By Robert Simonson
02 Jan 2014
Ms. Moore was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award—a rare occurrence at the time for an African-American performer—for her work. The Sirk film was a glossy color remake of a 1934 film of the same name—based on a Fannie Hurst novel—about the trials of two women of different races as they try to raise their children as single mothers. It was derided as a soap opera at the time of its release, but has since been reassessed as one of Sirk's most auteurist achievements.
"They auditioned a lot of people before casting me in the part," she recalled, according to The Guardian. "Pearl Bailey was their first choice. But producer Ross Hunter really wanted me. I have been in a lot of pictures. However, most of them consisted of my opening doors for white people."
According to Ms. Moore, the Oscar nomination was a mixed blessing. In a 1967 Los Angeles Times interview, quoted in Variety, she 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."
Born Oct. 19, 1922, in Los Angeles, Juanita Moore began her career as a showgirl at New York's famous Cotton Club. In the early '50s she appeared with Los Angeles' Ebony Showcase Theatre. She was also a member of the Cambridge Players, alongside performers including Esther Rolle.