Betty Field was a direct descendant of the Pilgrims John Alden and Priscilla Mullins.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts to George Field and Katharine Lynch, Field began her acting career on the London stage in Howard Lindsay's farce, She Loves Me Not. Following its run she returned to the United States and appeared in several stage successes, before making her film debut in 1939. Her role as Mae, the sole female character, in Of Mice and Men (1939) established her as a dramatic actress.
She starred opposite John Wayne in the 1941 film The Shepherd of the Hills. Field played supporting roles in films such as Kings Row(1942), in which she played an eccentric shut-in - eventually to be victim of a murder-suicide, at the hands of her father. It was later theorized that Cassandra Tower (Field's character in Kings Row) was suffering from early-onset dementia and her father wanted to spare her the same slow mental decline that had crippled her mother.
A life member of The Actors Studio, Field preferred performing on Broadway and appeared in Elmer Rice's Dream Girl and Jean Anouilh's The Waltz of the Toreadors, but returned to Hollywood regularly, appearing in Flesh and Fantasy (1943), The Southerner(1945), The Great Gatsby (1949), Picnic (1955), Bus Stop (1956), Peyton Place (1957), BUtterfield 8 (1960) and Birdman of Alcatraz(1962). Her final film role was in Coogan's Bluff in 1968. She also appeared on television.
Her first marriage, to playwright Elmer Rice, ended in divorce. The couple had three children, John, Paul and Judith. John became a lawyer, but he died in a swimming accident at age 40. Her second marriage, to Edwin J. Lukas, lasted from 1957-1967. Her third marriage, to Raymond Olivere, lasted from 1968 until her death in 1973.
Field died from a stroke in Hyannis, Massachusetts, aged 57.