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    Sallying Forth

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Two-time Academy Award® and five-time Emmy® winner Sally Field celebrated her 70th birthday yesterday, after enjoying a warm reception this year to her performance as a shy, repressed office worker who falls for and sets out to seduce a much younger colleague in Hello, My Name Is Doris, about which Rafer Guzman of Newsday commented: “Field hasn’t lost an ounce of her bouncy personality or comic energy in this terrific little film. If anything, Doris Miller may be (another) role of a lifetime.” Indeed, despite an acting livelihood of twists and turns in which she had to defy the “perky” or “plucky” labels of her initial television work through the subsequent period of declining opportunities for “women of a certain age,” Field has played quite a few indelible roles of a lifetime: the multiple-personality Sybil Dorsett, union activist Norma Rae Webster, devoted Mrs. Gump, tormented First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, Murphy’s Romance’s Emma Moriarty, David Copperfield’s Aunt Betsey Trotwood, A Woman of Independent Means’s Bess Alcott Steed Garner, ER’s Maggie Lockhart and Brothers & Sisters’ Nora Webster. Next Spring, Broadway audiences will make the acquaintance of her Amanda Wingfield in a highly anticipated revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. Twilight Time lays proud claim to another of her roles of a lifetime: determined Depression-era widowed farm owner Edna Spaulding in writer-director Robert Benton’s harrowingly realistic yet nostalgically dreamlike Places in the Heart (1984). For Waxahachie, Texas, native Benton, the film had a strong autobiographical current, but the material also struck a chord for Pasadena, California-born Field, whose mother, 1950s film and TV actress Margaret Field aka Maggie Mahoney, originally hailed from Houston. The struggles of her character, a sheltered woman, suddenly deprived of her husband, to retain custody of her children and ownership of their home, were formed into a modestly budgeted labor of love that miraculously avoided studio interference, and the support system of beautifully drawn family and friends encircling her, even as financial setbacks and unforgiving elements threatened ruin, connected with critics and audiences as well. And if it takes a village to till fertile soil for a role of a lifetime, consider the company of players in the early stages of what would be memorable individual careers ahead for the likes of John Malkovich, Danny Glover, Lindsay Crouse, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Terry O’Quinn and Lane Smith. TT’s beautiful hi-def Blu-ray rendition of Places in the Heart (which took home Oscars® for both Field and Benton’s Original Screenplay) offers, in addition to a moving film experience, the wealth of a lifetime of experience in its 2015 Audio Commentary conversation between Field and TT’s Nick Redman, as the lady reveals not just details of making the movie but also of shaping an enduring career and family life in a tough business. May the birthday celebrant’s roles and acting challenges keep coming.