Book Review: Outstanding In Her Field

NY Times
When I wrote this blog, “In Pieces” was #2 on the 10/14/18 New York Times Best Sellers list.  Not bad for a first-time author!

Publication date:  September 2018

Review, short version:  Three roses out of four.

Review, long version:

I generally don’t read memoirs because unhappy people write them.

I think they’re people whose lives are mostly misery, starting with their dysfunctional families and not improving much after that.  Whatever moments of hope or joy they experience are often smothered by the next tsunami of misery, until the book ends and I’m left shaking my head and wondering, “Why did I read that?”

But I read Sally Field’s memoir, In Pieces, because I like Sally Field.

Field’s not-so-happy family:  Sally,  Jock, Margaret, and brother Ricky.

I think she’s an actress of great range and great endurance, and she’s a survivor – of parents who divorced when she was four, leaving Fields with a mostly absent father until he wanted to borrow money, and a distant, narcissistic mother (my words, not Fields’); of a stepfather, actor Jock Mahoney, who sexually abused Fields throughout her whole childhood – which I believe her mother knew about, and did nothing – and who also borrowed money; two failed marriages; and 50+ years in show business, experiencing the highest highs and lowest lows.

I like survivors, and I like Field.

Field’s mother, Margaret Morlan, was put under contract with Paramount in 1945 at age 23.  Margaret’s career never amounted to anything, and I’m betting it galled her to witness Field’s numerous successes including:

norma rae
“Norma Rae,” 1980
  • Primetime Emmy, Outstanding Lead Actress, Miniseries or Movie, Sybil, 1977
  • Academy Award, Best Actress, Norma Rae, 1980
  • Academy Award, Best Actress, Places in the Heart, 1985
  • Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress, Drama Series, ER, 2001
  • Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress, Drama Series, Brothers and Sisters, 2007
  • Best Supporting Actress, New York Film Critics Circle Award, Lincoln, 2012

If I listed all her wins and nominations I’d still be writing this into next week.

“Gidget,” 1965

Fields’ career started in television in 1965 as the lead in the sitcom Gidget – not bad for an 18-year-old with no TV experience – and has encompassed dozens of TV and movie roles.  And she’s still working; in 2017 she appeared on the Broadway stage in The Glass Menagerie, for which she received four award nominations including a Tony for Best Actress in a Play.

Pretty good for a woman who thought she’d be forever pigeonholed as a flying nun.

I’ve twice said “I like Sally Field” and I do, but I’m also alluding to an event Field doesn’t mention in her book – the decades-long mockery of her acceptance speech at the 1985 Academy Awards.

Field spoke for just 67 seconds but afterwards people chose to repeat – to mock – just the last 15 seconds when she said, “And I can’t deny the fact that you like me!  Right now!  You like me!”

Sally You Like Me_01
Academy Awards, 1985

It was a sweet burst of honest enthusiasm rarely seen at the overly hyped, overly long, and overly tedious Academy Awards.  I read elsewhere that Field later said she was trying to describe the fleeting experience of being at the top of her field, knowing that she’d been on the bottom and might be again.

Why anyone would mock that is beyond me.

There’s much more to In Pieces than I’ve mentioned, and the book offers many insights into Field’s life and journey.  There is a fair amount of the aforementioned misery, but I think there’s a good balance of ups to go with the downs.

Enough balance to give me the right answer to, “Why did I read that?”

Sally, 70, and still going strong.  On Broadway with Joe Mantello in “The Glass Menagerie,” 2017.

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