Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Martin Ritt|
|Produced by||Tamara Asseyev
|Written by||Harriet Frank, Jr.
|Music by||David Shire|
|Cinematography||John A. Alonzo|
|Edited by||Sidney Levin|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
Norma Rae is a 1979 American drama film about a factory worker from a small town in North Carolina who becomes involved in the labor union activities at the textile factory where she works. The film stars Sally Field in the title role, Beau Bridges as Norma Rae's husband, Sonny, and Ron Leibman as union organizer Reuben Warshowsky.
The movie was written by Harriet Frank, Jr. and Irving Ravetch, and was directed by Martin Ritt. It is based on the true story of Crystal Lee Sutton, which was told in the 1975 book Crystal Lee, a Woman of Inheritance by New York Times reporter Henry P. Leifermann.
Sally Field won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal as Norma Rae Webster. Norma Rae won a total of two awards, plus six other nominations. The film was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 2011.
Norma Rae Webster is a minimum-wage worker in a cotton mill that has taken too much of a toll on the health of her family for her to ignore their Dickensian working conditions. After hearing a speech by a New York union organizer, Reuben Warshowsky, Norma Rae decides to join the effort to unionize her shop. This causes conflict at home when Norma Rae's husband, Sonny, says she's not spending enough time in the home.
Despite being pressured by management, when confronted, Norma Rae takes a piece of cardboard, writes the word "UNION" on it, stands on her work table, and slowly turns to show the sign around the room. One by one, the other workers stop their mill machines, and eventually, the entire room becomes silent. After all the machines have been switched off, Norma Rae is taken to jail but is freed by Reuben.
She then decides to talk to her children and tell them the story of her life. After discussing it with Reuben, Sonny tells Norma there's no other woman in his mind and he will always remain with her. Norma Rae then successfully orchestrates an election to unionize the factory, resulting in a victory for the union. Finally, Reuben says goodbye to Norma; despite his being smitten with her throughout the movie, they only shake hands because he knows she is married and loves her husband, and Reuben heads back to New York.
The story is based on Crystal Lee Sutton's life as a textile worker in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, where the battle for the workers union took place against a J.P. Stevens Textiles mill. Her actual protest, in the mill, is the scene in the film where she writes the sign "UNION" and stands on her worktable until all machines are silent. Although Sutton was fired from her job, the mill was unionized, and she later went to work as an organizer for the textile union.
- Sally Field as Norma Rae Webster
- Beau Bridges as Sonny Webster
- Ron Leibman as Reuben Warshowsky
- Pat Hingle as Vernon
- Barbara Baxley as Leona
- Gail Strickland as Bonnie Mae
- Morgan Paull as Wayne Billings
- John Calvin as Ellis Harper
- Noble Willingham as Leroy Mason
- Grace Zabriskie as Linette Odum
The film Norma Rae won Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Sally Field) and Best Original Song (for David Shire and Norman Gimbel for "It Goes Like It Goes"). It was also nominated for Best Picture and for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. The film was also nominated to the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival and Field was awarded Best Actress, in Cannes, for her performance.
American Film Institute recognition
- 2003 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Heroes and Villains:
- Norma Rae—#15 Hero
- 2006 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers—#16
- See film's entry at IMDb.com.
- Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p259
- "Norma Rae, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
- Obituary New York Times, September 15, 2009.
- Obituary Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2009.
- Crystal Lee, a Woman of Inheritance, Henry P. Leifermann, Macmillan (1975), ISBN 0-02-570220-3.
- Rhodes, Guy (April 23, 2009). "When Norma Rae came to town". thetuskegeenews.com. Retrieved June 2, 2013.
- "2011 National Film Registry More Than a Box of Chocolates". Library of Congress. December 28, 2011. Retrieved December 29, 2011.
- "Festival de Cannes: Norma Rae". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
- Norma Rae at the Internet Movie Database
- Norma Rae at the TCM Movie Database
- Norma Rae at AllMovie
- Norma Rae at Box Office Mojo
- North Carolina News Network news story, Inspiration for Norma Rae Dies