The Flying Nun helped Sally Field soar (literally)

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Sally Field is an acting legend. Her name is recognizable, her face is familiar and the actress has won several prestigious awards during her long career which has spanned from 1962 to today.

From an Academy Award to a Golden Globe, multiple Emmys, and even a Tony Award in 2022; Field has proven herself to be an amazing actress. 

But before she became the name she is today, Field was starting out in Hollywood just like the rest of them. In 1965, Field landed her first starring role in a television series. Gidget (1965) was short-lived but gave the actress a stepping stone. 

After Gidget, Field found herself in a role that sent her flying into stardom - quite literally.

The Flying Nun was a fantasy sitcom about a community of nuns, and one in particular who could fly. The Flying Nun sounds like the setup to a bad joke, but it was an absurd idea that somehow became a hit.

"It's not really a program about nuns," Field said. "It's about people, their hopes, and their love of mankind."

In the series, Field played the role of Sister Bertrille, who was in many ways like her former character in Gidget. Field said she hoped the series could highlight her newfound maturity. How can one be mature playing a flying nun? Well, Field is an Emmy Award winner for a reason.

"She's more mature than Gidget, but she's always disrupting the convent in some way," Field said. "As with Gidget, when Sister Bertrille is around things just seem to happen."

Flying is one of the many unique talents her character had in the series. Flight was achieved when the wind caught the brim of her cornette, taking the 90-pound nun straight up into the air. 

But getting Sister Bertrille airborne was no easy task.

According to the interview, making Field fly in character involved an elaborate mechanism in which the producers of The Flying Nun cloaked in secrecy. They even barred photographers from the set when the device was used.

"I really fly, too!," Field said. "But it's not a photographic trick. Sometimes I fly as high as 75 feet — I love it!"

Although we will never know about whatever high-flying techniques that were used, they really seemed to help Field reach new heights. In the interview, Field stressed the importance of limiting the gimmick in the series. 

This flying nun only took flight when there was a reason for it. 

"When we first saw the title we all said 'Wow! They've got to be kidding!'" Field said. "When you think about it, it might be the best possible title after all. If enough people react the way we did and become curious about it and tune in just to see what it is... and discover a show about real people... a show that is original and has charm... maybe they'll stay with us."