Sally Field - 1 - Simon & Schuster -

SALLY FIELD/In Pieces/Simon & Schuster

“Why is it easier for me to write about the times in my life that felt humiliating or shameful? Is it because those are the things that still haunt me?”

Sally Field asks those questions in her remarkable memoir, In Pieces, and they imply that the distinguished actress is, in her interior life, a work in progress at 72.

“Do I hold on to those dark times as a badge of honor,” she asks, “or are they my identity? The moments of triumph stay with me but speak so softly that they’re hard to hear—and even harder to talk about.”

Sally Field - 2 - Mary Lincoln

SALLY FIELD as Mary Todd Lincoln

We know all about the moments of triumph: Sally Field has won two Oscars, three Emmys, two Golden Globe Awards, and a Screen Actors Guild Award, and she has been nominated for a Tony Award. Not many can make that claim. She has starred in some of the finest properties available, including the television miniseries Sybil; the motion pictures Norma Rae, Places in the Heart, Absence of Malice, Steel Magnolias, Forrest Gump and Lincoln; the Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie, and others.

But until Field published this memoir, we did not know about the punishing life she led away from the stage and the cameras—a lonely childhood; sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of her stepfather; sexual exploitation at the hands of others; a fraught but enduring relationship with her mother—who did nothing to prevent the abuse of her child; troubled alliances with men—including Burt Reynolds, and a long struggle to be taken seriously as an actor. Field has discussed many of the details in print and broadcast interviews concerning this book.

For Field, the result of these experiences was a fractured sense of identity—hence the title—and it took her decades to even begin to assemble the fragments into a recognizable whole.

Sally Field - 3 - Margaret Morlan

MARGARET MORLAN FIELD

Field wrote this book herself—I think it took her three years; having spent the past fifty-three years as a writer, editor, and teacher of writing, I appreciate her literary skills, including her use of wry humor in a dark story and her offbeat imagery:

The most important figure in this book beside Field herself is her mother—a once stunning actress born Margaret Morlan. In one passage concerning their later life together, Field writes, “The combination of vodka and swallowed emotions had thickened her body and bloated her delicate face, making her look like a biscuit rising in the oven.”

Fields describes a complicated relationship with Reynolds, who, she writes, often tried to run her life. On one occasion, she was dressed to attend an awards ceremony, and he decided that she was too pale and insisted on slathering her with a Max Factor makeup known as Dark Egyptian.

Sally Field - 4 - npr.org

SALLY FIELD/npr.org

“(W)hen I think of that moment,” she writes, “standing nervously before a wall of mirrors as Burt carefully painted my exposed body, I realize that I’d take his Earl Scheib job over the finest hair and makeup artist anytime. True, I ended up looking like Sacagawea with very curly hair, but it was what he had to give. And it made me smile.”

This book will attract some voyeurs, but it is a serious and important work, not a Hollywood tell-all. Recent events, including the sexual-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church and the wave of abuse accusations against high-profile men have brought to public attention the lifelong suffering of victims and the folly of assuming that the face a person shows the world is an accurate reflection of her inner being.

It took extraordinary courage for Field to undertake this enterprise, which required her to revisit painful, shaming, and confusing episodes—an exercise in introspection that many of us might hesitate to pursue. The result is not a broadside against everyone who has ever harmed her, but rather a nuanced examination of the often conflicting emotions that have colored her life so far. And by having the strength of character to tell her story to us, she reminds us that how we treat others has consequences that can reverberate for a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

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By coincidence, we watched Barbara Walters’ absurd “documentary” about heaven two days after watching the 1982 comedy Kiss Me Goodbye. The Walters program didn’t refer to that film, but it did include clips from Ghost and other entertainment properties that alluded in some way to life after death.

In Kiss Me Goodbye, the person who has managed to live on after his physical death is a Broadway musical star and choreographer named Jolly (James Caan) who expired after he fell down a staircase during a party in his Manhattan home. As the film opens, Jolly’s widow, Kay (Sally Field), is about to move back into the house after having abandoned it for several years. Kay is engaged to Rupert (Jeff Bridges), a moderately conservative man, and she wants to begin the marriage in the  stylish digs.

JAMES CAAN

Her plans are disrupted when she discovers that Jolly’s ghost inhabits the place and claims that he wants to reestablish their relationship. Kate’s erratic behavior worries and confuses Rupert and the others in her circle, and eventually she worries them even more by telling them about her encounters with Jolly.

Rupert, who is already jealous of the attention Kate gets from Jolly’s former colleagues, is upset by her ghost stories, but not enough to leave her. Instead, he pretends that he, too, can see Jolly and suggests that the three of them take a trip in the country together. The result, of course, is chaos.

The key to the story is found in Jolly’s real reason for manifesting himself to Kate — and the reason is not what he claims and not what may seem obvious.

SALLY FIELD

This is light fare, something on the order of milkweed spores. A story that barely stands on its own isn’t helped by some excessively broad comedy, including a particularly annoying bit of slapstick about exorcising a spirit from a dog. I read in what I admit is not an authoritative source that James Caan disliked this movie, took the part for the money,  and considered the time he spent making the film one of the worst periods of his life — probably an exaggeration unless he’s had an especially charmed existence. Still, his soave, self-assured character provides by far the most fun in the film.

Sally Field was nominated for a Golden Globe as best actress in a comedy, which makes sense, I suppose, because she was, as usual, playing herself, something she should be good at after so much practice.

Kiss Me Goodbye is a remake of Dona Flors e Seus Dois Maridos, a 1976 Brazilian film which, in turn, was based on a 1966 novel, by the same name, written by Jorge Amado.

Kiss Me Goodbye was the last theatrical movie made by the distinguished actress Claire Trevor, who appears as Kay’s meddling mother, Charlotte.