TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
Blessed with boundless energy and charm, Sally Field was perfectly suited for the all-American girl characters that brought her early stardom, although it was her later roles, most often as strong independent women, that brought her lasting critical acclaim. Field broke out as the spunky surfer girl "Gidget" (ABC, 1965-66) and as Sister Betrille in "The Flying Nun" (ABC, 1967-1970) before reinventing herself as a serious actress with an Emmy-winning performance as the schizophrenic "Sybil" (NBC, 1976). Field's popularity rarely waned over the next two decades, helped in large part by a fabled romance with her "Smokey and the Bandit" (1977) co-star Burt Reynolds and Oscar-winning turns as a labor organizer in "Norma Rae" (1979) and as a Depression era single mother trying to save her farm in "Places of the Heart" (1984). She maintained her stature with a string of successful films that included "Steel Magnolias" (1989), "Mrs. Doubtfire" (1993) and "Forrest Gump" (1994). At an age when many actresses' best days were considered behind them, Field lent an aura of dignity and refinement to her role as the matriarch of a dysfunctional family on the drama series "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC, 2006-2011),...
Blessed with boundless energy and charm, Sally Field was perfectly suited for the all-American girl characters that brought her early stardom, although it was her later roles, most often as strong independent women, that brought her lasting critical acclaim. Field broke out as the spunky surfer girl "Gidget" (ABC, 1965-66) and as Sister Betrille in "The Flying Nun" (ABC, 1967-1970) before reinventing herself as a serious actress with an Emmy-winning performance as the schizophrenic "Sybil" (NBC, 1976). Field's popularity rarely waned over the next two decades, helped in large part by a fabled romance with her "Smokey and the Bandit" (1977) co-star Burt Reynolds and Oscar-winning turns as a labor organizer in "Norma Rae" (1979) and as a Depression era single mother trying to save her farm in "Places of the Heart" (1984). She maintained her stature with a string of successful films that included "Steel Magnolias" (1989), "Mrs. Doubtfire" (1993) and "Forrest Gump" (1994). At an age when many actresses' best days were considered behind them, Field lent an aura of dignity and refinement to her role as the matriarch of a dysfunctional family on the drama series "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC, 2006-2011), picking up another Emmy in the process. Continuing to work with the best and the brightest, the actress impressed in such acclaimed projects as Steven Spielberg's historical biopic "Lincoln" (2012). Possessing a unique blend of likability and raw talent, Field's reputation as one of Hollywood's most accomplished leading ladies was well earned.
Born in Pasadena, CA on Nov. 6, 1946, Field's father was U.S. Army Captain Richard Dryden Field, and her mother was Margaret Field, a Paramount contract player best known for the 1951 cult sci-fi movie, "The Man from Planet X" and countless episodic television appearances. The Fields split in 1951, with Margaret Field relocating to her mother's house while trying to make ends meet. In 1953, she married famed stunt man and actor Jock Mahoney, who proved a difficult stepfather to Field and her brother Richard. Field and Mahoney frequently clashed throughout her teenage years, but they did find common ground in acting. Field was a member of her drama club at Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, CA, and the veteran stunt performer encouraged his step-daughter to hone her talent at a summer acting workshop at Columbia Pictures. In 1964, the 18-year-old Field caught the eye of ABC casting agents at an audition, and they offered her the lead role in a new series based on the popular "Gidget" book and movies. The show required its star to have some proficiency at surfing, which Field swore she had. The truth was that she had never been on a board, and needed lessons to simply stand on it in front of rear-projected waves.
The show, which was one of the first regularly scheduled programs for ABC, was crushed in the ratings by CBS' rural juggernaut "The Beverly Hillbillies" (1962-1971) and ceased production at the end of its debut season. Surprisingly, the show's ratings and Field's popularity among young viewers soared during the summer rerun season, but ABC did not renew it. Field then moved on to the short-lived sitcom "Hey Landlord" (NBC, 1966-67), before making her movie debut as a settler in "The Way West" (1967), starring with such heavyweights as Kirk Douglas and Robert Mitchum. She also tried her hand at a pop music career with the 1967 single "Felicidad" and a full album in 1968. That same year, she married Steven Craig, with whom she had two sons. Sensing that young audiences liked the ever-perky Field, ABC brought her back into the TV fold with a new series, "The Flying Nun" (1967-1970), which hinged on the absurd notion that Field's novice nun could become airborne due to her small frame and oversized headgear. Despite a critical drubbing, the show became a hit with viewers; unfortunately, it helped to typecast Field as a lightweight comic actress for several years. The show remained a pop culture touchstone - though mostly as the butt of jokes - for decades after it left the air. Reportedly, ABC even extended an offer to Field to appear in an updated "Flying Nun" TV movie in the 1980s, which she not surprisingly turned down.
As her career progressed, Field appeared mostly in TV movies and series during the early 1970s, including the counterculture drama "Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring" (1971), in which she starred as a reformed drug addict who clashes with her straight-laced family; the violent "Mongo's Back in Town" (1971) in which Field is the ill-fated girlfriend of hit man Joe Don Baker; and "Home for the Holidays" (1972), a suspenseful thriller with Field as the youngest of three sisters targeted by a killer who wants her family inheritance. Field made a brief return to the sitcom with the dire comedy "The Girl with Something Extra" (NBC, 1973-74), in which she starred as a newly married woman with ESP. Field divorced Craig in 1975, and set out to reinvent herself as a dramatic actress. She starred as the romantic interest for Jeff Bridges and then bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger in Bob Rafelson's little-seen drama, "Stay Hungry" (1976), which featured her sole onscreen nude scene. But the picture that convinced audiences and industry players alike of the depth of Field's talent was the 1976 miniseries "Sybil," in which she starred as a young graduate student whose abusive childhood resulted in a stunning dissociative identity disorder that manifested itself in 16 different personalities. The production won her an Emmy, but more importantly, respect within the film and television community who now looked at her as more than just a flying nun.
During this period, Field became romantically involved with Burt Reynolds, who was on the cusp of becoming one of Hollywood's most popular actors during the 1970s. The pair also made a popular onscreen couple, starting in 1977 with the mega-successful action comedy "Smokey and the Bandit," which landed at the No. 2 spot for top grossing movies of that year. Field and Reynolds' chemistry proved irresistible for moviegoers, so the pair continued to co-star in the comedies "The End" (1978) and "Hooper" (1978), as well as the inevitable "Smokey and the Bandit II" (1980) sequel, all of which proved popular at the box office. Field's stepfather Jock Mahoney appeared briefly in "The End" as a man in a wheelchair, while the character of veteran stuntman Jocko (Brian Keith) in "Hooper" was inspired by Mahoney's life and career.
By the end of the 1970s, Field was finding herself typecast again, this time as Reynolds' arm candy in a string of popular if distinctly middlebrow pictures. She split from Reynolds, professionally and personally, in the early 1980s, in the process breaking Reynolds' heart; years later, he would proclaim her the love his life. Newly single, she took on one of the most challenging roles in her career - that of a Southern textile worker who risks her career and marriage to unionize her factory. The picture was a critical and box office success, providing Field with not only an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress, but an iconic role that forever banished the lightweight roles of her early career and her onscreen connection as a simple Reynolds co-star. In fact, the American Film Institute ranked Norma Rae Webster 15th on their list of film heroes from 100 years of cinema.
Though her next few projects were missteps - the ill-advised "Beyond the Poseidon Adventure" (1979) and "Back Roads" (1981) with Tommy Lee Jones - Field soon embarked on a successful string of projects that befit her talents. "Absence of Malice" (1981) starred Field (and earned her another Golden Globe nomination) as an enterprising journalist whose articles severely damage the reputation of the son of a local crime boss (Paul Newman), while "Murphy's Romance" (1987) was a May-December romance buoyed by the charm of Field and James Garner as the unlikely couple. Field scored another triumph in 1984 as a widow who attempts to keep her family's farm running in "Places in the Heart." Field won her second Oscar for the picture, and gushed effusively in her acceptance speech that she finally felt accepted by the Hollywood community. Unfortunately, her exact quote - "I haven't had an orthodox career, and I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!" - was interpreted by many as insincere and over-the-top, serving as fodder for comics and pundits for decades. Field herself later parodied the speech for a television commercial. The same year, Field married producer Alan Greisman and the couple had a son, Samuel.
Field's output in the late 1980s and early 1990s was hit and miss; successes included the film version of "Steel Magnolias," in which she believably played Julia Roberts' mother; "Mrs. Doubtfire," as Robin Williams' exasperated ex-wife; and her biggest blockbuster then to date, "Forrest Gump" in which she starred as Tom Hanks' mother, despite the fact that the actors were only a decade apart in age. Misfires included "Punchline" (1988), also with Hanks, in which Field essayed a housewife who attempts to break into stand-up comedy; "Not Without My Daughter" (1991), in which Field stars as an American woman who attempts to escape her Iranian husband; and "Eye for an Eye" (1996), with Field seeks revenge on Kiefer Sutherland for the death of her daughter. Off the screen, she also divorced Greisman in 1993.
Sensing that substantial roles for women in their late-forties and early-fifties were growing few and far between, Field wisely shifted her priorities to include more television work - including appearances on "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-1998), and a 2000 NBC miniseries based on Charles Dickens' "David Copperfield," which earned her a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination. She also began taking turns behind the camera, making her writing and directing debut with a charming holiday TV movie, "The Christmas Tree" (1996), with Julie Harris and Andrew McCarthy. She also helmed an episode of Tom Hanks' acclaimed "From the Earth to the Moon" miniseries for HBO in 1998, as well as served as executive producer on "A Woman of Independent Means," a 1995 miniseries in which she also starred and which yielded two Emmys nods for her as an actress and producer. She even shared production duties with no less than Steven Spielberg on the 1997 documentary, "The Lost Children of Berlin" (1997).
Field made her debut as feature film director with "Beautiful" (2000), a comedy-drama with Minnie Driver as a woman who wants to become Miss America. The picture did not fare well at the box office, though Driver was singled out with praise for her performance. That same year, Field began a recurring role on "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009) as the bipolar mother of Dr. Abby Lockhart (Maura Tierney). The role gained Field another Emmy, no doubt helping her decision to return to the series several times between 2000 and 2006. She also made her fourth venture into a primetime television show as the lead on "The Court" (ABC, 2003), a legal drama from the producers of "ER" that lasted only six episodes. Field returned briefly to feature films with a cameo as Natalie Portman's unsympathetic mother in "Where the Heart Is" (2001); "Legally Blonde 2: Red White and Blonde" (2003), with Field starring as a congresswoman with whom Reese Witherspoon interns; and "Two Weeks" (2006), as the dying mother of a Southern clan who calls her far-flung children together to spend her final weeks with them.
That same year, she replaced Betty Buckley on the drama series, "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC, 2006-2011), as the head of a California family that struggles to keep it together after the death of her husband in the pilot episode. Though the show initially suffered from production troubles and re-castings, it eventually blossomed into a hit for the network and earned praises for its positive portrayal of gay characters. For her efforts, Field won an Emmy in 2007. No stranger to acceptance speech controversy, Field did not disappoint. Her speech was cut short by the show's producers at the Fox network when she said, "Let's face it - if the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamned wars in the first place," which earned her much applause among the attendees. The following year, she earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Television Drama, then won a Screen Actors Guild award in early 2009 for her role on "Brothers & Sisters." Following her stint on "Brothers" and its cancellation in 2011, Field returned to the big screen as Mary Lincoln Todd opposite Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president in Steven Spielberg's much anticipated "Lincoln" (2012). For her performance, Field received both Golden Globe and Academy Award nods for Best Supporting Actress.
Filmographyclose complete filmography
CAST: (feature film)
Milestones close milestones
She received the Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Theatricals Woman of the Year Award on February 1986.
"I'm not going to be knighted, like Meryl Streep. My real assets have always been acting and just being pleasant." --Sally Field quoted in People, July 8, 1991.
About her now infamous 1985 Oscar acceptance speech, Field told Lawrence Grobel in Movieline (1991): "People have interpreted that in a way in which they can understand with their own words. And they often will interpret that feeling as insecurity when really it isn't. It's a very different thing than insecurity when you receive an Oscar and stand up there and go, 'Oh my God, I can't believe you actually like me.' My work worked for this one moment in time. And it isn't insecurity behind that at all. Have you ever had a standing ovation from your peers? If you do, you will be overcome with a feeling that at this one moment in time, I did it! An impossible task. All the odds, all the struggle to stay in the business, to get the work, to do it, to be right, to be good, at the right place at the right time, to commit yourself, to have it "work"! That's what it's about."
Field spoofed her 1985 Academy Award acceptance speech in a 2000 commercial.
"Before my autobiography came out, I called and told her what a schmuck I'd been during our relationship. I also told Sally that she was the love of my life and that I hoped she finally realized how special she is." --Burt Reynolds to People, January 29, 1996.
"I've had the opportunity to work with some remakable directors. I think it's beneficial for directors to understand acting to better relate with their actors." --Field on directing, quoted in press material for 1996's "The Christmas Tree"
On relationships, Field told People (January 29, 1996): "I'm a woman who was brought up in the '50s, and so there's part of me that still wants to be June Cleaver and call to the family. 'Dinner's ready!' But my bneeds have changed. I now realize that people need their solitude and separateness. I believe if you have the money, couples should have separate bedrooms. There's something unnatural about sleeping in the same bed, dressing in the same closet, sharing everything.
"I'm finally coming to grips with the idea that I don't like giving up my space. I don't need somebody with me to make me whole. I'm totally complete."
"You start going in a direction and you think this is the direction you're going to go in forever after: Hey, okay, this is what I am. I star in movies. Movies are made around me. I develop films all about this female sense of character. And I carry the film myself. Well, when things changes [she means her age] you have to rethink.
And also the truth of the matter is, I don't want to be jumping up and down in the same place. I did that. I did those ingenues. If I have to play another ingenue--oy! I'm dancing as fast as I can to reach all the notes, to play all the melodies that are going on." --Field to Entertainment Weekly, February 17, 1995.
"I think I'm much darker than people suspect." --Sally Field to People, January 29, 1996.
"I'm not a very gracious person. I'm very hard on people, but, well, there ain't nothin' I can say. I'm spiteful! Competitive! It isn't that I want to do what they're doing. But I want the opportunity to work as much as so-and-so. And I'm so specific [a type]. It's not like I fit into a whole lot of other people's categories." --Field quoted in Entertainment Weekly, February 17, 1995.
"I never had trouble saying 'no' or being the 'bad girl' when it was within the work." --Sally Field quoted in New York Post, February 16, 1995.
Lawrence Grobel: The word that keeps cropping up in articles about you is "survivor." Is that how you see yourself?
Sally Field: It's a word that underestimates why I'm here. I don't think I'm here because I have the ability to keep my head above the water. I can "survive" in a storm. I'm here because I have talent. --From Movieline, 1991.
Companions close complete companion listing
Bibliography close complete biography
Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.Click here to contribute