On November 6, 1946, Sally Field was born in Pasadena, CA. Celebrating her 71st birthday today, the Academy and Emmy Award-winning actress is still a Hollywood fixture. Field’s decades-long career started with light-hearted TV characters in the 1960s, until she transitioned into more serious parts that earned her critical acclaim. After recently starring in “The Glass Menagerie” on Broadway, Field is slated to join Jonah Hill and Emma Stone in a new dark comedy series, “Maniac,” for Netflix. Field continues to define her own career, without allowing others to hem her into one type of role.
With an actress mother and actor/stuntman stepfather, Field was born into show business. She once joked that when she was born, the doctor said to her mother, “You have an actress.” A rocky home life pushed Field further towards her acting destiny. She sought refuge from her parents’ frequent fighting at home by performing in an after school drama club. After graduating from high school, she further cultivated her craft at a Columbia Studios acting workshop.
At 18, Field landed her first lead role in the TV show, “Gidget” (1965). Although the program was cancelled after one season, Field was so popular with TV audiences that the network created another series just for her, “The Flying Nun” (1967). The show was a major hit, but Field was concerned that playing this light-hearted character would forever typecast her against getting more weighty roles.
She explained in a recent New York Times interview, “When I got discovered — like ‘wham!’ and just stepped into a television series — I couldn’t see enough to dream. But as I worked, my dreams began to open up. I wanted to be a real actor. I wanted to learn the craft, and all I knew was what I learned in high school.”
After her three-season run as the flying nun, Field played a woman with ESP in a short-lived sitcom in the early 1970s, “The Girl With Something Extra,” while continuing to study with the famous acting teacher at the Actors Studio, Lee Strasberg. By the mid 1970s, she was ready to star in films with more gravitas. She played a woman with multiple-personality disorder in the 1976 TV film, “Sybil,” and won her first Emmy. Then she entered her late 1970s phase starring opposite her real life love interest at the time, Burt Reynolds, in a number of romantic comedies, including “Smokey and the Bandit” (1977) and “Hooper” (1978).
Field finally scored her most serious and critically-acclaimed role to date as the title character in “Norma Rae” (1979). She won her first Best Actress Oscar for playing Norma Rae, the union activist mill worker, and, in 1984, she won another Best Actress Oscar for “Places In the Heart” (1984). In her acceptance speech for that award, she famously exclaimed, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.”
Although Field was teased relentlessly for her seemingly overeager Oscar quip, she continues to be a Hollywood heavy-hitter. From the 1980s to the 2000s, she starred in many popular films like “Steel Magnolias,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Forrest Gump,” and “Lincoln.”
Aside from her new upcoming Netflix series, Field returned to the small screen in the 2000s, winning her third Emmy in 2007 for the show “Brothers and Sisters.” An inspiration to anyone refusing to be fit into one box, Field is living proof that you can forge your own path in life, with enough determination and talent.