The new movie "Lincoln" is already receiving a lot of Oscar buzz, and Sally Field's performance as the troubled Mary Todd Lincoln (for which she gained 25 pounds) has been called "unforgettable." So what better time to take a look at one of Hollywood's legendary Self-Empowered Women?
Sally Field was born in Pasadena, California, on November 6, 1946. Her mother (Margaret Morlan Field) was an actress in B movies, and her father (Richard Dryden Field) was a captain in the U.S. Army. They divorced in 1950 (1: No Paternal Safety Net), and her mother later married actor and stuntman Jock Mahoney. Her stepfather was volatile (and she was afraid of him), but Sally has credited Mahoney with forcing her to learn how to survive.
Sally described her unsettled childhood to Oprah Winfrey this way: "...we were working class....It was an insecure existence, we lived in the Valley, but one day someone came and took all our stuff away....My stepfather never came to grips with the idea that what you have today might not be here tomorrow."
Sally attended Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, California, where she was a cheerleader. Her class voted her "Class Clown," and one of her fellow was Michael Ovitz, who later became her agent. Her career began when, as a teenager she was chosen to star in the TV series "Gidget" (1965-66), which was about a teenage girl who lived alone with her father. Next came "The Flying Nun" (1967-70), which Sally didn't want to do, but her stepfather warned her that if she didn't accept the offer she'd never work again.
During this time, Field sang "The Flying Nun" theme song, and she made it to the Billboard Hot 100 with her single "Felicidad." She also sang on the soundtrack for "The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning" (9: Music).
In 1968, she married Steven Craig, and they had two sons, Peter and Eli. At this point, Field struggled to break into movies but she had been typecast as merely a "cute" actress. Talking about her looks, she told Playboy magazine "...I was raised to think that a certain type of woman was sexy and any other kind was not. It took me a long time to understand that my sense of myself is sexy, and that is doesn't have to be like Jessica Lange's...Jessica is the kind of woman who used to make me feel how unsexy I was. It took me a long time not to be intimidated by her kind of sexuality" (6: Life is Not a Beauty Pageant).
As an indication of how her "industry" respect has risen, consider that in 1965 she was paid $500 per week for filming Gidget. For The Flying Nun (1967) she earned $4,500 per episode. For the 1984 movie Places in the Heart, she earned $1,500,000, and for each episode of Brothers and Sisters , she earned (at least) $100,000 (8: Turning No Into Yes).
When Sally's agent told her that she wasn't "good enough for movies," she fired him, and she also divorced her husband (14: Selective Disassociation). She got angry that producer after producer wouldn't audition her, so on a dare she auditioned for the bad-girl role in "Stay Hungry," and the rest is history (13: More Than Meets the Eye). Her list of hit movies spans from Sybil (1976) to Forrest Gump (1994) to this year's Lincoln. She has won two Academy Awards, three Emmys, two Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress, and been honored at the Cannes Film Festival. She will be honored by the Palm Springs International Film Festival with its Career Achievement Award January 5, 2013.
She has starred with James Caan, Michael Caine, James Garner, Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Hanks, Mark Harmon, Paul Newman, Burt Reynolds, Robin Williams and, of course, Daniel Day Lewis. For years after her first divorce she was romantically involved with Burt Reynolds. But in 1984, she married film producer Alan Greisman; they had a son, Sam, in 1987, and divorced in 1993 (15: Forget About Prince Charming).
Just like her character Nora Walker on TV's Brothers and Sisters (2006-11), Sally has been a deeply involved mother, and received the 2012 Human Rights Campaign Ally for Equality Award for her efforts on behalf of gay rights issues. The presenter was her youngest son, Sam Greisman, who is openly gay. She once spoke about what loving fathers her two older boys are, and commented: "To raise children who go on to be great parents is an accomplishment--that's the Oscar moment in life" (16: Intensive Motherhood)
Obviously, Sally has cared deeply about the art and craft of acting. She explained her "You like me" Oscar speech (for 1984's Places in the Heart) by saying "...I'd achieved what I'd always wanted--which was to do good work and have that work be recognized" (7: Magnificent Obsession).
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