Juanita Moore, a pioneering Black actress who was one of a handful of actors of color to be nominated for an Oscar during her time, has died. Ms. Moore was 99 years of age according to reports.
Moore’s grandson, actor Kirk Kellykahn announced the news of his grandmother’s passing, stating she collapsed in her Los Angeles home on New Year’s Day. Thus far, it appears that Moore passed away from natural causes.
Moore was born in Los Angeles in 1914, working as a young woman in the famed Cotton Club. She then moved to working in theater and performing as an extra in Hollywood films before landing her first big role in 1949 for the film, Pinky. After several small roles, Moore would land the biggest placement of her career in 1959.
The film, Imitation of Life, starred Moore as housekeeper Annie Johnson, playing the role of a mother of a daughter who passed for white. Susan Kohner played the role of Sarah Jane in the film, with both roles landing the pair lasting fame and cementing their legacies as women of color in the film industry. The film also has the distinction of being a tear-jerking cult classic, taking on the daring subject of race during a turbulent time for the country.
Moore would become just the fifth Black person to be nominated for an Academy Award, and both she and Kohner would be nominated for supporting actress awards from both the Oscars and the Golden Globes.
Moore worked sparingly in film after being recognized by the Hollywood elite, and even stated in a Los Angeles Times interview that she was far busier as an actress before getting the Oscar nod. However, theater would provide a home for Moore’s talent and she appeared in a 1965 Broadway adaptation of James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner.
Moore was also a member of the famed acting troupe, The Cambridge Players, which also featured Good Times star Esther Rolle. Her grandson is currently the CEO of the Cambridge group.
Moore was the widow of Charles Burris, and the couple shared 50 years of marriage. She is survived by her grandson and two nephews.
Hit the next page to see a clip of a scene of Moore and Kohner in Imitation Of Life.
Photo: Publicity Photo