Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Three Faces of Eve


Today, I'm reviewing The Three Faces of Eve (1957), starring Joanne Woodward as a woman with three different personalities.

This article is part of the Dual Roles Blogathon hosted by Christina Wehner and Silver Screenings.

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.
Woodward was also terrified of the role: She later admitted that she almost didn't take the train to Hollywood after first reading the script, but she eventually saw the part as a challenge and began working closely with Johnson, a dialogue coach, and Fox's hair and makeup department to create Eve's three distinct personalities.

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.


7 comments :

  1. Such a difficulty disorder to deal with in reality, but what a boon for a creative actress.

    PS: Joanne and her gown looked lovely on Oscar night. Perhaps sewing was something Joan couldn't master.

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    1. I saw some color pictures of Joanne's gown on Pinterest and it is lovely. I do think Joan was a little bit jealous.

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  2. This is one I have not yet seen, but really should...even more so after reading your lovely review. That is quite extraordinary to have to switch between personalities in the same scene. It is interesting how many actresses turned down or were concerned about doing the role. Way to go, Joanne Woodward for taking it on!

    I tried to learn to sew and was dreadful, so I really have to take my hat off to her for making such a lovely dress, too...though the idea of Joan Crawford as panelist on the Fashion Police is a delightful one. :)

    Thanks so much for contributing to the Dual Roles Blogathon!

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  3. Oh yes, Joanne Woodward is SO GOOD in this film. You would never know it was her first big starring role. She seems like a real pro...but, more importantly, she seems like the real Eve. As you pointed out, she switches from one personality to another in mid-conversation, but Woodward always lets you know "who" she is.

    I was sorry to read that Chris Sizemore struggled for two more decades(!). But the fact that she worked in mental health is remarkable. She must have been an inspiration to both her patients and her co-workers.

    Thank you for joining the blogathon, and for bringing this haunting film with you. :)

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    1. Ms. Sizemore seems to have been happy in the last few decades of her life, so that was a blessing.

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  4. This film is very, very good, and Joanne Woodward is nothing short of superb. She was so true to her character's condition, and so human in her portrayal.
    Great review. I liked the idea of a Fashion Police show starring Joan Crawford!
    Don't forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! :)
    Kisses!
    Le

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