Maidie Norman

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Maidie Norman
Maidie Norman in Color.jpg
Norman photographed in natural color
BornMaidie Ruth Gamble
(1912-10-16)October 16, 1912
Villa Rica, Georgia, U.S.
DiedMay 2, 1998(1998-05-02) (aged 85)
San Jose, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Lung cancer
Resting place
Meadowbrook Memory Gardens
Other namesMadie Norman
EducationCentral High School
Alma materBennett College
Columbia University
Years active1930–1988
Spouse(s)McHenry Norman (m.1937–?)
Weldon D. Canada (m. 1977–98)
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Maidie Norman
Maidie Norman in Color.jpg
Norman photographed in natural color
BornMaidie Ruth Gamble
(1912-10-16)October 16, 1912
Villa Rica, Georgia, U.S.
DiedMay 2, 1998(1998-05-02) (aged 85)
San Jose, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Lung cancer
Resting place
Meadowbrook Memory Gardens
Other namesMadie Norman
EducationCentral High School
Alma materBennett College
Columbia University
Years active1930–1988
Spouse(s)McHenry Norman (m.1937–?)
Weldon D. Canada (m. 1977–98)

Maidie Ruth Norman (October 16, 1912 – May 2, 1998) was an American stage, film and television actress and African-American literature and theater instructor.

Early life[edit]

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, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1934. She then got her Master's degree in drama at Columbia University in 1937.[1]

She married real-estate broker McHenry Norman on December 22, 1937.[2] She later used her husband's surname as her professional name.[3]



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. Norman made her stage debut as "Honey" in Deep Are the Roots at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles in 1949.[4]

Norman made her film debut in the 1947 film The Peanut Man. She initially found it difficult to portray 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 use to play the roles in a subservient or stereotypical manner that was considered the norm.[1] Norman later said, "In the beginning, I made a pledge that I would play no role that deprived black women of their dignity."[5]

In 1951, she appeared in her only leading role in The Well.[6] Norman 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 most memorable roles was as the ill-fated maid Elvira in Robert Aldrich's 1962 horror film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, opposite 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.[6]

During the 1960s and for the remainder of her career, Norman appeared mainly in television roles as she believed there were more opportunities for African American performers in the medium.[7] Her TV credits include appearances in The Loretta Young Show, Perry Mason, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare. In 1961, Norman appeared in the Los Angeles production of A Raisin in the Sun.[8]

In the 1970s and 1980s, she 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 that same year she made her last three television appearances in Amen, the television film 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.[1] 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. UCLA established the Maidie Norman Research Award for the best student essay on African-American film or theater in her honor.[9]

Personal life[edit]

On December 22, 1937, she married real estate broker McHenry Norman whom she met while attending Bennett College.[2][10] They had one son, McHenry Norman III. They were married until McHenry's death.[2] 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 San Jose, California home. Her funeral was held at the Alum Rock United Methodist Church in San Jose on May 12.[7] She is interred at Meadowbrook Memory Gardens in Villa Rica, Georgia.


Norman photographed by Carl Van Vechten

Norman was invited to serve as an official delegate of the Methodist Church for a Conference on Human Relations held Feb. 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.[11]

In 1977, she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.[12]

In 1985, California Educational Theatre Association gave her a professional artist award.[7]

In 1992, Norman was awarded an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Bennett College.[1]


1947The Peanut Man
1947The Burning CrossKitty West
1949ManhandledChristine, Bennet's MaidUncredited
1951The WellMartha Crawford
1952Lydia BaileyMinor roleUncredited
1953Bright RoadTanya's Mother
1953Torch SongAnne
1953Forever FemaleEmma, Beatrice's MaidUncredited
1953Money from HomeMattie, Phyllis' MaidUncredited
1954Executive SuiteHousekeeperUncredited
1954About Mrs. LeslieCamilla
1954Susan Slept HereGeorgette, Mark's Maid
1955Tarzan's Hidden JungleSumaUncredited
1955Mad at the WorldMiss LovettUncredited
1955Man with the GunSarah (Nelly's maid)Uncredited
1956The Opposite SexViolet, Clerk at 'Sydney's'Uncredited
1956Written on the WindBertha
1962What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?Elvira Stitt
19634 for TexasBurden's maid
1972The Final ComedownNurse FergusonAlternative title: Blast!
1973MaurieMrs. Stokes
1973SixteenAunt AdaAlternative title: The Young Prey
1976A Star Is BornJustice of the PeaceUncredited
1977Airport '77Dorothy
1978Movie MovieGussie
1950–1954Fireside Theater2 episodes
1955Hallmark Hall of FameLurieEpisode: The Courtship of George Washington and Martha Custiss"
1955Lux Video TheatreVarious roles2 episodes
1955Cavalcade of AmericaAunt NellieEpisode: "Towards Tomorrow"
1956Matinee TheaterRoseSegment: "From the Desk of Margaret Tydings"
1956Four Star PlayhouseCoraleeEpisode: "Autumn Carousel"
1956Climax!MaggieEpisode: "The Lou Gehrig Story"
1956Celebrity PlayhouseElsieEpisode: "I'll Make the Arrest"
1956DragnetEpisode: "The Big Missus"
1957–1959Letter to LorettaVarious roles3 episodes
1960Alfred Hitchcock PresentsEloiseEpisode: "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat"
1960Michael ShayneMaidEpisode: "Blood on Biscayne Bay"
1962Perry MasonMaidEpisode: "The Case of the Mystified Miner"
1963The Wide CountryVeraEpisode: "Speckle Bird"
1963Ben CaseyBartenderEpisode: "Allie"
1963The Joey Bishop ShowNurse MildredSegment: "Ellie Gives Joey First Aid"
1963Breaking PointGuardEpisode: "Don't Cry Baby, Don't Cry"
1963The Twilight ZoneMaidEpisode: "The Masks"
1964HazelLadyEpisode: "Campaign Manager"
1956Dr. KildareMrs. JohnsonEpisode: "A Marriage of Convenience"
1965Death Valley DaysMarthaEpisode: "No Place for a Lady"
1965The Long, Hot SummerMiss JamesEpisode: "Home Is a Nameless Place"
1965The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Mama LouEpisode: "The Very Important Zombie Affair"
1967CBS PlayhouseMrs. PierceEpisode: "The Final War of Olly Winter"
1967–1968DragnetVarious roles2 episodes
1967–1970IronsideVarious roles2 episodes
1968InsightAliceEpisode: "The Sandalmaker"
1968DaktariMwandaEpisode: "Adam and Jenny"
1968Judd, for the DefenseCharlene MullerEpisode: "The Gates of Cerberus"
1969The OutcastsEstherEpisode: "Give Me Tomorrow"
1970Storefront LawyersMrs. KingmanEpisode: "Easy to Be Hard"
1970Barefoot in the ParkLadySegment: "The Marriage Proposal"
1970The F.B.I.Episode: "The Innocents"
1970–1971MannixVarious roles2 episodes
1971Room 222Episode: "Dixon's Raiders"
1971–1976Marcus Welby, M.D.Various roles3 episodes
1970Another Part of the ForestCoraleeTelevision film
1972Say Goodbye, Maggie ColeNurse FergusonTelevision film
1972–1973Adam-12Various roles2 episodes
1973GriffMama LouEpisode: "The Very Important Zombie Affair"
1973A Dream for ChristmasJennie DaleyTelevision film
1973Love StoryMotherEpisode: "A Glow of Dying Embers"
1974CannonEpisode: "Triangle of Terror"
1974The Sty of the Blind PigWeedy WarrenTelevision film
1974The Streets of San FranciscoMrs. AndersonEpisode: "Jacob's Boy"
1974RhodaNurseEpisode: "I'm a Little Late, Folks"
1975Kolchak: The Night StalkerLibrarianEpisode: "Mr. R.I.N.G."
1975Lucas TannerEllen RussellEpisode: "Those Who Cannot, Teach"
1975Kung FuOmar's MotherEpisode: "Barbary House"
1975Good TimesEdnaEpisode: "The Enlistment"
1975Harry OClara WoosterEpisode: "Shades"
1975The JeffersonsRachelEpisode: "Mother Jefferson's Fall"
1975–1977Police WomanVarious roles3 episodes
1976Police StoryMrs. WilkinsSegment: "50 Cents-First Half Hour, $1.75 All Day"
1976BronkStellaEpisode: "Death with Honor"
1976BarettaMrs. RichEpisode: "Can't Win for Losin'"
1977Little House on the PrairieMrs. HenryEpisode: "The Wisdom of Solomon"
1979The Incredible HulkMrs. DennisonEpisode: "Like a Brother"
1979Roots: The Next GenerationsSister Scrap ScottMiniseries
1979Barnaby JonesRoseEpisode: "Girl on the Road"
1981ThornwellRuth ThornwellTelevision film
1981EnosEpisode: "Once and Fur All"
1982Bare EssenceTelevision film
1982Cagney & LaceyElevator OperatorEpisode: "Internal Affairs"
1983Bare EssenceEpisode: "Hour Four"
1983Secrets of a Mother and DaughterNeddyTelevision film
1983HotelCarrie GarlandEpisode: "Confrontations"
1984His MistressTelevision film
1985Matt HoustonEthelEpisode: "Death Watch"
1988Terrorist on Trial: The United States vs. Salim AjamiEdnaTelevision film
1988AmenMrs. MurrayEpisode: "Man on a Ledge"
1988Side by SideEuniceTelevision film
1988Simon & SimonBessie CopelandEpisode: "Little Boy Dead"


  1. ^ a b c d Jones Royster, Jacqueline (2003). Profiles of Ohio Women: 1803-2003. Ohio University Press. p. 226. ISBN 0-821-41508-5. 
  2. ^ a b c O'Donnell, Monica M. (1986). Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. Gale Research Co. p. 219. ISBN 0-810-32065-7. 
  3. ^ Phelps, Shirelle (1998). Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 20 20. Gale Research Inc. p. 160. ISBN 0-787-62417-9. 
  4. ^ McCann, Bob (2010). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. McFarland. p. 253. ISBN 0-786-45804-6. 
  5. ^ "Black filmmakers honored". Eugene Register-Guard. April 9, 1977. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "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. 
  7. ^ a b c Oliver, Myrna (May 8, 1998). "Maidie Norman; Actress Fought Stereotypes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 21, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Maidie Norman Now in 'Raisin'". The Los Angeles Times. June 3, 1961. p. A7. 
  9. ^ "Extravagant Crowd, Carl Van Vechten photographic exhibit at Yale University Library". Retrieved July 21, 2011. 
  10. ^ "Madie Norman Has Top Role In The Well". Baltimore Afro-American. January 17, 1959. p. 25. Retrieved February 27, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Holman Methodist Drama Guild Plans Theater Workshop" (PDF). The California Eagle: Church (Los Angeles). February 13, 1958. Retrieved July 31, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Maidie Norman, 85, Maid in 'Baby Jane'". , New York Times. May 12, 1998. Retrieved July 21, 2011. 

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