It is hard to believe that Sally Field who played the Flying Nun is now 71, especially when the cover of her newly released autobiography, ‘In Pieces,’ shows her as a dewy, fresh-faced twenty-something, almost child-like with her upturned nose and soulful eyes.
While there’s plenty of tinsel to be found in this candid and courageous memoir in which Field writes about her most famous Hollywood roles and relationships with celebrity co-stars, In Pieces also unwraps the tinsel, blowing the whistle on creepy directors and taking in a large chunk of her personal story, particularly the fault lines that include a childhood scarred by abuse and the raising of her three sons through her own two marriages that ended in divorce.
After her parents’ marriage ended, Field’s actress mother met and married a handsome stuntman/actor, a ‘magical Pied Piper’ type figure in the family who abused her sexually from a very young age. Fields does not revile from this tragedy in her life, writing about it with an explicitness that makes it all the more shocking.
Not surprisingly, Field’s relationship with her mother was complicated, conflicted, not only because she appeared not to notice anything was wrong with her daughter, but also because she was so besotted by her husband that she never allowed herself to look too closely at his own shortcomings or even notice his cruelty to Field, let alone step in to stop him.
Ironically, much later in her life, Field records in her memoir how she enters into a similar lop-sided relationship with the late Burt Reynolds. Also handsome and charismatic, Reynolds is neither kind to her children, or the slightest bit interested in making room in his life for them. He’s like a good ol’ Southern boy, smooth and charming, but as controlling as hell and so self-obsessed it makes you want to slap him.
The only moment Reynolds is keen on hearing Field’s opinion about anything is when she’s talking about his health, which says it all, really. She admits her parenting wasn’t all it should have been because of her obsession with Reynolds, and it’s moments like these, when she does what few Hollywood stars are willing to do and show herself in an unflattering light, that Field is at her raw and honest best.
Field’s professional journey from rubbishy television roles, first as Gidget, then as a nun who flew (literally, rigged up with wires and dangling from a crane), to more demanding parts is a very interesting story. While The Flying Nun was a big hit, therefore a great break for a relative unknown, Field loathed its light-weight vacuousness.
Part of her unhappiness was expressed in an eating disorder, Field reveals in her memoir, and to disguise her curves in some scenes, they had her carry something, like a vase or a bucket in front her.
While the Flying Nun put her on the Hollywood map, Field yearned to prove her talent, not only to herself but to the entire industry. She craved more challenging roles and to be taken more seriously as an actor, but for a young actress who was a bit of a joke as a flying nun, it was an uphill battle.
The story of how Field did that is one of true grit and determination, culminating in great performances in the movies, Norma Rae, Steel Magnolias and Forrest Gump, and three Emmys and two Oscars. Inspiring, to say the least.
Never give up, either on yourself or your dreams, be prepared to work hard to get where you want, and don’t ever be untrue to yourself or lower your standards because of the love of a handsome man, are the takeaways of Field’s witty, insightful and entertaining memoir.
About The Author
Sally Field is a two-time Academy Award and three-time Emmy Award-winning actor who has portrayed dozens of iconic roles on both the large and small screens. In 2012 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2015 she was honoured by President Obama with the National Medal of Arts. She has served on the Board of Directors of Vital Voices since 2002 and also served on the Board of The Sundance Institute from 1994 to 2010. She has three sons and five grandchildren.