Born Maidie Gamble, October 16, 1912, in Villa Rica, GA; died of lung cancer,May 2, 1998, in San Jose, CA. Educator, actress.
Norman is remembered for her performances on stage, film, and screen. She isalso credited with helping the role of African American women in the arts. Cast as a maid in the early 1960s classic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, starring Bette Davis, Norman "refused to play the maid as a doltish, stereotypical character," noted the New York Times. "Norman refused to speak in the 'yessum' dialect expected and changed some of her lines," explainedthe Los Angeles Times. "I'd say, 'You know, this is not the way we talk these days. This is old slavery-time talk.'" Later, she developed a courseat the University of California-Los Angeles on the history of African American theater in the United States. Initially, she had been asked to teach a course on "black acting," but explained that didn't exist. Norman offered to teach the history course instead.
Norman made her stage debut in 1949's Deep Are the Roots. She followedwith performances in A Raisin in the Sun, Purlie Victorious, The Amen Corner, Andromache, and Blood Wedding. She performed in a solo show on the college circuit in 1958. Norman's first film was Burning Cross in 1947. She had the lead in The Well and supporting roles in Torch Song, Maurie, Airport '77, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, and Hostile Witness. Norman looked totelevision for more diverse roles for African American women. She appeared inshows like Dragnet, Police Woman, The Jeffersons, Marcus Welby, M.D., Little House on the Prairie, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and Roots, the Second Generation. She was featured inminiseries and movies such as Sty of the Blind Pig, Bare Essence, His Mistress, and Secrets of a Mother and Daughter. Norman won numerous awards for her work. Among them were the Outstanding Citizen Award from the Author's Study Club in 1955, the Woman of the Year Award from theLos Angeles Sentinel in 1964, and induction into the Black FilmmakersHall of Fame in 1977. The Maidie Norman Research Award at UCLA was named in her honor.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES