Susan Kohner

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Susan Kohner
Imitation of Life-Susan Kohner2.JPG
from the trailer for Imitation of Life (1959)
BornSusanna Kohner
(1936-11-11) November 11, 1936 (age 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationActress
Years active1955–1964
Spouse(s)John Weitz (1964–2002) (his death)
ChildrenChris Weitz
Paul Weitz
 
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Susan Kohner
Imitation of Life-Susan Kohner2.JPG
from the trailer for Imitation of Life (1959)
BornSusanna Kohner
(1936-11-11) November 11, 1936 (age 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationActress
Years active1955–1964
Spouse(s)John Weitz (1964–2002) (his death)
ChildrenChris Weitz
Paul Weitz

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 two Golden Globe awards. She played a mixed-race African-American/Caucasian woman who passed for white as a young adult. After Kohner married in 1964, she retired from acting to devote time to her family. Her two sons, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, are both film directors, screenwriters and sometime actors.

Early life and career[edit]

Born as Susanna Kohner in Los Angeles, Kohner is the daughter of Lupita Tovar, a Mexican actress, and Paul Kohner, film producer who was born in Bohemia, Austria-Hungary. Her mother is Catholic.[1]

Most of Kohner's film roles came during the late 1950s and early 1960s, including co-starring with Sal Mineo in both Dino (1957) and The Gene Krupa Story (1959).

In her most notable role in 1959, she played Sarah Jane, a mixed-race, African-American / Caucasian girl who passes for white in Imitation of Life. The film was a color remake of the 1934 film. 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.

Personal life[edit]

In 1964, Kohner married John Weitz, a German-born novelist and fashion designer, and retired from acting. Their sons, Chris and Paul Weitz, are successful film directors in Hollywood, their most successful films being 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 her 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.

Filmography[edit]

Film
YearFilmRoleNotes
1955To Hell and BackMaria
1957DinoShirleyAlternative title: Killer Dino
1959Imitation of LifeSarah Jane, age 18
The Big FishermanFara
The Gene Krupa StoryEthel MaguireAlternative title: Drum Crazy
1960All the Fine Young CannibalsCatherine McDowall
1961By Love PossessedHelen Detweiler
1962Freud: The Secret PassionMartha FreudAlternative title: Freud
Television
YearTitleRoleNotes
1956The Alcoa HourJoanna1 episode
Four Star PlayhouseAnita1 episode
Cavalcade of American1 episode
Climax!2 episodes
1956–1957Schlitz Playhouse of StarsLynn Howell2 episodes
1957Matinee Theatre1 episode
Wagon TrainMokai1 episode
SuspicionGina1 episode
1958Alfred Hitchcock PresentsTherese1 episode
1960Playhouse 90Rachel Heller1 episode
1961The DuPont Show with June AllysonClare Anderson1 episode
Hong KongElena1 episode
1961–1963Route 66Katherine
Midge
2 episodes
1962CheckmateVicki Angelo1 episode
The Dick Powell ShowMiriam Marks1 episode
1963The NursesTerry Collins1 episode
Going My WayElaine Brady1 episode
Temple HoustonEllena Romolo1 episode
1964RawhideAbbie Bartlett1 episode
ChanningRena1 episode

Awards and nominations[edit]

YearAwardResultCategoryFilm
1959Academy AwardNominatedBest Supporting ActressImitation of Life
1959Golden Globe AwardWonMost Promising Newcomer - Female
-
1959Best Supporting ActressImitation of Life
1962NominatedBest Supporting ActressFreud: The Secret Passion
1958Laurel AwardsNominatedTop New Female Personality
-
19592nd PlaceTop Female New Personality
-

References[edit]

  1. ^ Susanna Kohner, Jewish Journal, 14 March 2003

External links[edit]