Norma Rae (1979)

PG  |   |  Drama  |  2 March 1979 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 7,198 users  
Reviews: 45 user | 31 critic

A young single mother and textile worker agrees to help unionize her mill despite the problems and dangers involved.



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Won 2 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Barbara Baxley ...
Bonnie Mae
Wayne Billings
Robert Broyles ...
Sam Bolen
John Calvin ...
Ellis Harper
Booth Colman ...
Dr. Watson
Lujan (as Lee DeBroux)
James Luisi ...
George Benson
Vernon Weddle ...
Reverend Hubbard
Gilbert Green ...
Al Landon
Lucius White


Norma Rae is a southern textile worker employed in a factory with intolerable working conditions. This concern about the situation gives her the gumption to be the key associate to a visiting labor union organizer. Together, they undertake the difficult, and possibly dangerous, struggle to unionize her factory. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Academy Award Winner SALLY FIELD Best Actress 1979 See more »




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

2 March 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Norma Rae - Eine Frau steht ihren Mann  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


SEK 1,617,267 (Sweden)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Crystal Lee Sutton was not happy with the film, and felt that it should've been a docudrama. See more »


When Beau Bridges and Sally Fields characters are on their first date Beau's hair is parted in the middle. When they leave the bar with the union guy Beau's hair is parted on the far right. It never appears that way again. See more »


Norma Rae Webster: Who's this? Dylan Thomas?
Reuben Warshowsky: He was a poet. A genius and a drunk.
See more »


Featured in The 52nd Annual Academy Awards (1980) See more »


It's All Wrong, But It's All Right
(1978) (uncredited)
Written and Performed by Dolly Parton
Courtesy RCA/Victor Records
See more »

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User Reviews

The Film that Stereotyped an Industry Broke the Stereotype of an Actress
19 May 2005 | by (Alexandria, VA) – See all my reviews

Although based on real events and a real person, "Norma Rae's" tale of corporate greed versus oppressed workers has been fictionalized for reasons of privacy. However, fictionalized or not, "Norma Rae's" power and influence continue since the U.S. textile industry has forever been branded in the minds of Americans as an outmoded industrial complex, whose windowless mills are filled with the deafening noise of hand-tended machines that are layered with cotton fibers and whose workers breathe in and permanently damage their lungs with stale air that is filled with cotton dust. Although those conditions certainly did exist, they no longer occur in that industry today. However, despite the modernization of textile manufacturing in the U.S. over the past couple decades, the image of the noisy, dusty mill that is depicted in the film remains as the general perception of a textile operation. Unfortunately, while modern textile mills are free of cotton dust and the noise levels have been reduced to the low hum of computers, textile workers like Norma Rae and the others portrayed in this film have also been replaced with robotics, lasers, and a few highly skilled technicians to monitor the computerized operations. While the unionization depicted in the film successfully raised wages and increased benefits, eventually those higher costs led to efforts to cut expenses through mechanization.

However, despite the demonizing of an industry, the film retains its power, and the story of Norma Rae's personal growth as a woman is probably even more memorable than the efforts to unionize one Southern textile mill. Sally Field inhabits the role of an unwed Southern mill worker with two children, and, as the film progresses, she slowly evolves from an aimless girl, who is used and abused by men, whether they be lovers or employers, into a mature woman who finds a depth and strength that helps her take control of her life and find the confidence to lead. Television viewers who only knew Field as the Flying Nun were surprised at her range and depth, although those who had taken the time to watch the television movie "Sybil" already suspected the breadth of her talent.

While Sally Field finally shed her Gidget and Flying Nun image with this film and certainly is the emotional core of the movie, she is well supported by a cast of pros, especially the two most important men in her life. Unfortunately, because Field is so outstanding, viewers will likely need a second viewing to appreciate just how good both Ron Leibman and Beau Bridges are in "Norma Rae." Ron Leibman as the assertive union organizer from New York is the man who awakens Norma's intellect and propels her into uncharted territory as a woman. Meanwhile, Beau Bridges as Norma Rae's gentle, understanding husband stands by his woman despite his not completely comprehending or appreciating the changes that are underway in his wife's character.

"Norma Rae" is an outstanding film, well directed by Martin Ritt, beautifully written by Frank and Ravetch, and performed with heart by Field, Leibman, and Bridges. Although the movie has probably stained the image of the U.S. textile industry for good, "Norma Rae" also established Sally Field as an actress of the first order and remains an engrossing human story of a woman's growth into maturity and her discovery of previously unrealized potential within herself.

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