November 5, 1946– Sally Field:
“Sexuality is a human, glorious part of existence. In Sam’s case, certainly, nature told him what to be. It wasn’t something he looked to be, and he found it difficult to grapple with.”
Sam is Field’s out and proud gay son, Sam Greisman, a writer and filmmaker who lives in NYC, and in a crazy coincidence, a friend of mine.
In terms of how she helped guide her son through his struggles with his own sexuality, Field wrote:
“I welcomed him to welcome himself, and find that part of his life.”
Last year, Field wrote that she was horrified by parents who disapproved of their LGBTQ children and, in some cases, even disowned them:
“It’s not against nature if nature has actually done this. Don’t be frightened, and don’t put your own prejudices or fears about sexuality on your children.”
In 2012, Field received the Human Rights Campaign’s Ally For Equality Award for her support of the LGBTQ community. In her acceptance speech, she said:
“It is one of the great privileges of my life to be the mother of a gay son.”
In 2014, she said it was her son’s influence that brought her to write an op-ed piece about the “Right To Discriminate” legislation popping up in state legislatures:
“Why would anyone want to prevent my son, or anyone’s son or daughter, from having basic legal safeguards like family medical leave, Social Security survivor’s benefits, or health insurance? It doesn’t make any sense, but it won’t change until people speak out.”
Field was born in Pasadena, California to actor Margaret Field, and she grew up in showbiz. Her parents divorced, and her mother married stuntman Jock Mahoney. Mahoney was a strict disciplinarian who expected faithful obedience from Field and her two siblings. He also fought frequently with Margaret Field, and the couple’s increasingly volatile relationship was tough on the kids. Field found solace in the drama department at her school.
After graduating high school, Field took an acting workshop at Columbia Studios. Her first professional job was the lead role in the 1965 television series Gidget, based on the popular Sandra Dee film from 1959. Field was just 18-years-old, polite, petite and perky. The show was canceled after one season, but audiences liked her. They liked her so much that ABC created another series for her about a nun so light that she could take flight. It was titled, get this: The Flying Nun (1967-1970). Field didn’t want to do the series, but Mahoney told her: “If you turn down this part, you may never work again.”
The Flying Nun proved popular, but Field was miserable. She felt she would never be considered a serious actor, and the show only magnified that fear. In 1968, she married her high school sweetheart, Steven Craig, and soon became pregnant. Her pregnancy was hidden on the series using creative shots and the folds of her nun’s habit.
The Flying Nun only lasted three seasons, and Field took a break afterwards. She returned to acting in 1973. She studied at the famed Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg. Strasberg encouraged Field to move away from her goody-two-shoes television image. The transformation also included divorcing Craig in 1975.
Field had a breakthrough role as a rowdy party girl in the low budget bodybuilding film Stay Hungry (1976) with Jeff Bridges and an unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger. That same year, she was cast in the television film Sybil, playing a woman with multiple-personality disorder, and winning her first Emmy Award. Field appeared in Smokey And The Bandit (1977), in a comic turn as a runaway bride who catches a ride from a trucker, played by Burt Reynolds at the height of his fame. Field and Reynolds became an item while filming. They had great onscreen chemistry in two other comedies, Hooper (1978) and 1980’s Smokey And The Bandit II (1980). Why were there not more Smokey And The Bandit flicks?
Field had an easy, breezy, natural way with comedy, but it was a dramatic role that brought her that first Academy Award. She starred as a gutsy, determined mill worker who tries to unionize her workplace in Norma Rae (1979), winning over Jane Fonda, Marsha Mason, Jill Clayburgh, and her pal Bette Midler. She took more dramatic roles, including opposite Paul Newman in the excellent Absence Of Malice (1981), playing a ruthless journalist.
In the 1984 historical drama Places In The Heart, Field plays a widow struggling to keep her family’s farm during the Great Depression. The film features John Malkovich, Danny Glover and Ed Harris. It received strong reviews and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning one for director Robert Benton’s screenplay, and one for Field. She was so thrilled to be winning her second Oscar that during her acceptance speech, she gushed:
“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! Thank you.”
This enthusiastic comment may have been the most memorable quote of that Oscar evening, and poor Field soon found herself the subject of jokes because of it. I think after 33 years, we can let her own it.
Field made great films in the 1980s: Murphy’s Romance (1985) with James Garner and 1988’s Punchline with Tom Hanks, and as part of the ensemble of Steel Magnolias (1989).
In the 1991, she had one of her last starring roles in the bubbly Soapdish with Kevin Kline. After that, Field moved gracefully into character roles. She produced the 1995 television miniseries A Woman Of Independent Means and directed and wrote the television film The Christmas Tree (1996) starring Julie Harris, and directed the 2000 film Beautiful with Minnie Driver as a ruthless beauty queen.
Field even returned to television, winning accolades for in role the hit series ER, playing a bipolar woman, winning another Emmy Award in 2001.
In 2002, Field turned to the stage, starring on Broadway in Edward Albee’s The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia?. But, she ended up having one of her greatest successes on television, as a family matriarch on the gay-themed drama Brothers & Sisters (2006-2011), winning a third Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Another generation discovered Field when she took a supporting role in the blockbuster The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) starring Andrew Garfield, playing Peter Parker’s beloved Aunt May. Field reprised the role in 2014’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
She had to lobby Steven Speilberg and even screen test to convince him to let her portray Mary Todd Lincoln opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln (2014). You remember First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, despite her troubled life, she never showed her vulva in a photo spread… not like First Ladies nowadays.
Last year, Field starred in the delightful, quirky romantic comedy Hello, My Name Is Doris, getting it on with hunky 36-year-old Max Greenfield.
This spring she was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Amanda Wingfield in Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie, one of the giant roles for women in the American Theatre. You remember that Tony Award broadcast, the one where host Kevin Spacey dressed as Sunset Boulevard‘s Norma Desmond made a joke about coming out of the closet.
Field can currently be seen in the horror film Little Evil (2017), written and directed by her son Eli Craig. It also stars Big Little Lies’ Adam Scott.
Coming up next, Field stars with Emma Stone, Jonah Hill and Justin Theroux in the dark comedy Maniac, a limited series for Netflix.
During the 2007 Emmy Awards, Field’s acceptance speech included: “If the mothers ruled the world, there would be no goddamn wars in the first place.” Fox Broadcasting Company, which aired the Emmys, cut the sound and picture after the word “god” and did not cut back to the stage after Field finished talking.
Field is an advocate for Women’s Rights. She supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, and she is no fan of the current POTUS. She is featured in a video released by Humanity For Progress, along with other Hollywood types and faith leaders and activists, demanding that Congress oppose the racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, anti-union and anti-environmental policies of that papaya colored authoritarian man in the White House. She asked Congress to “vigorously oppose him” and “block nominees who threaten the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, immigrants and the poor”.
In the delightful Soapdish, Field plays a middle-aged soap opera actor whose career is crumbling. Field’s character goes to a mall in New Jersey where she knows she’ll be surrounded by adoring fans. Sound familiar? Trump, when facing the ire of decent Americans, loves heading to places where he knows he will draw a bigly crowd of admirers. But, he will never win an Emmy.