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Susan Kohner

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Full Name
Susanna Kohner

Susan Kohner

Years active

John Weitz (m. 1964–2002)



Other names
Susan Weitz


Susan Kohner Picture of Susan Kohner

November 11, 1936 (age 87) (

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Susanna "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 mixed-race woman who "passed" for white as a young adult.


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After Kohner married menswear designer and writer John Weitz in 1964, she retired from acting to devote time to her family. Her two sons, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, have both become film directors, screenwriters and sometime actors.

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Empty Arms by Susan Kohner from Imitation Of Life

Early life

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Kohner was born in Los Angeles, California, 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 was Roman Catholic, and her father was Czech Jewish.


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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, 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.

Personal life

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 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.


  • 1958: Love Me Little by John G. Fuller at Helen Hayes Theatre. Role: Emily Whittaker. Broadway debut.
  • 1962: Pullman Car Hiawatha by Thornton Wilder at Circle in the Square Theatre. Role: Harriet Milbury.
  • 1963: Saint Joan by George Bernard Shaw at Vancouver Theater Festival. With Mike Nichols.
  • References

    Susan Kohner Wikipedia