Sally Field (left) and an Oscar (right)

The Life and Career of Oscar Winning Actress, Sally Field

Academy, Emmy, and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Sally Field is known for her roles in “Forrest Gump,” “Brothers and Sisters,” “Lincoln,” and “Steel Magnolias.” The 76-year-old actress began her career with the titular role in “Gidget” in 1965. Since then, she has appeared in various TV shows, movies, and Broadway shows. Field has also been outspoken about her personal challenges. In her 2018 memoir “In Pieces,” she opens up about being sexually abused by her stepfather as well as her struggles with depression, self-doubt, and loneliness.

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The Beginning of Her Career

Sally Field was born in Pasadena, California, on November 6, 1946. Her father, Richard Dryden Field, was a salesman and her mother was actress Margaret Field (née Morlan). After her parents divorced, her mother married actor and stuntman Jock Mahoney. Sally has a brother, Richard Field, and a half-sister, Princess O’Mahoney. [1]

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Her first ever role was Frances Elizabeth ‘Gidget’ Lawrence in “Gidget.” However, the show was canceled after one season due to poor ratings. She then went on to star in “The Flying Nun,” which ran for three seasons. She had reportedly hated working on the show and was battling depression at the time. “…I just had to put my head down and go to work and do the very best job I could,” she said. “And those are the times when you realize that there’s a reason why you’re eating so much but trying to hide. You’re trying to cover up your depression. But at that point in my life I didn’t have the skills to recognize what was happening to me …and being able to see what your dreams are.” [2]

In 1967, she appeared in her first film role in “The Way West.” Then, in 1977, she starred in the box office success “Smokey and the Bandit” with Burt Reynolds, her boyfriend at the time. In 1979, she starred in “Norma Rae” and received her first Oscar for her performance. Later, her second Oscar came in 1984 for “Places in the Heart.” In 1994, she played the mother in the film “Forrest Gump” that won six Academy Awards.

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Her Personal Life

Sally Field married Steven Craig in 1968, and they had two sons, Peter and Eli. They divorced in 1975, and she married Alan Greisman in 1984. They had one son together, Samuel, before divorcing in 1994. From 1976 to 1980, she dated Burt Reynolds, a difficult relationship she discusses in her memoir. She recounts his controlling behavior and how he convinced Field not to attend the Emmy ceremony where she won for “Sybil.” Reynolds actually died just before her book’s release, and in his own memoir, he called their failed relationship “the biggest regret of my life” in his 2015 memoir “But Enough About Me.[3]

Meanwhile, Fields said they hadn’t spoken for 30 years before his passing. “He was not someone I could be around,” she explained. “He was just not good for me in any way. And he had somehow invented in his rethinking of everything that I was more important to him than he had thought, but I wasn’t. He just wanted to have the thing he didn’t have. I just didn’t want to deal with that.”

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In hindsight, Field made connections between her relationship with Reynolds — which she described as “confusing and complicated, and not without loving and caring, but really complicated and hurtful to me” — and her relationship with her stepfather. In her memoir, she also talks about her stepfather’s abuse, when he would frequently call her to his room when she was 14. “I felt both a child, helpless, and not a child,” she wrote. “Powerful. This was power. And I owned it. But I wanted to be a child — and yet.” [4]

Field later found out that her mother had known about the abuse all along, but her husband had lied and said it only happened once when he was drunk. Field had told her it was “all through my childhood” and wrote the memoir after her mother died. “It was the only way I was going to find the pieces of my mother that I couldn’t put together. And until I could see that, I couldn’t forgive her, and I needed to forgive her or at least understand her. So I wrote the book to forgive her.[5]

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Sally Field Today

These days, Sally Field keeps her Oscars and Emmys in a TV room where she plays video games with her grandkids. So far, Field shows no signs of retiring with her film “Spoiler Alert” releasing next week, as well as “80 for Brady” coming in 2023.

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As an actor, she dared this town to typecast her, and then simply broke through every dogmatic barrier to find her own way — not to stardom, which I imagine she’d decry, but to great roles in great films and television,” said Steven Spielberg, her friend and “Lincoln” director. “Through her consistently good taste and feisty persistence, she has survived our ever-changing culture, stood the test of time and earned this singular place in history.”

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Sources

  1. “Sally Field: Biography.IMDb
  2. “Sally Field Gets Candid About the Struggles and Triumphs of Her Historic Career: ‘I’m an Actress, so Pain Is a Good Thing’.Variety. Claudia Eller, Brent Lang.
  3. “Burt Reynolds explains those strange comments he made about Hoda Kotb, Sally Field.” USA Today. Bryan Alexander. March 23, 2018.
  4. “Sally Field Describes Sexual Abuse by Stepfather in ‘Raw’ New Memoir: ‘I Felt Helpless’.” People. Maura Hohman. September 11, 2018.
  5. “How Sally Field Showed Us a Side We’ve Never Seen Before.” Variety. Claudia Eller. March 23, 2022
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