Norma Rae is that rare entity, an intelligent film with heart.

Films about unions haven’t always fared well at the boxoffice, but that didn’t deter director Martin Ritt and screenwriters from updating the traditional management-labor struggles to a sharp contemporary setting. Now the battle is being waged in Southern textile mills, where the din of the machinery is virtually unbearable, and workers either go deaf or suffer the consumptive effects of ‘brown lung’ disease.

Ron Leibman arriveson the scene as a New York-based labor organizer, who picks Sally Field as his most likely convert. This unlikely pairing of Jewish radicalism and Southern miasma is the core of Norma Rae, and is made real and touching by the individual performances of Leibman and Field.

The pacing is fresh and never laggard, and Norma Rae virtually hums right along.

1979: Best Actress (Sally Field), Song (‘It Goes Like This’).

Nominations: Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay

Norma Rae

  • Production: 20th Century-Fox. Director Martin Ritt; Producer Tamara Asseyev, Alex Rose; Screenplay Irving Ravetch, Harriet Frank; Camera John A. Alonzo; Editor Sidney Levin; Music David Shire; Art Director Walter Scott Herndon
  • Crew: (Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1979. Running time: 113 MIN.
  • With: Sally Field Beau Bridges Ron Leibman Pat Hingle Gail Strickland Lonny Chapman