Maidie Norman

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

Maidie Norman
Maidie Norman photographed by Carl Van Vechten
Maidie Ruth Gamble

(1912-10-16)October 16, 1912
DiedMay 2, 1998(1998-05-02) (aged 85)
Resting placeMeadowbrook Memory Gardens
Other namesMadie Norman
EducationCentral High School
Alma materBennett College
Columbia University
Years active19171988
Spouse(s)McHenry Norman (m.1937?)
Weldon D. Canada (m. 19771998)

Early life

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 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 housekeeper Elvira Stitt 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

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 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.[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]


Year Title Role Notes
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 Torch Song Anne
1953 Forever Female Emma, Beatrice's Maid Uncredited
1953 Money from Home Mattie, Phyllis' Maid Uncredited
1954 Executive Suite Housekeeper 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 Maurie Mrs. Stokes
1973 Sixteen Aunt Ada Alternative title: The Young Prey
1976 A Star Is Born Justice of the Peace Uncredited
1977 Airport '77 Dorothy
1978 Movie Movie Gussie
1982 Halloween III: Season of the Witch Nurse Agnes

Television credits

Year Title Role Notes
19501954 Fireside Theater 2 episodes
1955 Hallmark Hall of Fame Lurie Episode: The Courtship of George Washington and Martha Custiss"
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"
19571959 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 The 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"
19671968 Dragnet Various roles 2 episodes
19671970 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"
19701971 Mannix Various roles 2 episodes
1971 Room 222 Episode: "Dixon's Raiders"
19711976 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
19721973 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"
19751977 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", (final appearance)


  1. Jones Royster, Jacqueline (2003). Profiles of Ohio Women: 1803-2003. Ohio University Press. p. 226. ISBN 0-821-41508-5.
  2. 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. "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. 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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