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Norma Rae (1979)

PG | | Drama | 2 March 1979 (USA)
A young single mother and textile worker agrees to help unionize her mill despite the problems and dangers involved.


Martin Ritt


Irving Ravetch (screenplay), Harriet Frank Jr. (screenplay)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sally Field ... Norma Rae
Beau Bridges ... Sonny
Ron Leibman ... Reuben
Pat Hingle ... Vernon
Barbara Baxley ... Leona
Gail Strickland ... Bonnie Mae
Morgan Paull ... Wayne Billings
Robert Broyles Robert Broyles ... Sam Bolen
John Calvin ... Ellis Harper
Booth Colman Booth Colman ... Dr. Watson
Lee de Broux ... Lujan (as Lee DeBroux)
James Luisi ... George Benson
Vernon Weddle Vernon Weddle ... Reverend Hubbard
Gilbert Green Gilbert Green ... Al Landon
Bob Minor ... Lucius White


Like a lot of her family before her, Norma Rae works at the local textile mill, where the pay is hardly commensurate with the long hours and lousy working conditions. But after hearing a rousing speech by labor activist Reuben, Norma is inspired to rally her fellow workers behind the cause of unionism. Her decision rankles her family, especially her fiancé, Sonny, and provokes no shortage of contempt from her employers. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The story of a woman with the courage to risk everything for what she believes is right. See more »




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Official Sites:

Official site





Release Date:

2 March 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Norma Rae - Eine Frau steht ihren Mann See more »

Filming Locations:

Auburn, Alabama, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$262,778, 4 March 1979

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (TCM print)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Martin Ritt: as a disgruntled factory worker. See more »


Reuben comes to inspect the plant to verify that his notices are not being stripped off of the bulletin boards in violation of the court order. Upon finding his notice and demanding it be brought down to "eye level", he insists on reading it because "No union organizer, not even a known union member has been inside the fences and walls of this factory for more than ten years." It is not explained how the notice got posted there in the first place. See more »


Norma Rae Wilson: [Reuben walks with Norma after witnessing an argument between her and an ex-beau] I guess it seems like every time you run into me, I'm hassling with some other guy.
Reuben Warshowsky: That's what it seems like.
Norma Rae Wilson: What you think of me, I wonder.
Reuben Warshowsky: I think you're too smart for what's happenin' to ya.
See more »


Referenced in Pose: Access (2018) See more »


Cindy, I Love You
Written by Johnny Cash
Performed by Johnny Cash
[Norma Rae says it was the song playing when she learned her husband had died]
See more »

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User Reviews

a realistic setting boosted by Field's powerful acting
24 January 2016 | by lasttimeisawSee all my reviews

Martin Ritt's kitchen-sink drama NORMA RAE is my fourth entry of his filmography, it won Sally Field her first Oscar, and is reckoned as a shining specimen perfectly designed to gratify Awards recognition, aka "Norma Rae moment" for its actors, usually adapted from real events.

The movies takes place in a small town in North Carolina, based on the true story of Crystal Lee Sutton (1940-2009), our heroine Norma Rae (Field) is a single mother of two kids (one from the wedlock and the other is an illegitimate son borne out of a casual fling), now her husband is long dead, and she trysts with a married man but often got beaten due to the rife male chauvinism among the hillbillies, should audience judge her too? Is she a dimwit slut or a liberal-minded feminist?

Norma Rae, and her parents (Hingle and Baxley), all work in their local cotton mill factory, receive minimum-wage and their poor working conditions are ignored by the management, life could be that for her, keeping working until her health deteriorates under the awful condition and kicks the bucket, then hopefully her children will be old enough to take her place in the factory, do the same job and continues the circle of life. But the arrival of Reuben Warshowsky (Leibman), a New York union organiser, galvanises her life and the prospect of forming a labor union beckons a possibly better future, so she is bent on functioning as Reuben's right-hand man. Norma Rae also meets a fellow worker, Sonny (Bridges), a divorcé with a young daughter, and soon they form a family, but her whole-hearted devotion to the ongoing campaign for the union engenders clashes with the management of the factory, and she has to be crucified for the progressive cause when the antagonism reaching its boiling point. The Union wins in the end, but Norma Rae loses her job and Reuben leaves when his mission is achieved, will her future become better afterwards, the film doesn't reveal any detail, but a reconciliation with Sonny bespeaks at least no marital disruption will occur.

Sally Field, injects such a redoubtable force in her acting, like Reuben patronisingly tells her, she is too good for the place, one can totally get impressed by her punchy effort in every line, gesture and expression, which transcends Norma Rae from an ordinary gal to a highly relatable and extremely likable cinematic heroine, that's the reason why we love to see these stories being told again and again on the screen. The script carefully treads the camaraderie between Norma Rae and Reuben, to avoid any scandals, but Leibman's Reuben, in the meaty supporting role, should be an equally likable character, doesn't register the same impact, wanting of sincerity in his acting could be the culprit, whereas Beau Bridges' Sonny and Pat Hingle's Vernon, Norma Rae's father, both cast more weight in their much leaner screen-time.

NORMA RAE is a juggernaut success, receives four Oscar nominations (including the prestigious BEST PICTURE) and wins two (Field's BEST LEADING ACTRESS and David Shire's theme song IT GOES LIKE IT GOES, beautifully sung by Jennifer Warnes), the relevance of labor union has ebbed away since then, but it definitely sparks off a neo-realistic trend for American indie films, with real- life location and tapping into the misery of low-class people which average cinema-goers consider too harrowing to watch on the silver screen, in retrospective, it is something we should praise for!

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