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 (1940-2009), which was told in the 1975 book Crystal Lee, a Woman of Inheritance by New York Times reporter Henry P. Leifermann.
Norma Rae was filmed on location in Opelika, Alabama. The mill scenes were shot at Opelika Manufacturing, and the motel scenes were filmed at The Golden Cherry Motel.
Sally Field won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal as Norma Rae Webster. The film won a total of 9 awards, plus 6 other nominations.
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) says she's not spending enough time in the home. Despite the pressure brought to bear by management, when confronted, Norma Rae takes a piece of cardboard, writes the word "UNION" in block letters, stands on her worktable, and slowly turns to show the sign around the room. One by one, other workers stop their mill machines, and eventually, the entire room becomes silent, after all machines have been switched off. Norma Rae then successfully orchestrates an election to unionize the factory, resulting in victory for the union.
The story is based on Crystal Lee Sutton's life as a textile worker in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, where the battle for the workers union took place against a J.P Stevens Textile mill. Her actual protest, in the mill, is the scene in the film where she writes the sign "UNION" and stands on her worktable until all machines are silent. Although Sutton was fired from her job, the mill became unionized, and she later got a job as an activist.
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