the emotionally wrenching storyline detailed a struggling white actress’ rise to fame and her budding friendship with a Black woman as they strive to raise their children. The film touched upon themes of race, class, and colorism.
Moore was nominated for a 1960 Academy Award for her performance, becoming the fifth African American to receive an Oscar nomination.
“Annie was a good role for me,” Moore described in a 2005 interview. “I have been in a lot of pictures. However most of them consisted of my opening doors for white people… I cried a lot in the making of this 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 actors got the opportunity to hone their craft in the same way white actors did.”
Moore got her start as a chorus girl dancer in New York’s infamous Cotton Club, before traveling to Los Angeles to participate in the Ebony Showcase Theater. Continuing her acting career, she starred on Broadway in The Amen Corner and A Raisin In The Sun in London. Moore went on to appear in television’s ER and Judging Amy.
Moore’s husband died in 2001. She is survived by grandson, Kirk Kelleykahn.
RIP to the great Juanita Moore.