Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Three Faces of Eve (1957)

Spanish film poster.

The Three Faces of Eve
USA 1957
91 min
Starring: Joanne Woodward, Lee J. Cobb, David Wayne and Edwin Jerome, among others.

The Three Faces of Eve is the true story of a woman in the 1950's who suffered from a split personality. The film is very true to the real case of the patient, except that her name is changed from Christine Costner Sizemore to Eve White, and the number of personalities is reduced to three from the real number of 20+ (!) different personas.

Scene: I took the liberty to cut out the introduction scene from the film. If you haven't seen it, watch. You will without a doubt feel the urge to get a hold of the film right away! (Something screwed up when going from Cinemascope to 4:3, sorry about that.)

After the introduction, that all-in-all tells us that the up-coming film is based on a real case, we see Eve White (Woodward) enter Dr. Luther's (Cobb) office with her husband Ralph (Wayne). The timid housewife Eve is suffering from terrible headaches, followed by what she calls "spells". She can't recall anything that happens during those spells, a complete loss of memory.

It takes some time before Dr. Luther starts to suspect what is wrong with Eve. Her spells are at first quite harmless - she buys party dresses and fancy shoes for enormous sums of money, then thinks that it's a gift from her husband. But soon the situation gets more serious, especially when Eve during one of her spells tries to kill her own daughter, four year old Bonnie.

It's first when Dr. Luther gets to meet Eve's other persona that he suspects what might be her problem. During the next meeting with the doctor, Eve confesses that she has started to hear voices, telling her to leave her husband. She gets very sad and confused during the meeting, and starts to cry. When she looks up, she suddenly is happy. She is no longer shy and desperate, but self-confident and flirtatious, and she also speaks with disgust about her husband. Eve White now calls herself Eve Black.

It is revealed that Eve Black knows and remembers everything about Eve White, but not the other way around. It is Eve Black who bought the glittery party dresses and goes to night clubs where she dances, sings, drinks and smokes.

It is decided that Eve should be taken into a hospital. Their daughter moves to her grandparents, and Dr. Luther's mission to find what triggered Eve's personality split begins. It's not an easy problem to solve, since Eve's different personas remember different episodes of her childhood, and soon yet another personality makes an entrance - Jane.

I was really amazed by this film. It was the first film I ever saw with Joanne Woodward, who obviously wasn't a very well-known actress by the time of this film, but impressed in her characterization of Eve White/Eve Black/Jane to the extent that she won an Oscar for her performance. I really need to see more of her. Just the fact that Paul Newman was married to her for 50 years is a reason to adore her.

The rest of the cast is really impressive too. Lee J. Cobb (whom I only have seen once before, in 12 Angry Men where he simply is awesome) gets a great opportunity to shine as the intrigued Dr. Luther, and Edwin Jerome as his older colleague is really sweet.

But aside from Woodward and Cobb it is undoubtedly David Wayne as Eve's husband that makes an impression. God, I hated his character. First I thought that he was kind of cute - simply not intelligent enough to understand what a split personality means. I couldn't understand why Eve White was so shy and insecure.
But then... oh, then. That pig starts with the "just cut it out"-mentality towards his wife. (Oh, do a girl recognize that? "Stop crying! Tears won't change anything!" I guess a father doesn't mean anything bad by it, it's more a desperate way to try to deal with a puberty struck daughter. The warm sympathy lies in the mother role, after all. Now back to Ralph!)
He has no sympathy or understanding for her mental condition at all. He seems very pleased when his wife takes the part of the seductive Eve Black, and at one time he almost rapes her. And then what? He gets fed up with her, slaps her and leaves her for good. Yeah, get better on your own, bitch.
I reckon it demands quite an actor to get a role like that right. My blood is still boiling.

I found a really cool publicity photo from The Three Faces of Eve that someone had scanned. I fixed the fold marks and other irregularities in Photoshop, and voilá!

[Update] I found an interesting BBC interview with the real Eve (Christine Costner Sizemore) in three parts on YouTube. Priceless. If you click here you will get to the playlist with the three parts.

To finish this post, let's take a look at another split personality. I must warn sensitive readers, this is can be uncomfortable and scary.


Kate Gabrielle said...

Great review! I loved this movie, it was so gripping. David Wayne's character was such a cad!! I had the same reaction, at first he seems cute and nice (especially since EVERY other role I've ever seen him in, he was a really mild mannered guy) and then it's like he has a split personality too!

A lot of times the motivation for why people do things, when it's revealed at the end of the movie, is kind of a let down-- but this one was terrifying! I could completely see going insane from what Eve had to do as a child.

Elizabeth said...

Oh I love "A Bit of Fry & Laurie!" Seriously one of the greatest TV shows ever!

Hannah said...

Oh! I actually saw this DVD at Borders one time, and I thought it looked very interesting. Yet, now I know I must sit down and watch this. I love that publicity photo at the bottom. The plotline reminds me of that one TV show, The United States of Tara. I haven't actually watched the show, but it's also about split personalities.

Lolita said...

Kate Gabrielle:
Thank you! Yes, I'm amazed at myself that I didn't see his switch coming - I will have to repair my cad-radar!
Did you see the interview I linked to, with the real Eve? It seems like she witnessed even more frightening things before the age of two - further explaining her mental problems!

Fry & Laurie rules! Especially Stephen Fry, in my opinion. I just read The Hippopotamus (having read The Liar, Making History and The Stars' Tennis Balls earlier) - he is so darn intelligent! I love the British curse words he uses, too ;)

Do see it! Hmm, never heard of that TV show... Tara only makes me think of Gone With the Wind, haha. But split personality is a really interesting subject!

Sebina said...

She gives such a marvelous performance in this film.

Years ago, when I was in my highest Paul Newman film mood, I saw their films together and it made me seek out many of Joanne Woodwards' films.

Lolita said...

All girls should have a Paul Newman mood! When I had it I mostly watched Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting and The Young Philadelphians. I always thought Newman looked so good as a lawyer!