Norma Rae (1979)

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Released 7-Feb-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 109:55 (Case: 118)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Martin Ritt

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Sally Field
Beau Bridges
Ron Leibman
Pat Hingle
Barbara Baxley
Gail Strickland
Morgan Paull
Robert Broyles
John Calvin
Booth Colman
Lee de Broux
James Luisi
Vernon Weddle
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music David Shire

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French Titling
German Titling
Italian Titling
Spanish Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Credits rolling over a still final shot

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Sally Field received huge acclaim and an Emmy Award in 1976 for her amazing performance as Sybil Dorsett in the telemovie Sybil. Strangely, it would be another three years before Field would play another role on a truly dramatic scale. That role was her inspiring performance as union convert Norma Rae, a role that would also earn her a Best Actress Academy Award in 1980.

   The year is 1978. Norma Rae (Sally Field) is a widow who lives with her parents and two children in a small Southern American town. She and her parents work in the town's main place of employment, the O.P. Henley Textile Mill. This mill has resisted becoming unionised for many years, mainly because the workers feel that they would be victimised and intimidated should they rock the boat.

   Norma drifts through many failed relationships. It is as a result of one of these relationship failures that she officially meets New York-based union organiser Reuben Warshawsky (Ron Leibman) from The Textile Workers Union of America. He has arrived in town, on a periodic recruitment drive, in the hope of bringing the textile workers' entitlements into line with workers from other industries.

   Norma has also started dating a work colleague, Sonny Webster (Beau Bridges). He puts some stability and confidence back into Norma's personal life. Like Norma, he also has a child from a previous relationship, and it isn't long before they are happily married.

   Reuben's arrival at the mill is initially meet with distain from the workers, and he struggles to get any support at all. However, after a series of indiscretions by management, the outspoken Norma decides to team up with Reuben, to campaign the workers for the unionisation of the factory. This causes a lot of friction between Norma, her new husband and her children because of the large amount of time and energy she is putting into the project.

   Norma becomes totally immersed in the mission of recruitment and unionisation of the mill. When she herself  becomes the victim of management intimidation, the plot leads us to the powerful and moving confrontation in the film's final scenes.

   Norma Rae was very well directed by the late Martin Ritt, who also appears in the film in the uncredited role of a factory worker.

   The wonderful screenplay by Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr is based on true events. The union organising campaign at the J.P. Stevens Mill was the inspiration for the story. Crystal Lee Sutton is the real name of the Norma Rae character.

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Transfer Quality


    The video transfer is generally quite good.

   Norma Rae is presented on this DVD in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

   The transfer is quite clear and sharp most of the time. There is, however, some grain present at times, more noticeable during darker scenes. Hence, blacks and shadows were not as clean as I had hoped, although they were acceptable.

   Colours are indeed consistent with other films of this era, meaning they are a little muted and understated. The colours do complement the tone of the film, especially in the bleak looking factory.

   I found no problems with MPEG artefacts. There was some very minor telecine wobble at the end of the opening credits. This would probably not be noticed at all on a 1.33:1 screen. Aliasing and edge enhancement were very minor, and not a major issue. Film artefacts were noticeable from time to time, but weren't of any great consequence.

   This DVD contains a good selection of subtitles. They include English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, and Dutch. All are in white and are easily legible.

   This disc is single sided and dual layered. The layer change occurs at 57:22, and is well placed. I believe that a layer change shouldn't be noticed on the first viewing of a DVD .I can report that I certainly did not pick up the change on my first viewing of Norma Rae.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is quite good.

    There are five audio tracks on the DVD. The default is English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). The other audio options for Norma Rae are French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    The dialogue was always clear and easy to understand, and audio sync was spot on.

    The music score is credited to David Shire. The score is centered on the title song It Goes Like It Goes, which is sung by Jennifer Warnes. This song is played during the opening and closing credits, and has a very Southern American feel to it. Very little other music features on the soundtrack, and any amount that is there is rather incidental.

    It's not really worth using Pro-Logic here, as the film is very much dialogue based. The film was originally released with a mono soundtrack. The Dolby Digital 2.0 track presented here is perfectly suited to the job required - anything more would have been a waste.

   The subwoofer was not called on.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


   There are no extras at all on this DVD.

   The menu is quite lazy and boring, almost like it was created in a hurry. At least it is 16x9 enhanced. It is not animated, and has no audio.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The R1 version of Norma Rae contains extras not included on this version. We miss out on;

    The R1 version only contains English Dolby Digital 2.0 and French mono audio tracks, with only English and Spanish subtitles.

   Unless any of the various audio tracks and/or subtitles on our version are important to you, I'd pronounce the R1 version the winner.


   Norma Rae is a wonderful, inspirational film, with excellent performances all round.

   The lack of any extras whatsoever is a huge disappointment. A film of this calibre deserves a better overall presentation on DVD in the first instance. It's highly unlikely that we will see a special edition of this film on DVD in the future.

   The audio and video transfers are of good quality.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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