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Norma Rae

theatrical release poster
Directed by Martin Ritt
Produced by Tamara Asseyev
Alex Rose
Written by Harriet Frank, Jr.
Irving Ravetch
Starring Sally Field
Beau Bridges
Ron Leibman
Music by David Shire
Cinematography John J. Alonzo
Editing by Sidney Levin
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) March 2, 1979
Running time 110 minutes
123 minutes (TCM print)
Country United States
Language English
Budget $7,000,000
Gross revenue $22,228,000

Norma Rae is a 1979 American drama film that tells the story of a factory worker from a small town in Alabama, who becomes involved in the labor union activities at the textile factory where she works. The film stars Sally Field in the titular 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, [1][2] which was told in a 1975 book Crystal Lee, a Woman of Inheritance by New York Times reporter Henry P Leifermann[3].

Norma Rae was filmed on location in Opelika, Alabama. The mill scenes were shot at Opelika Manufacturing. The motel scenes were filmed at The Golden Cherry Motel.



Norma Rae Webster (Sally Field) 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 her Dickensian working conditions. After hearing a speech by New York union organizer Reuben Warshowsky (Ron Leibman), Norma Rae decides to join the effort to unionize her shop. This causes conflict at home when Norma Rae's husband Sonny (Beau Bridges) assumes that her activism is a result of a romance between herself and Reuben. Despite the pressure brought to bear by management, Norma Rae successfully orchestrates an election to unionize the factory, resulting in victory for the union and presumably capitulation for the demands. When Reuben first comes to the factory he tries to get all the workers to start a union, but is soon chased out of the small town. Days later, Norma Rae shuts down her machine and stands on top of her work table striking. Soon the whole factory is with her and a union starts.



It 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 for her performance.[4]


  1. ^ Obituary New York Times, September 15, 2009.
  2. ^ Obituary Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2009.
  3. ^ Crystal Lee, a Woman of Inheritance - Henry P Leifermann - Macmillan (1975) - ISBN: 0025702203
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Norma Rae". Retrieved 2009-05-24.  

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