Today, I'm reviewing The Three Faces of Eve (1957), starring Joanne Woodward as a woman with three different personalities.
Many old Hollywood actors excelled at playing dual roles in one movie, but there's nothing quite like Joanne Woodward's Academy Award winning performance in The Three Faces of Eve (1957) in which she plays one woman with three distinct personalities.
The Three Faces of Eve begins when timid housewife Eve White starts suffering from headaches and amnesia. She also exhibits bizarre and sometimes dangerous behavior like staying out all night and trying to harm her young daughter (Terry Ann Ross). At first, Eve responds well to psychiatric treatment, but, after a relapse, she reveals an alternate personality -- a good-time party girl that she calls Eve Black -- that leads her doctor (Lee J. Cobb) to believe that she has what he calls "a case of multiple personality."
The Three Faces of Eve is based on the true story of a Georgia woman, Chris Costner Sizemore, who was treated by psychiatrists Corbett Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley. They wrote a book about their experiences and producer, director, and screenwriter Nunnally Johnson bought the movie rights before the book was even published. In fact, Johnson worked closely with Thigpen and Cleckley on the book, even suggesting the marquee ready title. The result was a bestseller that tapped into a fifties obsession with psychiatry and multiple personality disorder.
Despite the fact that Orson Welles said whoever played Eve would win an Oscar, several top Hollywood actresses, including Jennifer Jones, June Allyson, and Judy Garland, turned the project down. The role of Eve fell to Woodward, a then relatively unknown 20th Century Fox contract player, who was cast in the role before she even saw the script.
|Joanne Woodward celebrates her Academy Award for The Three Faces of Eve (1957) with husband, Paul Newman.|
The result is a performance that is a minor miracle. Woodward is greatly aided by costumes and makeup -- each of Eve's personalities has a distinct fashion sense -- but Eve sometimes switches between personalities in the same scene, which Woodward does brilliantly through body language alone. The Three Faces of Eve also sympathetically portrays some of the terrifying symptoms of multiple personality disorder, which is now known as dissociative identity disorder. Each of Eve's personalities had no awareness of what the other was doing, so she was often confused and disoriented and left without any memory of her behavior. For example, Eve Black could spend hundreds on new clothes while Eve White would not even be able to remember visiting the store.
The Three Faces of Eve was a critical and box-office success, and on Oscar night, Woodward took home the best actress trophy, beating out big names like Deborah Kerr, Elizabeth Taylor, and Lana Turner. Woodward caused a stir by arriving in her own homemade gown, which led Joan Crawford to acidly remark that Woodward was "setting the cause of Hollywood glamour back 20 years by making her own clothes" (this comment makes me think that if they had a Fashion Police show in old Hollywood, Joan would have been an amazing panelist).
The ending was less happy for the real Eve. Sizemore wasn't "cured" as the Eve character is at the end of The Three Faces of Eve; instead, she continued to struggle for two more decades before her disorder was controlled in the late 1970s. Sizemore then worked as a mental health advocate and painter, and she wrote two memoirs about her experiences before passing away this July at the age of 89. You can read more about Sizemore here.
The Three Faces of Eve is available on DVD, Blu ray, and video on demand.