Maidie Ruth Norman (October 16, 1912 – May 2, 1998) was an American radio, stage, film, and television actress as well as an instructor in African-American literature and theater.
Maidie Ruth Gamble
October 16, 1912
Villa Rica, Georgia, U.S.
|Died||May 2, 1998 (aged 85)|
San Jose, California, U.S.
|Other names||Madie Norman|
|Alma mater||Bennett College|
|Spouse(s)||McHenry Norman (m.1937–?)|
Weldon D. Canada
Norman was born Maidie Ruth Gamble on a plantation in Villa Rica, Georgia, to Louis and Lila Graham Gamble. She was raised in Lima, Ohio, and began studying drama and performing in Shakespeare plays as a child. She graduated from Central High School in Lima in 1930, and attended Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she earned a bachelor of arts in 1934. She then got her master's degree in drama at Columbia University in 1937.
Norman began her career in radio with appearances on The Jack Benny Program and Amos 'n' Andy. In 1946, she began studying at the Actors' Laboratory Theatre in Hollywood. She made her stage debut in 1949 as Honey in Deep Are the Roots at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles.
In 1947, Norman made her film debut in The Peanut Man. She initially found it difficult to find positive roles in films for African-American women and felt limited in playing maids and domestics. While she did appear in such roles, Norman refused to portray these characters in a subservient or stereotypical manner that was considered the norm. She later said "In the beginning, I made a pledge that I would play no role that deprived black women of their dignity."
Norman appeared in her only leading role in 1951, playing Martha Crawford in The Well. She later appeared in supporting roles in Torch Song (1953), Bright Road (1953), Susan Slept Here (1954), The Opposite Sex (1956), and Written on the Wind (1956). One of her more memorable roles was as the ill-fated housekeeper Elvira Stitt in Robert Aldrich's 1962 horror film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. In a 1995 interview, Norman recalled that the character was originally written as a "doltish, yessum character". She rewrote the dialogue, which she called "old slavery-time talk", in an effort to dignify the character.
During the 1960s and for the remainder of her career, Norman appeared mainly in television roles because she believed more opportunities existed for African-American performers in the medium. Her TV credits include appearances in The Loretta Young Show, Perry Mason, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ben Casey, and Dr. Kildare. In 1961, she appeared in the Los Angeles production of A Raisin in the Sun.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Norman guest-starred on episodes of Good Times, The Jeffersons, Little House on the Prairie, and The Streets of San Francisco. Her last film role was in Terrorist on Trial: The United States vs. Salim Ajami (1988), and the same year, she made her television appearances in the American sitcom Amen, the TV movie Side by Side, and an episode of Simon & Simon.
At the height of her career during the 1950s, Norman toured colleges lecturing on African-American literature and theater. From 1955 to 1956, she taught at the University of Texas at Tyler. Norman was also an artist-in-residence at Stanford University from 1968 to 1969. In 1970, she created and taught a course in African-American theater history at UCLA. It was the first course devoted to the subject of African-American studies in the college's history. Norman taught at UCLA until 1977. In her honor, UCLA established the Maidie Norman Research Award for the best student essay on African-American film or theater.
On December 22, 1937, she married real estate broker McHenry Norman, whom she met while attending Bennett College. They had one son, McHenry Norman III. They were married until McHenry's death. In 1977, Norman married Weldon D. Canada, to whom she remained married until her death.
Norman died of lung cancer on May 2, 1998 at her son's home in San Jose, California. Her funeral was held at the Alum Rock United Methodist Church in San Jose on May 12. She was cremated per The Neptune Society and her ashes scattered at sea.
Norman was invited to serve as an official delegate of the Methodist Church for a conference on human relations held February 11–13, 1958 at the First Methodist Church of Glendale and sponsored by the Southern California-Arizona Conference Board of Christian Social Relations and the General Board of Social and Economic Relations.
In 1985, California Educational Theatre Association gave her a professional artist award.
In 1992, Norman was awarded an honorary doctorate from Bennett College, her alma mater.
|1947||The Burning Cross||Kitty West|
|1947||The Peanut Man|
|1949||Manhandled||Christine (Bennet's maid)||Uncredited|
|1951||The Well||Martha Crawford|
|1952||Lydia Bailey||Minor role||Uncredited|
|1953||Bright Road||Mrs. Hamilton (Tanya's mother)|
|1953||Forever Female||Emma (Beatrice's maid)||Uncredited|
|1953||Money from Home||Mattie (Phyllis' maid)||Uncredited|
|1954||About Mrs. Leslie||Camilla|
|1954||Susan Slept Here||Georgette (Mark's maid)|
|1955||Tarzan's Hidden Jungle||Suma||Uncredited|
|1955||Mad at the World||Miss Lovett||Uncredited|
|1955||Man with the Gun||Sarah (Nelly's maid)||Uncredited|
|1956||The Opposite Sex||Violet (clerk at Sydney's)||Uncredited|
|1956||Written on the Wind||Bertha|
|1960||No Greater Love|
|1962||What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?||Elvira Stitt|
|1963||4 for Texas||Burden's maid|
|1966||A Fine Madness||Waitress||Uncredited|
|1972||The Final Comedown||Nurse Ferguson||Alternative title: Blast!|
|1973||Sixteen||Aunt Ada||Alternative title: The Young Prey|
|1976||A Star Is Born||Justice of the Peace||Uncredited|
|1982||Halloween III: Season of the Witch||Nurse Agnes|
|1950–1954||Fireside Theatre||2 episodes|
|1955||Hallmark Hall of Fame||Lurie||Episode: "The Courtship of George Washington and Martha Custis"|
|1955||Lux Video Theatre||Various roles||2 episodes|
|1955||Cavalcade of America||Aunt Nellie||Episode: "Towards Tomorrow"|
|1956||Matinee Theater||Rose||Segment: "From the Desk of Margaret Tydings"|
|1956||Four Star Playhouse||Coralee||Episode: "Autumn Carousel"|
|1956||Climax!||Maggie||Episode: "The Lou Gehrig Story"|
|1956||Celebrity Playhouse||Elsie||Episode: "I'll Make the Arrest"|
|1956||Dragnet||Episode: "The Big Missus"|
|1957–1959||Letter to Loretta||Various roles||3 episodes|
|1960||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Eloise||Episode: "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat"|
|1960||Michael Shayne||Maid||Episode: "Blood on Biscayne Bay"|
|1962||Perry Mason||Maid||Episode: "The Case of the Mystified Miner"|
|1963||Wide Country||Vera||Episode: "Speckle Bird"|
|1963||Ben Casey||Bartender||Episode: "Allie"|
|1963||The Joey Bishop Show||Nurse Mildred||Segment: "Ellie Gives Joey First Aid"|
|1963||Breaking Point||Guard||Episode: "Don't Cry Baby, Don't Cry"|
|1963||The Twilight Zone||Maid||Episode: "The Masks"|
|1964||Hazel||Lady||Episode: "Campaign Manager"|
|1956||Dr. Kildare||Mrs. Johnson||Episode: "A Marriage of Convenience"|
|1965||Death Valley Days||Martha||Episode: "No Place for a Lady"|
|1965||The Long, Hot Summer||Miss James||Episode: "Home Is a Nameless Place"|
|1965||The Man from U.N.C.L.E.||Mama Lou||Episode: "The Very Important Zombie Affair"|
|1967||CBS Playhouse||Mrs. Pierce||Episode: "The Final War of Olly Winter"|
|1967–1968||Dragnet||Various roles||2 episodes|
|1967–1970||Ironside||Various roles||2 episodes|
|1968||Insight||Alice||Episode: "The Sandalmaker"|
|1968||Daktari||Mwanda||Episode: "Adam and Jenny"|
|1968||Judd, for the Defense||Charlene Muller||Episode: "The Gates of Cerberus"|
|1969||The Outcasts||Esther||Episode: "Give Me Tomorrow"|
|1970||Storefront Lawyers||Mrs. Kingman||Episode: "Easy to Be Hard"|
|1970||Barefoot in the Park||Lady||Segment: "The Marriage Proposal"|
|1970||The F.B.I.||Episode: "The Innocents"|
|1970–1971||Mannix||Various roles||2 episodes, including Season 4-Ep08 "The World Between"|
|1971||Room 222||Episode: "Dixon's Raiders"|
|1971–1976||Marcus Welby, M.D.||Various roles||3 episodes|
|1970||Another Part of the Forest||Coralee||Television film|
|1972||Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole||Nurse Ferguson||Television film|
|1972–1973||Adam-12||Various roles||2 episodes|
|1973||Griff||Mama Lou||Episode: "The Very Important Zombie Affair"|
|1973||A Dream for Christmas||Jennie Daley||Television film|
|1973||Love Story||Mother||Episode: "A Glow of Dying Embers"|
|1974||Cannon||Episode: "Triangle of Terror"|
|1974||The Sty of the Blind Pig||Weedy Warren||Television film|
|1974||The Streets of San Francisco||Mrs. Anderson||Episode: "Jacob's Boy"|
|1974||Rhoda||Nurse||Episode: "I'm a Little Late, Folks"|
|1975||Kolchak: The Night Stalker||Librarian||Episode: "Mr. R.I.N.G."|
|1975||Lucas Tanner||Ellen Russell||Episode: "Those Who Cannot, Teach"|
|1975||Kung Fu||Omar's mother||Episode: "Barbary House"|
|1975||Good Times||Edna||Episode: "The Enlistment"|
|1975||Harry O||Clara Wooster||Episode: "Shades"|
|1975||The Jeffersons||Rachel||Episode: "Mother Jefferson's Fall"|
|1975–1977||Police Woman||Various roles||3 episodes|
|1976||Police Story||Mrs. Wilkins||Segment: "50 Cents-First Half Hour, $1.75 All Day"|
|1976||Bronk||Stella||Episode: "Death with Honor"|
|1976||Baretta||Mrs. Rich||Episode: "Can't Win for Losin'"|
|1977||Little House on the Prairie||Mrs. Henry||Episode: "The Wisdom of Solomon"|
|1979||The Incredible Hulk||Mrs. Dennison||Episode: "Like a Brother"|
|1979||Roots: The Next Generations||Sister Scrap Scott||Miniseries|
|1979||Barnaby Jones||Rose||Episode: "Girl on the Road"|
|1981||Thornwell||Ruth Thornwell||Television film|
|1981||Enos||Episode: "Once and Fur All"|
|1982||Bare Essence||Television film|
|1982||Cagney & Lacey||Elevator operator||Episode: "Internal Affairs"|
|1983||Bare Essence||Episode: "Hour Four"|
|1983||Secrets of a Mother and Daughter||Neddy||Television film|
|1983||Hotel||Carrie Garland||Episode: "Confrontations"|
|1984||His Mistress||Television film|
|1985||Matt Houston||Ethel||Episode: "Death Watch"|
|1988||Terrorist on Trial: The United States vs. Salim Ajami||Edna||Television film|
|1988||Amen||Mrs. Murray||Episode: "Man on a Ledge"|
|1988||Side by Side||Eunice||Television film|
|1988||Simon & Simon||Bessie Copeland||Episode: "Little Boy Dead"|
- Wilson, S. (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. Academic & Nonfiction Books anthology. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers. p. 552. ISBN 978-1-4766-2599-7. Retrieved 2021-04-24.
- Jones Royster, Jacqueline (2003). Profiles of Ohio Women: 1803-2003. Ohio University Press. p. 226. ISBN 0-821-41508-5.
- O'Donnell, Monica M. (1986). Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. Gale Research Co. p. 219. ISBN 0-810-32065-7.
- Phelps, Shirelle (1998). Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 20. 20. Gale Research Inc. p. 160. ISBN 0-787-62417-9.
- McCann, Bob (2010). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. McFarland. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-786-45804-2.
- "Black filmmakers honored". Eugene Register-Guard. April 9, 1977. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- "Pioneering Actress Maidie Norman, Who Shunned "Old Slavery-Time Talk" In her Roles, Dies At 85". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. 93 (26): 55. May 25, 1998. ISSN 0021-5996.
- Oliver, Myrna (May 8, 1998). "Maidie Norman; Actress Fought Stereotypes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
- "Maidie Norman Now in 'Raisin'". The Los Angeles Times. June 3, 1961. p. A7.
- "Extravagant Crowd, Carl Van Vechten photographic exhibit at Yale University Library". Retrieved July 21, 2011.
- "Madie Norman Has Top Role In The Well". Baltimore Afro-American. January 17, 1959. p. 25. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- "Holman Methodist Drama Guild Plans Theater Workshop" (PDF). The California Eagle: Church. Los Angeles. February 13, 1958. Retrieved July 31, 2011.
- "Maidie Norman, 85, Maid in 'Baby Jane'". New York Times. May 12, 1998. Retrieved July 21, 2011.
Media related to Maidie Norman at Wikimedia Commons