Sally Margaret Field was born in 1946 in Pasadena, California, to actress Margaret Field (née Morlan) and salesman Richard Dryden Field. Her parents divorced in 1950 and her mother then married stuntman Jock Mahoney, and they had a daughter, Princess O’Mahoney. She also has a brother, Richard Field. Sally attended Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, California.
Her acting career began in 1965, when she landed the role of Frances Elizabeth ‘Gidget’ Lawrence in Gidget (1965); it was canceled after only one season because of bad ratings. She went on to star in The Flying Nun (1967), which ran for three seasons. She also appeared in her first film in 1967, The Way West (1967) opposite Kirk Douglas. In the next few years she appeared in numerous TV movies and TV shows such as Maybe I’ll Come Home in the Spring (1971), Marriage: Year One (1971), The Girl with Something Extra (1973), and Sybil (1976). In 1977 she starred alongside then-boyfriend Burt Reynolds in the box office hit Smokey and the Bandit (1977), which led to a less successful sequel in 1980. In 1979 she starred in the popular film Norma Rae (1979) and she received her first Oscar for that role.
In the years that followed she starred in films such as Absence of Malice (1981), Kiss Me Goodbye (1982), Places in the Heart (1984) (she received her second Oscar for her role), Murphy’s Romance (1985), Punchline (1988) and Steel Magnolias (1989). In 1993 she starred alongside Robin Williams and Pierce Brosnan in the popular comedy Mrs. Doubtfire (1993). A year after, she played the role of Tom Hanks character’s mother (even though she’s only ten years older than he is in real life) in the film Forrest Gump (1994). The film was a huge commercial success and won six Academy awards.
Since then she has appeared in TV movies and miniseries such as A Woman of Independent Means (1995), Merry Christmas, George Bailey (1997), From the Earth to the Moon (1998) and David Copperfield (2000). In 2000 she appeared in the film Where the Heart Is (2000) with Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd, and in 2003 she starred alongside Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003). She also appeared in 12 episodes of ER (1994) from 2000 to 2006. In recent years she has played the role of matriarch Nora Walker in the hit television show Brothers & Sisters (2006), which earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2007.
Sally has been married twice, first to Steven Craig from 1968 to 1973. They had two sons together, Peter Craig and Eli Craig. Her second marriage was to film producer Alan Greisman from 1984 to 1994. They had one son together, Samuel Greisman. Between marriages, from 1976 to 1980, she was in a relationship with Burt Reynolds.
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