Norma Rae (1979)
Starring: Sally Field, Ron Leibman, Beau Bridges
Directed by: Martin Ritt
This is the film that saw Sally Field shake off her 'Gidget' and 'Flying Nun' reputation and show that she really could act, not just act cute.
She plays widow and struggling single mother Norma Rae who works at an Alabama textile factory, like most of the people in the town, including her mother and father. The conditions in the mill are intolerable and a visiting labour organiser (Ron Liebman) encourages Norma Rae to unionise the factory.
The movie is based on a true life union organising campaign at J.P. Stevens Mill. The real life Norma Rae is named Crystal Lee Sutton. It took 10 years to get a union contract at J.P. Stevens after the workers won the election.
Sally Field won the Best Actress Oscar in 1979 for her gutsy portrayl of Norma Rae - and deserevedly so. The role of Norma Rae is one of the great roles for women in Hollywood. Field's performance in this is up there with the calibre of actresses like Sissy Spacek, Jessica Lange and Meryl Streep.
The setting of this film is so believable - a downbeat Southern milltown where people are leading a day-to-day existence of mundaneness and it is portrayed without any 'Hollywood' glamour. Norma Rae's meeting with Liebman's Reuben Warshawsky unlocks her intelligence, potential and beliefs. You really feel Norma Rae's pain when Reuben leaves town: she realises that he is the type of man she should be with but must make-do with the reality of her existence with simple but good Sonny (Beau Bridges), so different from the men that she has been with (basically he doesn't drink much or beat her up).
A great film to watch from what I consider to be a great era for women's roles in Hollywood.
Interesting fact: in the scene where Norma Rae is fighting against being put into the police car, Sally Field struggled so hard that she actually broke the rib of an actor playing one of the policemen.