'Imitation of Life' Star Juanita Moore Dead At 99

News & Views | Camille Travis | 01/02/2014 | 09:45 AM EST

The Oscar-nominated actress died Wednesday in her Los Angeles home

Juanita Moore, who rose to fame for her Academy Award-nominated role in the 1959 drama Imitation of Life, has died.

The seasoned actress reportedly collapsed and died Wednesday (Jan. 1) in her Los Angeles home. Despite varying accounts of her age, her step-grandson Kirk Kahn tells Variety she was 99.

Moore became just the fifth Black performer to score an Oscar nod for her portrayal of Annie Johnson in the Douglas Sirk-directed film. The story, based on the Fannie Hurst novel of the same name, centered on a struggling White actress' (Lana Turner) looking to make it big and her unlikely friendship with a Black woman (Moore). Both women form a bond as single mothers raising daughters.

In a 1967 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Moore said, "The Oscar prestige was fine, but I worked more before I was nominated. 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 got her start at the Cotton Club in New York before joining Los Angeles' Ebony Showcase Theater and becoming a member of the Cambridge Players with the likes of Esther Rolle and Helen Martin. Her first film was 1949's Pinky and she went on to nab roles in The Girl Can't Help It, The Singing Nun, Paternity and The Kid.

In addition to television credits that included The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Adam-12, Judging Amy and ER, Moore locked down stage roles in James Baldwin's Broadway play The Amen Corner and a London production of A Raisin in the Sun.

Moore is survived by her son and two nephews.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family during this difficult time.

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