Sally Field's heartfelt portrayal of a dirt-poor southern textile worker who defies her bosses and fights to unionize her plant won a well-deserved Oscar ("You like me! You really like me!"). A lifetime of work in those textile mills, according to this fictionalized account of real-life events, usually results in deafness, caused by the din of machinery, or in the consumptive disease known as "brown lung," caused by long-term exposure to chemical contaminants. Into one such plant comes New York-based union organizer Ron Leibman, who's doubly distrusted for being a union man and being Jewish. He gradually convinces the feisty Field to stand up for better working conditions by embracing the union -- a decision that could put her job, and even her life, in jeopardy. The punishing conditions faced by mill workers are dutifully replicated by director Martin Ritt (The Front), who elicits powerful performances from supporting players Beau Bridges, Pat Hingle, and Barbara Baxley as well as from Field and Leibman. Norma Rae is primarily a spellbinding dramatization of one woman's story, but it's also a moving tale of courage and empowerment that becomes more inspirational with each viewing. The DVD includes a documentary on the film's origins, detailing both the textile mill conditions and the fight to secure union representation.
Before her Oscar-winning, breakthrough role as a union organizer in Norma Rae, Sally Field was famous for being television's The Flying Nun and for her subsequent lightweight comic work, particularly with Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit. Casting Field in the lead role of a poor, uneducated worker who organizes a Southern mill proved to be a stroke of genius. She wasn't known for portraying assertive, powerful characters, and so her transformation in the film from mousy and helpless to an icon of resistance symbolized for many audiences similar psychic and social journeys. Norma Rae became an authentic portrait of empowerment because its heroine (and the actress portraying her) seemed so ordinary to begin with.
|Source:||20Th Century Fox|