Daily Archives: July 12, 2014

Norman…Is That You? (1976)

norman is that you

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Gay son comes out.

Ben (Redd Foxx) travels to L.A. to visit his son Norman (Michael Warren) after his wife Beatrice (Pearl Bailey) leaves him for his brother. However, unbeknownst to Ben Norman has come to terms with his closeted homosexuality and is now living with Garson (Denis Dugan). When Ben arrives unannounced Norman tries to keep his gay relationship a secret, but Ben eventually finds out about it and goes on a mission to have him ‘cured’.

The story was originally written as a play, but flopped and ran for only 12 performances in 1970. For whatever reason it was decided 6 years later to revamp the idea, but do it with a black cast instead. However, times have changed and most everything here seems quite dated. The Ben character could easily be considered homophobic by today’s standards and the gay jokes he makes seem out-of-line and even offensive.  The production, which was shot on video and then transferred to film, looks stagy and cheap with ‘the view’ of L.A.’s skyline that can be seen outside Norman’s patio door clearly being a painting. George Schlatter who is best known for producing the 60’s variety TV-show ‘Laugh-In’ makes his one-and-only cinematic directorial effort and is unable to overcome the script’s limitations.

Foxx is the only reason it is even slightly enjoyable. Just watching him walk around with his patented strut is amusing. However, the way he treats Garson simply for being gay is no longer considered funny and I felt the Garson character shouldn’t have put up with half as much as he does. Still, the part where Foxx dreams that he is a gay actor accepting the Academy Award is the film’s best moment.

Dugan plays up the flaming gay character relatively well, but Warren is a weak link as he says his lines like he is reading them off of a teleprompter and shows no emotion or variety of facial expressions. Having Bailey cast as Foxx’s wife seemed inspired, but the character gets wasted in trivial husband-and-wife arguments that knock this thing down to a TV-sitcom level. Jayne Meadows who appears as Garson’s mother is equally wasted and is in only one scene even though the character had great potential especially with the idea of setting her up on a date with Foxx.

There is enough comedic banter to save this from being a bomb, but just slightly. Although it is shown that the parents reluctantly come to terms with their son’s sexuality it still conveys the message that it is ‘okay’ to be openly prejudice towards the lifestyle, which likely could rub most of today’s viewers the wrong way.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: September 29, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Rated PG

Director: George Schlatter

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube