from trailer for Imitation of Life (1959)
November 11, 1936
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||John Weitz (1964–2002) (his death)|
Susan Kohner (born November 11, 1936) is an American actress who worked in film and television. She is best known for her role as Sarah Jane in Imitation of Life (1959), for which she was nominated for an Oscar and won a Golden Globe award. She played a light-complexioned black woman who "passed" for white as a young adult.
Early life and career
Born as Susanna Kohner in Los Angeles, Kohner is the daughter of Lupita Tovar, a Mexican-born actress who had a career in Hollywood, and Paul Kohner, a film producer who was born in Bohemia, Austria-Hungary. Her mother is Roman Catholic, and her father was Czech Jewish.
In her most notable role, Kohner played Sarah Jane in Imitation of Life, portraying an African-American woman who "passes" as white. The 1959 film was a remake of a 1934 version of a book of the same name. The expensive, glossy Ross Hunter production, directed by Douglas Sirk and starring Lana Turner, was a box office smash. In addition, Kohner was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role in the film, and won a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actress and one as Best New Actress.
Following her role in Imitation of Life, Kohner appeared in All the Fine Young Cannibals opposite Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner. She later had guest roles on various television series, including Hong Kong, Going My Way, and Temple Houston. She made her last film appearance in 1962, co-starring with Montgomery Clift in Freud: The Secret Passion. She retired from acting in 1964.
In 1964, Kohner married John Weitz, a German-born novelist and fashion designer. She retired from acting to devote time to her family. They had two sons together, Chris and Paul Weitz, who both became film directors and producers in Hollywood, producing films such as American Pie (1999) and About a Boy (2002). Chris Weitz is also known for directing New Moon (2009), part of the The Twilight Saga.
On April 23, 2010, a new print of Imitation of Life (1959) was screened at the TCM Film Festival in Los Angeles, California, to which Kohner and co-star Juanita Moore were invited. After the screening, the two women appeared on stage for a question-and-answer session hosted by TCM's Robert Osborne. Kohner and Moore received standing ovations.
|1955||To Hell and Back||Maria|
|1956||The Last Wagon||Jolie|
|Dino||Shirley||Alternative title: Killer Dino|
|1959||Imitation of Life||Sarah Jane, age 18|
|The Big Fisherman||Fara|
|The Gene Krupa Story||Ethel Maguire||Alternative title: Drum Crazy|
|1960||All the Fine Young Cannibals||Catherine McDowall|
|1961||By Love Possessed||Helen Detweiler|
|1962||Freud: The Secret Passion||Martha Freud||Alternative title: Freud|
|1956||The Alcoa Hour||Joanna||1 episode|
|Four Star Playhouse||Anita||1 episode|
|Cavalcade of American||1 episode|
|1956–1957||Schlitz Playhouse of Stars||Lynn Howell||2 episodes|
|1957||Matinee Theatre||1 episode|
|Wagon Train||Mokai||1 episode|
|1958||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Therese||1 episode|
|1960||Playhouse 90||Rachel Heller||1 episode|
|1961||The DuPont Show with June Allyson||Clare Anderson||1 episode|
|Hong Kong||Elena||1 episode|
|1962||Checkmate||Vicki Angelo||1 episode|
|The Dick Powell Show||Miriam Marks||1 episode|
|1963||The Nurses||Terry Collins||1 episode|
|Going My Way||Elaine Brady||1 episode|
|Temple Houston||Ellena Romolo||1 episode|
|1964||Rawhide||Abbie Bartlett||1 episode|
Awards and nominations
|1959||Academy Award||Nominated||Best Supporting Actress||Imitation of Life|
|1959||Golden Globe Award||Won||Most Promising Newcomer - Female||
|1959||Best Supporting Actress||Imitation of Life|
|1962||Nominated||Best Supporting Actress||Freud: The Secret Passion|
|1958||Laurel Awards||Nominated||Top New Female Personality||
|1959||2nd Place||Top Female New Personality||
- Susanna Kohner, Jewish Journal, 14 March 2003 |The brothers are the product of his third marriage, to glamorous actress Susan Kohner -- daughter of famous Jewish agent Paul Kohner and Mexican Catholic actress Lupita Tovar"
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