Juanita Moore was groundbreaking actress and Academy Award nominee

Moore was only the fifth black performer to be nominated for an Oscar, receiving the nod for the glossy Douglas Sirk film that became a big hit and later gained a cult following

AP/File
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' is seen in 1960.

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.

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.

Moore was only the fifth black performer to be nominated for an Oscar, receiving the nod for the glossy Douglas Sirk film that became a big hit and later gained a cult following. The 1959 tearjerker, based on a Fannie Hurst novel and a remake of a 1934 film, tells the story of a struggling white actress' rise to stardom, her friendship with a black woman and how they team up to raise their daughters as single mothers.

It brought supporting actress nominations for both Moore and Susan Kohner, who played Moore's daughter as a young adult attempting to pass as a white woman. Kohner's own background is Czech and Mexican. By the end, Turner's character is a star and her friend is essentially a servant. The death of Moore's character sets up the sentimental ending.

"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. You wouldn't accept it. And I'm sure I would."

Moore also had an active career in the theater, starting at Los Angeles' Ebony Showcase Theatre in the early 1950s, a leading black-run theater. She also was a member of the celebrated Cambridge Players, with other performers including Esther Rolle and Helen Martin.

Her grandson is currently president and CEO of the Cambridge group.

She appeared on Broadway in 1965 in James Baldwin's play "The Amen Corner" and in London in a production of "Raisin in the Sun."

"The creative arts put a person on another level," she told the Los Angeles Times. "That's why we need to bring our youngsters into the theater."

Her first film appearance was as a nurse in the 1949 film "Pinky." As with other black actresses, many of Moore's early roles were as maids. She told the Times that "real parts, not just in-and-out jobs," were opening up for black performers.

Among Moore's other films were "The Girl Can't Help It," ''The Singing Nun," ''Paternity" and "The Kid." Her TV credits include "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," ''Adam-12," ''Judging Amy" and "ER."

Born in Los Angeles, Moore got her start in show business as a chorus girl at New York's Cotton Club, then joined the Ebony theater.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.