A beloved actor attempts to assemble her fragmented past.
In her debut memoir, Field (b. 1946) takes to the page to explore her early life and storied acting career; she also pens an extended love letter to her mother, who died in 2011, on the author’s 65th birthday. Described by the author as “drop-your-jaw beautiful,” Margaret Morlan was discovered by a Paramount talent scout while sitting in a Pasadena Playhouse audience and instantly got a career at age 23. Affectionately called “Baa” by Field, Morlan never achieved anywhere near her eldest daughter’s screen credits, but she played a central role throughout Field’s life as both a peerless champion of and “backup generator” to her daughter’s burgeoning talents. Baa was also a complicated source of great psychological trauma, as she failed to protect her daughter from the sexual advances of her stepfather, stuntman Jock Mahoney. While the memoir details the rapid progression of Field’s childhood interest in acting to on-screen success in TV (from Gidget and The Flying Nun to winning the Emmy for Sybil in 1977) and film (for Norma Rae, she won “every award for best actress that existed in the United States”), Field’s narrative of her professional and personal achievements may be best viewed through the lens of her fraught relationship with Baa. “My cherished mother had known…something,” she writes. “What exactly that was, I didn’t want to hear, because even at that time, when I was middle-aged, I couldn’t bear the idea that she hadn’t run to my side….I had accepted the idea that I was broken in an effort to keep my mother whole.” Through acting, Field found a way to constitute herself: “By standing in Norma’s shoes, I felt my own feet. If I could play her, I could be me.”
Brimming with open introspection, engaging anecdotes, and gorgeous photographs, Field’s moving account sheds light on how playing larger-than-life figures has enabled her to keep her feet on the ground.