Sunday, September 13, 2009

Character Actor Corner

Today's spotlight shines on Juanita Moore.

Born October 19, 1922 (some sources say 1918),  in Los Angeles, CA .  Juanita was a former Cotton Club chorus girl.  She began her career as a film extra, later honing her craft in local stage productions at the Ebony Showcase, Theater.

In 1949, she made her feature film debut in  "Pinky" playing a nurse. In 1959, she received an Academy Award nomination for her performance in "Imitation of Life" (1959), a glossy updating of a once controversial Fannie Hurst novel about racism. Moore's character is a single parent to a bi-racial daughter.  Lana Turner starred in this remake.  The original movie was made in 1934 and starred Claudette Cobert and Louise Beavers.

She is the fourth African American to be nominated for an Academy Award in any category, and the third in the Supporting Actress category.  Juanita lost the Award to Shelley Winters.
Immediately after the Academy Awards, Moore traveled to London to perform in A Raisin in the Sun. She played the part of Lena Younger. She also appeared as Sister Boxer in  The Amen Corner in  New York City in  1965 and 1969.

With the advent of the black-themed films in the late 60s and early 70s, Moore saw some improvement in the types of parts in which she was cast. Mostly, she undertook matriarchal roles in movies like "Uptight" (1968), a loose remake of 1935's "The Informer", "The Mack" (1973) and "Abby" (1974). Her appearances tapered off in the 1980s as she cared for an ill spouse. At a time when many in her profession might consider retirement, Moore renewed her career returning to movies after a dozen years in the small role of a wise and warm, advice-dispensing grandmother in "Disney's The Kid" (2000). She was actually cast in The Kid, while attending an audition with her grandson.  Moore went on to land guest parts on such high profile TV shows like "ER" and "Judging Amy".

After appearing in over 35 films, numerous episodic appearances, and two plays,she continues to be active.  She teaches acting classes to children at The Ebony Showcase Theater.

She also had a bit part in Women's Prison (1955). I will post my review later this afternoon.

Juanita's recent photo.


  1. My mother loves Imitation of Life. I did not know she was alive.

  2. Thank you for this update. I'm glad to know she is still around acting and teaching to the next generation.


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