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In 1977, a bunch of Hollywood types showed up in east-central Alabama looking for a shooting location for an upcoming movie they were making. The film was about a female textile factory worker from North Carolina with hardly any formal education. After she and her colleagues become sick due to the company’s poor working conditions, the young woman becomes involved in trade union activities. The Hollywood types thought that Opelika, Alabama, was the perfect location to make that film.


The film was called Norma Rae and by May 1978, the stars of the film – Sally Field, Ron Leibman, Beau Bridges, Pat Hingle and Barbara Baxley – rolled into town and started filming.

Nearly all of the filming took place in and around Opelika. The mill scenes were shot at the Opelika Manufacturing Corp., and the motel scenes were filmed at The Golden Cherry Motel. Even some of the stars of the film opted to stay in the quaint little motel while filming took place.

It goes without saying that, for most of Opelika (which in 1977 had a population of around 20,000), it was an exciting time. Some of its citizens were even used as extras in the film; others just chose to hang around and watch Norma Rae being filmed. Still others were starstruck by all of the celebrities in town and hoped to get a glimpse of Burt Reynolds and his black 1977 Pontiac Trans Am when he came into town to visit Ms. Field. The couple had been an item since their Smokey and the Bandit days.

Filming ended by the end of summer and Norma Rae was released to much critical acclaim, especially for its star Sally Field who won many awards including an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Cannes Film Festival Award – all for best actress.

Opelika soon returned to normal, perhaps a little prouder of their contribution to the success of the film.

These days, nearly 44 years later, not much is left of the parts of the city where the movie was filmed. The factory where much of the movie takes place was abandoned in 2004 and demolished in 2016. Most of the houses featured in the film along with the “old mill” have been torn down as well.

However, whether you like taking road trips to visit old movie locations or you like to forego the chain accommodations for the retro feel of old-school motels on your family road trips, there’s good news:  the Golden Cherry Motel still lingers on!

Built in 1961, the Golden Cherry Motel’s kitschy moniker actually comes from the original owner’s surnames. Though it’s a bit dated, the property is well-maintained and offers a no-frills basic night’s stay in a clean room with a comfortable bed, a microwave, and fridge at a very reasonable price.

Though the owner doesn’t really try to monopolize on the motels famous past, we recommend you opt for the Norma Rae Suite (Room 103). Though there’s nothing really special or different about this room compared to other rooms, it is the room where parts of the movie were filmed, so you can feel like a special celebrity for the night knowing you’re lying in the same bed that Sally Field once did. (Okay probably not exactly the same bed after 44 years, but still pretty cool to think about.)


The hotel is located at 1010 2nd Ave in Opelika, AL and you can call ahead to make reservations at (334) 745-7623.

Before we go, here’s some more Golden Cherry trivia for you. Did you know that Norma Rae isn’t the only film that made the Golden Cherry Motel a bit of a celebrity motel? In the 2002 film Sweet Home Alabama, Andrew Hennings (Patrick Dempsey), the wealthy boyfriend of the film’s protagonist, Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon), tells his mother that he and Melanie will be staying at the Golden Cherry Motel. However, Pigeon Creek, Alabama, where Sweet Home Alabama takes place) is located about two hours away (or around 120 miles) from Opelika.  That’s a road trip in itself right there!

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