Pasadena Native Sally Field Born This Week in 1946: Her Six Most Iconic Roles

Published : Tuesday, November 7, 2017 | 6:07 AM

Sally Field was born November 6, 1946 in Pasadena to Margaret Field, an actress, and Richard Dryden Field, an army officer. As she celebrates her 71st birthday today, many of her fans will remember her many film and television roles.

Field got her start on television as the boy-crazy surfer girl in the sitcom “Gidget” in 1965. The show was not an initial success and was canceled after a single season, but summer reruns garnered respectable ratings, making the show a belated success. She was next seen in “The Flying Nun” cast as Sister Bertrille for three seasons, from 1967 to 1970. As the 70s wore on, Field was given more serious roles and by ’80s she solidified herself as an award-winning A-lister. Here are six iconic roles that made her a household name.

1. Sybil (1976)

Field starred in the television adaptation of “Sybil,” woman who had sixteen different personalities, which were the result of traumatic childhood abuse. Field won a leading actress Emmy.

She was so convincing that she was mistaken for a disturbed woman roaming the New York City streets and was later arrested. She told Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon about the experience saying, said, “I don’t leave character. I am a method actor, but I hide it because people will think you’re weird if you’re in a corner sort of mumbling to yourself.”

2. Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

“Smokey and the Bandit” was the was the second highest-grossing movie of 1977, directly behind “Star Wars.” It stars Field as Carrie, an unwilling bride to Smokey’s (aka Sheriff Buford T. Justice) son. The Bandit (Burt Reynolds), a maverick racecar driver, makes an $80,000-dollar bet that he can transport a shipment of Coors beer from Texarkana, TX, to Atlanta within 28 hours. (At that time, it was illegal to sell the Coors brand east of the Mississippi River without a permit.)

Already in danger of arrest from redneck lawmen like Justice, Bandit furthers his chances at a stiff jail term when he offers a ride to Carrie, who hopes to escape her unwanted wedding to Justice’s boy. The rest of the film is one long chase.

Reynolds and Field met and fell in love while making the film and had a high profile relationship for a number of years after.

3. Norma Rae (1979)

“Norma Rae” gave Field her first Academy Award for Best Actress in a title role.

Here she plays Norma Rae, a minimum-wage worker in a cotton mill. The factory has taken too much of a toll on the health of her family for her to ignore her Dickensian working conditions. After hearing a speech by New York union organizer Reuben (Ron Leibman), Norma Rae decides to join the effort to unionize her shop. This causes dissension at home when Norma Rae’s husband, Sonny (Beau Bridges), assumes that her activism is a result of a romance between herself and Reuben.

Despite the pressure brought to bear by management, Norma Rae successfully orchestrates a shutdown of the mill, resulting in a victory for the union and capitulation to its demands.

4. Places in the Heart (1979)

“Places in the Heart” won Sally Field her second Academy Award for Best Actress.

Here, she plays the role of Edna Spalding, who takes over her family’s debt-ridden farm during the Depression after her husband is killed. Though slightly embittered by the fact that a black man was responsible for her husband’s death, she accepts the help of another African-American, Danny Glover. She is also given aid and comfort by her blind boarder, John Malkovich.

5. Steel Magnolias (1989)

In “Steel Magnolias,” Field received Golden Globe award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as M’Lynn Eatenton. The well-to-do character bravely endures several assaults to her sensibilities, not the least of which is the illness (and subsequent death) of daughter Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (Julia Roberts).

6. Lincoln (2012)

Field was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, among other accolades for her portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s wife, in the 2012 movie where she starred opposite Daniel Day-Lewis.

Field said she lobbied hard for the role in the Steven Spielberg film and did extensive research to capture the complex first lady, who modern observers believe may have suffered from bipolar disorder.

“Besides putting the psychological ingredients of understanding her childhood and all of that into my head, I then tried to match her exterior,” Field said in a 2012 interview.

She also said she put on 25 pounds to match the first lady’s documented measurements from fittings. “I went to a nutritionist, and I ate really the most god-awful stuff,” says Field. “It was repulsive. And after the end of every day, I felt like a pate de foie gras goose.”

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