Juanita Moore was a well-known television, film, and stage actress who helped African-American actors break through. She was the fifth Black person to be nominated for an Academy Award, and the third to be nominated specifically for Best Supporting Actress. Moore is best known for her role as Annie Johnson in “Imitation of Life.”
Her family moved to Los Angeles during the Great Migration from Greenwood, Mississippi. Moore worked as a dancer and as a chorus girl at the Cotton Club prior to her film career. Her first film role was as a nurse in “Pinky,” released in 1949. Moore, like many other black actresses, began her career as a maid.
She made her Broadway debut in 1965 in James Baldwin’s play “The Amen Corner,” and she later appeared in a production of “Raisin in the Sun” in London. Her performance as housekeeper Annie Johnson in the remake of Imitation of Life earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.
She later married Charles Burris, with whom she had a 50-year marriage until his death in 2001. Moore continued to act in 2000, appearing in the film “Disney’s The Kid” and making guest appearances on Dragnet, Adam-12, ER, and Judging Amy. She was also a member of the renowned Cambridge Players, alongside Esther Rolle and Helen Martin. Moore died of natural causes on January 1, 2014, at her home in Los Angeles. She was 99 years old at the time.