Field, Betty (1918–1973)

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Field, Betty (1918–1973)

American actress. Born on February 8, 1918, in Boston, Massachusetts; died of a cerebral hemorrhage on September 13, 1973; only daughter of George Baldwin and Katherine Francis (Lynch) Field; studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts; married Elmer Rice (a playwright), on January 12, 1942 (divorced 1956); married Edwin J. Lukas, in 1957; children: (first marriage) John, Judith, and Paul.

Selected stage roles:

reporter in Page Miss Glory (1934); Audrey in Three Men on a Horse; Susie in Boy Meets Girl (1936 tour); Hilda Manney in Room Service (1937); Nora in If I Were You (1938); Barbara Pearson in What A Life! (1938); Clare Wallace in The Primrose Path (1939); Rose Romero in Ring Two (1939); Mary Ward in Two on an Island (1940); Hope Nathan in Flight to the West (1940); Edith in A New Life (1943); Georgina Allerton in Dream Girl (1945); Helen Brown in The Rat Race (1949); Peter in Peter Pan (1950); Theodora in Not for Children (1951); Mildred Tynan in The Ladies of the Corridor (1953); Sally Ann Peters in Festival (1955); Madame Treplev in The Seagull (off-Broadway, 1956); Mlle. de Ste-Euverte in The Waltz of the Toreadors (1958); Yankee patrician in A Touch of the Poet (1958).


What a Life! (1939); Of Mice and Men (1940); Seventeen (1940); Victory (1941); The Shepherd of the Hills (1941); Blues in the Night (1941); King's Row (1942); Are Husbands Necessary? (1942); Flesh and Fantasy (1943); The Great Moment (1944); Tomorrow the World (1944); The Southerner (1945); The Great Gatsby (1949); Picnic (1956); Bus Stop (1956); Peyton Place (1957); Hound-Dog Man (1959); Butterfield 8 (1960); Birdman of Alcatraz (1962); Seven Women (1966); How to Save a Marriage—and Ruin Your Life (1968); Coogan's Bluff (1968).

The only child of divorced parents, Betty Field grew up with her mother and stepfather in Newton, Massachusetts, Morristown, New Jersey, and Forest Hills, Long Island. Intent on acting from an early age, she attended the Academy of Dramatics Arts, where she was the first in her class to land an acting assignment. When Field was cast in a London production of She Loves Me Not (1934), her role as the debutante Frances Arbuthnot had to be rewritten as a subdebutante because she looked so young. She made her debut on Broadway in a one-line part in Page Miss Glory (1934). During the 1930s, Field became a popular ingenue in George Abbott productions, but it was her meeting with playwright Elmer Rice (who would later become her husband) that set her career in motion.

After appearances in Rice's Flight to the West (1940) and A New Life (1943), Field achieved her first genuine triumph in Dream Girl (1945), in which she played Georgina Allerton, a demanding role that required her to be on stage for all but three minutes of the production. For her performance, she won the 1945–46 New York Drama Critics Circle Award for the best performance by an actress. In his review, Lewis Nichols of The New York Times (December 15, 1945) wrote: "As Georgina Allerton she is wistful … fierce … amicably tough … amicably stately … and always a heroine." Field went on to play ingenue and character roles in both comedies and dramas, including Rice's Not for Children (1951), Dorothy Parker 's Ladies of the Corridor (1953), and Festival (1955), as well as the first American production of Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet (1958). Field divorced Rice in 1956 and remarried the following year.

Throughout her career, she appeared in many Hollywood films, most notably in King's Row (1942), opposite Ronald Reagan, and Of Mice and Men (1940), in which she portrayed the discontented wife of a rancher who falls victim to the farm hand Lennie. Subsequent film roles ranged from neurotic young women to slovenly but well-intentioned mothers. Betty Field died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1973.


Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1959.