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|Index||40 reviews in total|
The first time I saw this film was at an advance screening when I was a
film student, and director Martin Ritt was there to speak and answer
questions. I remember that he seemed like a very down-to-earth, nice
guy. He patiently answered the students' questions and explained why
the story attracted him. Maybe some of the affection I have for the
film is because of that original positive experience, but I've probably
seen it at least a dozen times and it hasn't worn thin.
Some people may find some of the characters and situations lacking in depth, but for me the movie is chiefly about Norma Rae's transformation as she becomes passionately devoted to unionizing the mill workers and, secondly, her interesting friendship with Reuben. It succeeds brilliantly on both counts, largely because of Sally Field's amazing performance. The scene where she stands on the table with the "union" sign is a classic, and it's Field's raw emotion that draws you in. Her fear and anger, and the power she feels when her coworkers show their support, are so apparent and so real that I'm always deeply moved.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let me begin by informing you that I am a management labor lawyer and
my practice is to thwart union organizing drives.
Let me continue by saying that Norma Rae is an excellent snapshot at what all union's faced in the mid-1970s in attempting to organize textile mills in the Baptist South (the story is fictional but based on an amalgamation of union drives and a union heroine). Further, Liebman's character Reuben Warshawky the union organizer was excellent because he acted as a protagonist for Norma Rae to react to and blossom as a woman, mother, worker and leader in a manner that it quite ahead of its times.
I had two favorite scenes in the movie. The first is where Norma asks the Church Minister if she can hold a union meeting at the local church with both white/black workers to see whether the Church believed in social justice. My second favorite is when Warshawky stands up for Norma when her morality (i.e., the fact she had an illegitimate child, dated many men and made a porno movie) is challenged by non-union supporters and by the executive of the textile union.
Unfortunately for Norma Rae and the American Textile industry, unionized industries are rapidly disappearing to cheaper off-shore markets such as China. However, Norma Rea will always retain its place in American trade union history as a fictional (although doc style movie) on unions in the deep south.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Recap: Norma Rae is a single mother of two, living with her two parents
in a small town in the south of USA. The textile industry is the major
employer and entire families work there. But the pay is bad, the
workplace unsafe and work long and hard. Then directly from New York
comes Reuben, an union-organizer, to unite the workers and start a
union. Neither the workers nor the managers want him there though and
Reuben has little progress. But finally, with the aid of Norma Rae, now
married again with Sonny, they have some luck. But the opposition is
still very strong and management have some tricks up their sleeve.
Comments: A interesting story, not really about the start of a union, but about a strong woman that breaks most rules and norms. She does not do like women were supposed to do, she has affairs, she speaks her mind and she does certainly not put the meal on the table when her husband comes home. She is instead making a place for herself, and in the process, she fights for the rights of the workers. But being the one that spearheads a new way of living is not easy, and Norma has to fight for every step she takes. She has the support of her husband (although her marriage is not without friction) and the aid of Reuben. But their relationship is not simple. Reuben has a completely different background than Norma, and that leads to small collisions sometimes at the same time it is a base of interest and attraction. This is movie to watch for solely on the development of Norma and her relationships.
The movie won two Oscars. One went to Sally Field for her portrayal of Norma Rae, the other was for Best Music, Original Song. The first one I can understand. Sally Field does do a really good job with her character Norma Rae. She couldn't have done it without the supporting cast, but their performances are really good too. The other one, I can't understand. It is almost the only song in the movie, played at the beginning and the end, and I find it scary. It makes me think of Hitchcock rather than Sally Field...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a rather nice movie, more gentle than disturbing, despite the
social conflict involved. Ron Liebman, a union representative, comes
down to a textile mill in the South and tries to organize the workers.
He runs into indifference from the good folk of Shinbone or Monkey
Junction or whatever it is, and hostility from the management of the
plant. His first convert is Norma Rae, Sally Field, and she gradually
develops an all-consuming enthusiasm, a moral calling, to get the union
established. It costs her a good deal. Management attempts to buy her
off by promoting her to a position in which she must check her father's
work. Humiliating for him. He dies. She neglects her family -- her four
kids of varying legitimacy and the guy she's living with, Beau Bridges.
She was never exactly a flower of Southern womanhood but now she's
become a mover and shaker and it naturally upsets people. But under
Liebman's patient and humane guidance she recruits just about everyone
and the union wins.
Written and directed by the team that brought us "Hud" and "Hombre", it's remarkable as much for what doesn't happen as for what does.
First, though, this cleared the path through the woods for any number of later films featuring declasse floozies who fight injustice -- "Erin Brokovich" being an example. This is an original and gets bonus points for it.
As for what it leaves out, there is a set up for an affair between the charming Liebman and the frustrated Field -- but it doesn't happen, not even when the two are swimming alone, bare-assed, in a muddy river and talking about their private lives. What a temptation THAT must have been for the writers and if they had less in the way of resolution, it would have happened.
The writers also managed to neatly sidestep the temptation to turn the mill's management into a horde of rotten, filthy, violent lawbreakers. They're hostile, yes, and careless about the welfare of their employees. (The women can't leave their posts, even when they're having their periods.) However, they are not evil thugs skulking in the shadows and they don't put the nocuous Liebman in the hospital. Management violates the law only in small ways. Liebman -- who is very law-savvy -- has a legal right to post his recruiting letters on the company bulletin board but management posts them so high up that only Wilt Chamberlain on stilts could read them. The only violence, and it's brief, is when some white workers clobber a black employee under the impression that African-Americans are banding together to lead the union so they can order the white folks around.
The script isn't flawless. Ron Liebman is the sophisticated Jewish New Yorker who brings enlightenment to this benighted Southern outpost of civilization. He's a paragon of normality with no weaknesses. He introduces Field to Dylan Thomas. He teaches her Yiddishisms. A stereotype. I wish we'd been able to see him in some devalued activity. Maybe he could have a collection of panties in his dresser drawer or something.
And the bravura scene in which Norma Rae is fired and about to be thrown out of the deafeningly noisy mill. She leaps to a table top and holds up a printed sign reading UNION. The employees stare at her without expression. Eons seem to pass while she slowly rotates so that everyone can read the sign. Then one woman turns off her machine. Slowly, one by one, the others follow suit until finally the mill is completely and shockingly silent. A great movie moment but it jars with its lack of logic. When the final vote is taken, almost half the employees vote AGAINST the union. So where were these right-to-work people when the machines were being shut down? I've singled out these two flaws because they are buried under the multitude of virtues in the rest of the script. The story is pretty moving, and I applaud it for sticking as closely as it does to reality. When they part after their joint success, Liebman and Field don't even kiss good-bye. It's hard to imagine.
A good acting vehicle for Sally Field, who did show her chops. She only occasionally overdoes the Southern accent. The plot is about union organizing in a Southern textile mill. Surprisingly they do not go too far in depicting management recalcitrance, not even portraying violence from them. Less surprisingly, they also ignore union violence and intimidation, a standard tactic. Well, the textile industry did unionize in the Seventies and Eighties, and it died in the Nineties. All those jobs are now in Guatemala and Bangladesh. Interestingly, the only real energy left in the union movement is in government workers, as they have no competition to hold back union excesses.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
WHAT an unusual film! NORMA RAE (20th Century-Fox, 1979) is a totally
studio created and produced movie! Even then, in 1979, this production
is an anachronism in Tinsel Town where more, and more, the big studios
became partners to independent producers and landlords to those same
small production companies; who become willing tenants for the large
studio sound stages, sets and back lots.
IT has been said that we have 3 social classes in the United States of America; being The Upper Middle Class, the Middle Class and The Lower Middle Class. These terms are, of course euphemisms or rather Code Words; for after all, no American wants to admit that he is a member of any old "Working Class"!! I mean, that's just so 'Proletariat'
APPARRENTLY 20th Century-Fox wasn't fearful of doing an American Working Class film; for they did so; not just once, but in two movies released very close to each other and later booked as a double bill. The other title is BREAKING AWAY (20th Century-Fox, 1979); which of course was about the four young friends, a year after high school, meandering through life aimlessly, doing nothing. (Yeah, Schultz, it's the movie with the bicycle race!)
ORGANIZED Labor and the attempt to bring union representation to a textile company in the Southern U.S. is the story here. It brings us into contact with the lovely Miss Sally Field, portraying the heroine/protagonist, Norma Rae (Herself). Through several on the job incidents, such as the heart attack and death of her Father, Vernon (Pat Hingle); who is refused permission to leave the line when he experiences stroke/heart seizure type symptoms.
WELL call me a softy, but that sure seems like a good reason to take up arms on behalf of having a union in a company.
REPRESENTING the international union is organizer (often called 'agitator'), Reuben (Ron Leibman); who, being an outsider, has trouble getting locals to support or even consider the notion of having a representation election in the plant. When Norma starts her protest, he at last has an ally.
THE story also deals with the attitudes of the local townspeople toward Miss Norma as the company's union busting campaign machinery gets rolling. Whereas Norma has a couple of kids, previous to her marriage to the loyal and most patient, ,Sonny (Jeff Bridges), she also has one who is illegitimate. Norma forewarns her children and tells them to be prepared to hear more lies. There was even, in the story, mention made of a rumor that Norma had made a Stag Movie with a Cop! (This we found to be most amusing and the biggest laugh in the roughly 2 hours on screen.)
OTHER than the personal story of a young woman (Based on a real person involved in the long lasting J.P. Stevens Company's struggle to keep unions out of its domain. Unbelievable as it may sound, at one point J.P. Stevens Company was paying $1,000,000.00 per DAY in fines rather than even begin to allow a representation election.
IN a general sense, NORMA RAE is all about the working class people in the U.S.A. and how they (us?) are viewed by the Liberal Press and by the Motion Picture Industry and the related Entertainment Industry. This brings us to what is most important to me in writing about the picture.
NORMA is a member of that very Working Class and is not a very refined Lady. She has been around the block several times with regard to her relationship with men. (She was a woman who didn't have an enemy in the world; or as we used to say, "She's just like a door knob. Everyone gets a turn!
ALL of that considered people in the Working or Blue Collar stratum in our country and world deserve decent treatment and should not be referred to as "Trailer Trash" and the like. It is indeed a study in hypocrisy that those same elitists would not dare call any Blacks of the same socio-economic rung of the ladder by any derogatory terms, yet express such contempt of people who are classified as being "White".
NOTE: * Speaking of Awards, we wonder why no recording of the Oscar winning original song "It Goes Like It Goes" was ever released. For that matter, there was no NORMA RAE original soundtrack album, either. (And the score also claimed an Oscar for David Shire and Norma Gimbel. Hey 20th Century-Fox boss, Rupert Murdoch, it's not too late!
POODLE SCHNITZ!! . '
Hard to understand, why on IMDb the movie only has a rating of 7, it deserves much better than this. Wonderful sets, cast, cinematography and plot. Everything beyond perfection! It's a touching story and the movie portrays it well. I have always liked stories that are about justice, while old black and white movies lived up to the expectation, this is relatively newer one and it didn't disappoint. The length is just ideal, it finishes at the right point though leaves much curiosity and longing that it should have lasted more. Great movies are about this. Dialogues are inspiring and background music is impactful. The movie also has one of my favourite songs! Couldn't have asked for more...
Very social and clever movie about ordinary girl who tries to awake her sleepy town in order that to fight for their rights. I became interested this film because recently saw remarkable drama "Rosa" with Bette Midler. I learned that she was nominated on Oscar, but winner became Sally Field with "Norma Rae" and I'm urgently became search its. "Norma Rae" is very absorbing and dramatic story, I'm really very strongly worried for characters of this film and I'm deeply imbued their troubles, because similar problems are very actually today and touching many ordinary people in all the World. This film makes you wonder about many important for us things and I strongly recommend its for watching to everyone. Maybe this film will be unite us, maybe no, but some important and right things in your hearts will remain exactly. .
Norma Rae is a wonderful film and even an important one about right and
wrong at work. It not only redefined what a female lead could do, it
had the courage to do so during the late eighties, when such things as
unions were seen as almost working against the free market. Norma Rae
reminds us that work should benefit all (And 85% if the private
workforce are not managers or bosses after all).
Yet, it remains one of the most inspirational and morally upright films; but it avoids preaching, and instead shows real heart and simple folk just trying to get on with living.
Based on true events around the Alabama textile industry and the incredibly hard working conditions that are like something out of 19th Century Britain, Norma Rae hits home run after home run with scene after scene that are still today as real as they were in 1989.
Above all, this is a human story; it doesn't sell politics or make out that unions are the answer to everything; instead it shows through a great story arc and first class acting that one person's moral compass can make a difference...
It really deserved its Oscar, just wish they would make more films like this: a tale of real courage, determination, and human will.
In my 17 plus years working in (and out of) Hollywood in the picture business, Norma Rae was probably the best assignment I ever had-- at least in most of the ways I can think of... I was the second assistant director, and I got onto the show after doing a couple of pilots at 20th Century Fox. I almost literally ran into Jack Terry, the UPM, on the steps of the Fox Commissary. I have no idea why he was on the lot, but we knew each other from a TV pilot I had worked on in Georgia, so we got to chatting. He rather casually mentioned he was working on this show called Norma Rae, and told me he needed a 2nd A.D. and asked if I would be interested. Since I knew and respected Jack, I was elated and took the job without hesitation. As it turned out, the executive in charge of production at the studio at the time was also someone I knew from TV days -- a true gentleman by the name of Herb Wallerstein. I knew then that I was in good shape politically speaking because I already knew and liked my two main "bosses" (on a feature film, the second A.D. does all of the paperwork, and provides eyes and ears on the set -- even if inadvertently -- for the studio and production company. It is understood that you, as a key second A.D., answer to several bosses, not just the First A.D.the studio being the ultimate boss). Unlike in television, where the first A.D. has a lot of authority or -- rather -- the studio exercises a lot of its authority THROUGH the first A.D., the director generally picks the first A.D. for feature films, as Mart Ritt did in this picture, and the "first" answers, more or less, to the director.. I Marty he had some serious doubts about his decision later on, but that is a different story. Marty Ritt was a fabulous -- if gruff -- director. He was always fair and straightforward with the people under him. I can't say enough good about him. But we DID have our moments! I had the great honor to be given a wonderful trainee assistant director, Paul Moen, to help me on the show. Paul would go on to be a much bigger success in the industry than I ever wasand it was well deserved! After a brief prep period at Fox I arrived, along with most of the rest of the crew, on location in Opelika. It must have been early summer, because it wasn't particularly hot when we got there. But it GOT hot quickly and just as quickly evolved into the hot, sticky, occasionally relieved by summer rain so common in Southern Alabama and Georgia. One of the first things that became apparent was that the factory would involve some pretty awful working conditions. The place was a real, working cotton mill (Opelika Manufacturing) and it was noisy, dirty and the floors actually bounced up and down from the looms running in the factory, making shooting conditions difficult at best. MOST of the extras in the mill, by the way, were not only the people who worked there, but they had actually gone through the unionization process themselves fairly recently (the importance of unions and unionization was, of course, a major theme in the film). Every crew member had to be fitted with earplugs to protect their ears from noise (just like the ones Sally uses in the film). Because setting lights was difficult at best the gaffer, Earl Gilbert (called "The Indian," but I don't know why), went through the factory and replaced all of the florescent lights with lights that had a color temperature conducent for filming. In order to communicate with each other, we used the standard studio Motorola walkie talkies attached to headphones they use at airports for use on the tarmac. But the most important "piece of equipment" on that set was, by far, the cinematographer himselfJohn Alonzo. John was built like a fireplug and steady as a rock, and could handhold just about any shot WITHOUT the then new invention of a Steadicam! Although we had an excellent camera operator, John did a lot of the operating himself and, as I recall, a lot of the shots inside the factory were filmed by John hand-holding the camera. Oh, and we were also encouraged to wear dusk masks while working there. The air was filled with tiny cotton filaments which had over the years, I am sure, contributed to the brown lung disease common among cotton mill workers. But I said it was a good show to work on, and it was. Though the assistant director and UPM typically schedule a days shooting on a feature film, Marty Ritt did his own scheduling and would invariably show up with a slightly different planand a shorter day than was planned by the production office. But, since Marty pre-edited everything in his head before filming, he only shot what he needed and we were, therefore, ALWAYS ahead of schedule! It was disconcerting to almost daily tell the crew of the changed in plans but, somehow, it almost always worked out. Marty, Sally, Ron and, I believe, the producers and writers all lived in separate quarters from the rest of us. Up near a lake somewhere, while we were all in that darned Holiday Inn with the lousy food (I would eventually move out with my trainee, Paul, and rent a seedy mobile home trailer and save the difference in cash from the per diemall perfectly legal back then). Well, there's lots more to tell about this show, but I think I'm running out of room for this comment and I need to wrap it up. But, assuming IMDb will allow me, I'll add some more later.
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