It has been a long-running gag of Bette Midler’s that she was “robbed” of the 1979 Best Actress Oscar for “The Rose” when she lost to Sally Field for “Norma Rae.” The Divine Miss M has repeatedly brought up the loss in her concerts, on talk shows and it was even worked into a joke on her short-lived sitcom. Will Midler finally get revenge on Field at the Tony Awards this Sunday?
Midler is all but certain to take home a Tony for her star turn in the tuner “Hello, Dolly!” while Field, who is nominated for her work in the Tennessee Williams play “The Glass Menagerie,” will most likely not. Granted, the two aren’t in the same category but let’s not let a little technicality like that get in the way of a fun rivalry. (Field is predicted to lose the Tony to Laurie Metcalf for “A Doll’s House Part 2.”)
This fun Oscar feud never rose to the level of the one between “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” co-stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford moment but it has lingered in Oscar lore. Field went into the Oscars that year having swept the precursor prizes for her role as the title character in “Norma Rae,” a factory worker turned union organizer. Her performance turned the one-time star of TV’s “Gidget” and “The Flying Nun” into a respected film actress; she won a bookend Oscar five years later for “Places in the Heart.”
Midler made her screen debut with “The Rose” (a thinly veiled biopic of Janis Joplin) remains her most acclaimed film work. While in reality Field is someone that Midler “likes, really really likes” who on Gold Derby doesn’t like a good awards-related feud? Someone call Ryan Murphy.
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