The Three Faces of Eve (1957)

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Synopsis: The mystery begins when Eve White (Joanne Woodward), a demure Southern housewife and loving mother, is referred to psychiatrist Dr. Curtis Luther (Lee J. Cobb) in the hopes he will have the cure for her sudden severe headaches and frequent blackouts. But the symptoms aren’t all as innocent as that; for it is soon revealed that sometimes Eve does things that she can’t remember, things that deeply disturb her husband Ralph (David Wayne). While under the care of Dr. Luther, Eve has one of her blackouts and reveals an entirely separate personality: that of the saucy, sultry Eve Black, who stays out dancing all night with sailors and tries to do harm to Eve White’s young daughter Bonnie. As Eve White begins to descend deeper and deeper into depression over these episodes, Eve Black takes over more and more, and quickly spins Eve White’s life completely out of control. Just when things can’t get any worse for Eve White, a thirdpersonality appears, the smart and level-headed Jane, who knows both Eve White and Eve Black and attempts to help Dr. Luther untangle their inner workings. Can the three faces of Eve ever be united into one whole, stable, healthy human being? Will Jane and Dr. Luther be able to discover the key to what caused the split, a repressed secret hidden deep in Eve White’s past?

Warning: This is a Full Recap review, meaning it includes screencaps and commentary on the film in its entirety. Therefore, it is much longer than a regular review, and spoilers are pretty much guaranteed.

Up until recently, I was blessed with the fortunate convenience of having my favorite living actor and my favorite living actress be married to one another. This all changed when, on September 26, 2008, the male half of the aforementioned duo, Paul Newman, passed away at the age of 83. While it was tragic enough to lose one of my personal heroes, even more painful was thinking about how Paul’s passing would affect his amazing wife, Joanne Woodward, who I idolize perhaps even more than I did her late husband. I’ve been told that hero worship is an unhealthy vice – whaaaaaaat?!? – but, to me, the Newmans were always more like my fantasy grandparents rather than living divinities. I’m serious. Two warm, funny, truly loving individuals, who were more interested in giving back to the world than fame or fortune, who just so happened to be mind-blowingly talented and unbelievably gorgeous to boot? Who wouldn’t want to be related to that? The fact that there really are a few kids out there who were fortunate enough to have been born Newman grandchildren makes me pretty jealous. They just seem like the kind of people who’d let you play army with their Academy Awards and not care if you scratched them up. Why wasn’t that my childhood?!? Why must fate be so very very cruel?!? *shakes angry fist toward the heavens*

Despite the fact that Paul was much more the household name than his spouse, it was actually Joanne who charmed me first. Her performance in the 1976 TV movie Sybil, that unpredictable, intense, knock-you-to-the-floor-and-drag-you-around-the-room little migraine of a film, really made an impression on me, and left me hungry for more. In three solid hours of screaming, crying, window-shattering drama, the character of Dr. Cornelia Wilbur was an incredibly soothing presence; by the end of it I wanted Joanne Woodward to stroke my hair and make me peanut butter sandwiches. I decided this actress warranted further investigation, and while I was at it, I might as well look and see what this husband of hers was all about. The rest is history. I’ve been hooked on the Newmans – both individually and as a couple – ever since. They’re just delicious. The kind of flawless people that you’d really hate, if they weren’t so gosh-darn genuine about it all. Just watch this clip of them on “What’s My Line?” – I dare you not to fall in love when Joanne boasts about how their six-month-old baby swallowed a cigarette.

Our film today, directed by Nunnally Johnson for Twentieth Century Fox, is the one Joanne Woodward is most famous for, the one for which she won her Best Actress Academy Award. The Three Faces of Eve, in which Joanne plays the title character and essentially carries the whole picture, was actually only her third film, though she’d been making the rounds on television for a few years prior. She received her first Academy Award nomination for it – and won. Joanne Woodward, a relative unknown, just swept right in, knocked it out of the park, and beat out the likes of Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor for the Oscar. That’s pluck, is what that is. Joanne didn’t want to prove she was a star – she wanted to prove she was an actress, and given the role of Eve, a part she could really sink her teeth into, she blew away the rest of the competition on sheer skill alone. That’s what I love most about Joanne Woodward: she had the face and the body to get by just on her looks, but she never, ever took the easy way out. She’d walk onto the set looking like glamor personified, but then would launch a surprise attack on her part and take it down with her ninja-like acting skills of awesomeness. To me, that doesn’t only make her a phenomenal actress; that makes her a Legend. Not that, um, I’m biased or anything.

This film is considered the flagship in the small multiple-personality subgenre of films, but in truth it was only produced to capitalize on the already-popular multiple personality craze inspired by the 1954 Shirley Jackson novel The Bird’s Nest, which itself was made into a 1957 MGM film called Lizzie, starring Eleanor Parker and directed by Hugo Haas. Lizzie is also about a woman suffering from mysterious blackouts, who is also revealed to have three distinct personalities: a shy one, a brazen one, and a well-adjusted one. So what does The Three Faces of Eve have that Lizzie lacks?

Haven’t you been listening?!? JOANNE WOODWARD, is what!

We’ve already established that Joanne Woodward is an incredible human being, perhaps a superhuman human being. (That’s a thing, right?) Did I tell you that she also made her own dress for the Academy Awards, which cost her less than $100 in materials?

CAN YOU JUST STOP BEING PERFECT FOR A SECOND, YOU TWO?!? It’s distracting, I mean really.

My point – and yes, I do have one – is that it’s a good thing Joanne Woodward is in this movie, and it’s a good thing she’s so amazing in every conceivable way, because she truly makes a watchable picture out of what is otherwise a claustrophobic, clunky, somewhat forced little film. Like Sybil – and any drama which focuses on an individual with a mental illness, really – this story absolutely needed a strong, capable actress to bring out the true depths of this character and make her believable and sympathetic. And luckily for this film, Joanne is the absolute definition of capable. Still, there’s only so much one performer can do for a picture, and in the end I fear that the more mediocre parts of this film may cause the overall story of a woman transformed to fail to resonate with some audiences.

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The film opens with a very solemn introduction by British journalist Alistair Cooke, who was added to the film as narrator in order to give the story more weight. He informs us that, while many films claim to be based a true story, this one’s really based on a true story, and that’s what makes it different. I guess. He introduces us to the concept of multiple personalities by citing the old adage, “Inside every fat man, a thin man is struggling to get out,” which I don’t think is relevant at all and mostly serves to confuse the viewer. He mentions the original book The Three Faces of Eve, a clinical study by Dr. Corbett Thigpen and Dr. Hervey M. Cleckley, and reiterates that, because much of the film’s dialog was taken directly from the book, this story is really super true we mean it. Aha! But this assumes that the book is completely true. So seriously, despite what this film says, take it all with a grain of salt.

I am no expert on mental illness, so while this film clearly deserves a more serious analysis of the portrayal of dissociative identity contained therein, I am not really the person to do it, and that isn’t quite the focus of this here blog. So, as always, if you want to know more about The Three Faces of Eve, Consult Your Local Library™. I do know that the book was based on the real-life case of Chris Costner Sizemore, who went on to write at least two autobiographical accounts of her disorder, this film, and the effect the resulting media blitz had on her, so if you can find those books, that might be a good place to start. (Hint: she sued Twentieth Century Fox, if that gives you any indication of how she felt about this movie.)


We now enter the office of Dr. Curtis Luther, the cleaned-up, Hollywood version of Dr. Corbett Thigpen, because, after all, that’s just not a very glamorous name for a doctor. This is the first meeting between Dr. Luther and his patient Eve White, along with her husband Ralph. Eve has been referred by her family doctor to receive treatment for terrible headaches and “spells” of memory loss. Eve explains that first she gets a splitting headache, and the next thing she knows it’s a few hours later, or the next morning, and she has no memory of the time that has passed. Without anyone ever saying so, we can tell that Eve is a very shy and self-conscious woman who is obviously embarrassed at her lack of control over her mental state. Her husband, aptly played by David Wayne, is obviously more self-assured but shows deference to the doctor and seems more hopeful than Eve that they will be able to find a cure, though he seems pretty baffled by what exactly they’re trying to find a cure for.


“For several weeks, Mrs. White was greatly helped by the psychiatric treatment.” Oh! Really? Well that’s convenient. When she got there she couldn’t even really describe the problem, but I’m glad you were able to help her in some unspecified, unseen, totally mysterious manner. Well done, I say!


The narrator announces that something ~foreboding~ is about to happen as we watch Ralph White enter the house and call out for his wife and daughter. Eve says she’s busy hanging up the wash, but their child Bonnie walks into the room wearing a pair of rather salacious heels. “Where’d you get these?” “They’re Mommy’s.” Mommy bought stripper heels?


Ralph walks into the bedroom and finds a whole new wardrobe of beautiful dresses and shoes laid out on the bed. He also finds a bill in Eve’s name for $218. But Eve claims she had nothing to do with it, and in fact had assumed Ralph ordered the clothes for her as a present. It takes a good actress to convince you that she’s not lying, when in fact she is lying, because she’s an actress. But, um, Eve White isn’t lying, is what I’m trying to say.


Ralph calls the store to clear up the mix-up, but the saleslady starts running her big mouth about how Eve was down there trying on all the clothes and bought herself a beautiful new wardrobe. I don’t think this is going to end well for Eve.


Ralph confronts Eve in the kitchen and accuses her of being a liar, but she seems genuinely baffled by the whole thing and swears she didn’t buy those dresses. Ralph is clearly torn over what to believe, but right now he’s edging more toward “my wife is sneaky and is trying to convince me that she’s sleep-shopping” and therefore stalks off angry.


Eve insists on packing up the clothes to send them back but Ralph yells at her and says he’ll do it. Just then, Eve starts to get one of her headaches. Uh oh! Either she’s about to have one of her spells or she’s transforming into the Incredible Hulk!


Suddenly Ralph hears Bonnie scream from the living room. KER-WHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAA?!?


Oh, that? That’s just Eve trying to strangle her only child to death, is all.


Ralph throws Eve off of Bonnie and onto the floor. She looks up at him, dazed and confused, but he tells her he’ll kill her if she gets up.


So Eve just lies there, on her face, while the world’s most tragic violin solo plays on.


Now we’re back in Dr. Luther’s office, where Ralph is on his feet yelling at Eve as she sits blankly in the chair repeatedly insisting that she didn’t do it. Ralph keeps insisting that she obviously did try to strangle Bonnie, because he was there, and so was the audience, so sadly at this point we’re sort of on his side. Ralph goes on about how Eve went up to Atlanta last month and refused to come home. But Eve claims she hasn’t been to Atlanta in over a year. It finally dawns on Dr. Luther that, when one is treating a patient, it is neither customary nor helpful to have her loud-mouthed, verbally-abusive husband in the room, so he escorts Ralph out. Since Dr. Luther didn’t witness the Bonnie-strangling and has more reason to like Eve than he does to like her dumb husband, he starts to ask her why she thinks Ralph says she does these things if she didn’t do them. Eve suggests that maybe he’s trying to convince her that she’s crazy in order to get Bonnie away from her. Aha! So gaslighting is his game!


Caring doctor is caring. When Eve asks Dr. Luther if he really thinks she’s losing her mind, he says he finds no evidence to suggest so. But Eve says she knows she’s going crazy, because now she’s hearing voices too. You can really feel the sheer terror Eve is experiencing as she repeatedly asks the doctor if this means she’s losing her mind. Dr. Luther sensibly explains that crazy people hear voices and think it’s normal, but if Eve is hearing voices and recognizes it as a symptom of illness then she’s obviously not crazy. Pretty convincing argument to me. Nevertheless, Eve gets increasingly more afraid and more agitated until suddenly…


Oh snap. Men, cover your throats!


Well hey. Hello there. Cancel that order of murderous rage.


Sultry music plays. The doctor asks Eve about her headache and she responds, “I didn’t have no headache. She had one, but I didn’t. . . . She always gets those headaches when I want to come out.” The doctor asks who “she” is, and Eve responds Eve White. The doctor is confused, and we would be too, if we didn’t already know where this picture was going.


Eve gets all flouncy and relaxed and… unladylike. She takes off her nylons and lets her hair down. Hubba hubba! But this new incarnation calls herself Eve Black, and goes on to claim that Ralph isn’t her husband and Bonnie isn’t her child. This simple migraine case suddenly got a lot more interesting.


Eve Black turns on the radio and tries to convince the doctor to escape through the back door and go dancing with her. But he just excuses himself to go summon the other doctor in the practice, Dr. Francis Day, because, again, Hervey M. Cleckley? Too hideous for Hollywood.


The two doctors return to the office and interrogate Eve Black, trying to determine if she’s faking it. Eve Black says that she knows everything about Eve White but Eve White doesn’t know about her. She also admits to being the voice that told Eve White to leave her husband. Finally, she reveals her plan to come out and stay out for good, erasing Eve White for all eternity. I guess that’s supposed to be a bad thing, even though Eve Black is clearly a whole lot more fun than Eve White.

Eve Black then recounts the tale of one time when she stayed out drinking all night and then let Eve White have the hangover. As she’s laughing hysterically about this, Dr. Day finally declares, “She’s faking. Listen, Mrs. White –”


But as the doctor says her name, Eve White pops back into her body, dazed and confused. Why am I smoking? Why is my hair down? Why am I lounging improperly on a couch with two unfamiliar men? I’m surprised she doesn’t run screaming from the room, but with Eve Black around, I suppose this kind of stuff happens to Eve White pretty often.


You can practically see the dollar signs in their eyes. Cha-CHING!


So Eve is admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where she is forced to wear a hideous housecoat and read boring poetry to slack-jawed orderlies. Wait, I thought we wanted her to get better and not to yearn for the sweet embrace of death.


Enter the good Dr. Luther. He hasn’t quite yet figured out how to tell Eve White about the existence of Eve Black. He sits down with her, and after some initial pleasantries he starts to inquire about the general state of her marriage. Eve admits that it hasn’t been a very happy union, which I think we are meant to understand is mostly regardless of Eve’s mental problems, because, even though he hasn’t really done anything unreasonable or unexpected for a layman in his position, we really want to believe Ralph is a jerk, simply because Eve is so sympathetic. Then Dr. Luther tactfully asks Eve if she ever feels like there’s somebody deep down inside her trying to get out, but she just looks at him like he’s speaking Martian. So much for the subtle approach.


Day turns into night at the hospital, and the Poetic Orderly from before is locking up the common room when he hears a voice call out to him from the darkness.


WHY EVE BLACK YOU BRAZEN HUSSY.


Eve Black flirtatiously tries to lure the orderly into her room, but he says it’s against the rules and is very reluctant to follow her. Then she tells him, “I’ve got a poem for ya.” We all know how Poetic Orderly can’t resist poetry. He finally relents, and it’s only as she closes the door that Eve Black clarifies, “It’s a limerick!”


The door shuts and a few seconds later Poetic Orderly bursts out, his hair all mussed, and bolts down the hallway. Eve Black pops her head out and yells after him, “Chicken!” All right, I’ll admit it. Eve Black is kind of amazing.


Then they call the doctor and the doctor says, NO MORE EVE BLACK TRICKING ORDERLIES INTO HER BED! He also points out to Eve Black that all the naughty stuff she does is going to get Eve White in trouble, and where Eve White goes, she goes.


This makes Eve Black pouty. How it must suck to be stuck in the same body with a frump.


And just as Dr. Luther is explaining to Eve Black why he has to tell Eve White about her existence, Debbie Downer herself returns.


Dr. Luther’s patience has worn short, as has his tie and apparently his torso. He finally tells Eve White about Eve Black, only we don’t get to see it because there’s a dramatic fadeout.


“Now all Dr. Luther had to do was to explain the situation to Ralph.” Oh, good luck.


Dr. Luther sits ol’ Ralph down and calmly, slowly explains the whole Eve White/Eve Black multiple personality situation as best he can, using as many monosyllabic words as possible. I think David Wayne’s performance in this scene is marvelously understated yet spot-on, as he plays an uneducated guy who’s trying to understand what this doctor is saying, and smiles and nods as if he does, but really has no frickin’ idea what this fancy-schmancy psychiatrist is talking about. Dr. Luther finally finishes his explanation and asks, “Do you understand?” Ralph gives a long, thoughtful pause until he finally responds, “No sir.” Wayne and Cobb do a great job of playing up the comedy of the situation, without making it too obvious that that’s what they’re doing, lest it be seen as inappropriate or detrimental to the drama of the story.

Seeing that his attempts at simplifying the explanation aren’t working, Dr. Luther tries a different approach, but when he gets to the word “psychopathological” and sees the @_@ expression on Ralph’s face, he finally realizes that he better just show Ralph what he’s talking about.


Dr. Luther takes Ralph into Eve White’s room, where she’s sitting, dowdy as ever, in her housecoat. First Dr. Luther asks Eve White if she knows who Ralph is, if she’s the mother of his child, all of which Eve White confirms. Then he asks to speak to Eve Black.


Eve White lowers her head, the music lingers, until she looks up and says – “Oh spit!” I lol’d.

Eve Black proceeds to launch a tirade against Dr. Luther and “that leadbottom” Ralph, who’s getting pretty darn angry with his wife for mouthing off, until Dr. Luther calls Eve White back.


Did I do that? Then Dr. Luther calls Eve Black, then Eve White again, in rapid succession. Well now you’re just messing around. I don’t think it’s entirely ethical for a doctor to be repeatedly inducing migraines in a patient like this.


Ralph finally gets the point.


We cycle through some exterior shots as the narrator explains that, after two weeks in the hospital, the Eves are finally well enough to be discharged, but they have to stay in town for regular treatments. Meanwhile, Ralph has found a better job in Florida and moved there, while the grandparents have been stuck with caring for Bonnie.

Cut to Ralph helping Eve White get set up in the furnished room she’s renting while she stays in town. She apologizes for splitting everybody up, but Ralph says it’s not her fault and if the doctor can help her get well, it will all have been worth it. I have no idea how to feel about Ralph at this point. Sometimes he’s violent and chauvinistic, other times he’s confused yet caring. Talk about a split personality!


As soon as Ralph’s gone, Eve Black gets ready for a night on the town. Why did we think this was a good idea again?


Eve Black ends up singing in some seedy night club. Because if there’s one thing we needed in this serious, heart-wrenching psychological melodrama, it’s a musical number. On the plus side, Joanne Woodward is really, really cute.


Eve Black’s date for the evening turns out to be this unsavory fella, who has to get back to the base by one o’clock and pressures Eve to come with him to a hotel. Real classy.


Eve says nope so he twists her arm until she cries out in pain. Grr! I hate you, Mr. Army Guy! The pain sends Eve Black into a blackout…


…Well, I think you can guess what happens from here. The movie assumes you can, too, because there’s a fadeout.


Back at the… place where Eve lives now, Ralph shows up and tells her she’s coming back to Florida with him. He’s convinced this whole multiple personality thing is a trick she’s playing on him with Dr. Luther, because he went and personally asked two doctors and they hadn’t heard of it. He probably asked a dentist and an English professor. Who am I kidding? Ralph doesn’t know any English professors.


When Eve White refuses to go, Ralph tells her that she needs a “darn good whippin’, that’s what you need, to knock summa that nuttiness outta you.” Are we still supposed to feel ambiguous about Ralph? ‘Cause I don’t. Eve still refuses, and Ralph gives her an ultimatum: if she doesn’t come with him now, their marriage is over, and she won’t ever see Bonnie again. Eve doesn’t really care about the marriage part, it’s the Bonnie part that gets to her. But, to her credit, she stands her ground and says she’s not going to leave until she’s well. Ralph storms out, leaving Eve White pained and distraught.


Never fear! Looks like Jezebel here has a plan.


Eve Black dolls herself up all purty and ambushes Ralph at his hotel.


A-WOOOOOOOOO-GA!!! Hubba hubba!


Basically, Eve Black seduces Eve White’s husband, pretending to be Eve White, only Ralph totally knows it’s Eve Black and not Eve White, but since they’re multiple personalities in one body, IS IT TECHNICALLY CHEATING????? LOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!! Well, even if it’s not, it’s knowingly taking advantage of someone who has lost control of their powers of reason and judgment, which is pretty darn skeevy if you ask me. Anyway, Eve Black agrees to go to Florida with Ralph on the condition that he buy her somethin’ purty. He does, and they do.


Eve Black uses the purty new dress from her husband to attract men at a nightclub in Jacksonville. We have already established that Eve Black is obsessed with both dresses and soldiers, so if Ralph would just get a crew cut and put on a frock, he’d be set. But needless to say, all this gallivanting does not please Ralph, and when Eve Black gets back to the… place where Ralph lives, he smacks her one across the face and storms out. And naturally, since Eve Black is a jerk who always pawns the physical pain she receives off on somebody else, Eve White returns.


Repeat world’s saddest violin music.


Fadeout, and then Drs. Plot and Exposition appear to fill us in on what’s been going on. Evidently it’s a while later, and Eve and Ralph are now divorced. Dr. Luther is complaining to Dr. Day that Eve just keeps getting worse. Neither Eve Black nor Eve White is a fit person to rule the whole body; if only there were some third personality in there that was completely level-headed. And if only something horrible had happened to Eve White in her childhood that could explain all this. Hmm, IF ONLY.


In walks Eve Black. I guess this is unusual because Eve White is the one who usually comes to therapy. Eve Black tells Dr. Luther that she’s not letting Eve White come out anymore because last night she tried to commit suicide. Eve Black shows Dr. Luther where Eve White tried to slit her wrist. Er, their wrist.


But that’s not the worst of it. Eve Black admits that now she, too, is experiencing blackouts and lost bits of time. Dr. Luther asks to speak to Eve White, then asks if he can put her under hypnosis. He does the whole “you are getting very sleeeeeeeeeepy” routine, but he doesn’t even swing a pocket watch in front of her eyes, so it’s obviously not real hypnosis.


Evidently Dr. Luther didn’t actually want to ask Eve anything under hypnosis, because the minute she’s out he just starts scribbling in his notebook, so clearly he just needed a little break from her to add something he forgot to his grocery list. Little does he know, HE’S BEING WATCHED.


A new voice speaks up suddenly, which comes from Eve’s body but does not have the same Southern accent that the other two Eves have, which DOESN’T MAKE ANY DARN SENSE since all the personalities where ostensibly raised in the same place, but we’ll let it go. This new personality says she doesn’t know who Dr. Luther is. Worse yet, she doesn’t know who she is. Dr. Luther gives her the ol’ o_O of baffled confusion.


Dr. Luther calls in Dr. Old Guy Whose Name I Can’t Remember. Day! Dr. Day! So he calls the old guy in, and the new Eve tells them that she knows both Eve White and Eve Black, but she doesn’t know her own name or where she came from. She names herself Jane, which is somehow the most logical name she can come up with, even though CLEARLY she should be called Eve Gray, CLEARLY.


So now there are three. Three separate women, living three separate lives in the same body. Eve Black continues her promiscuous ways, going out with a different sailor every night. Eve White has gotten a job as a telephone operator to support herself, where Eve Black pops in and helps her occasionally. And then there’s Jane, who seems perfectly pleasant and yet has no memories. She’s started seeing a new man, Earl. As he’s dropping her off after a date, he begs Jane to marry him; when she says she can’t, he begs her to explain why. Pushy.


So Jane explains, as best she can. “Holy Moses!” exclaims Earl. You asked for it, buddy. But then he tells Jane that he still loves her just the same, “maybe even more.” And this is before he’s even met Eve Black! This guy’s a keeper.


Eve White goes to see Dr. Luther, but she’s really tired and run down. She explains how the last time she went to see Bonnie she got this premonition that she was never going to see her daughter again, that Eve White was going to die off and one of the other personalities was going to take over permanently. Even though Eve White says she’s accepted that she’ll be one of the personalities to die, she speaks of her last moments with her daughter with extreme sadness and melancholy. Those darn tragic violins certainly don’t help.


Then Jane comes out and relates to Dr. Luther the tale of a curious incident that occurred with Bonnie. It seems Eve White and Bonnie were playing catch in the backyard when the ball got loose and rolled under the house. As Eve White went to retrieve it, she turned into Jane, who then had a hallucination about being under the house but very small. AAAHHH SHE’S SHRINKING!!! Watch out for cats!


So Dr. Luther calls Eve White back (they don’t get migraines anymore when he does this, don’t worry) and then puts her under hypnosis, which you can apparently do to anyone by just counting to three — there, I just saved you years of psychiatric training. He tells Eve White to imagine being six years old, under the house. Eve starts to get visibly upset, and her speech patterns become more childlike. She starts muttering about a blue china cup, and then about flowers, and then she starts yelling, “Mama, don’t make me, don’t make me!” until she lets out a scream of terror and breaks the trance.


Eve Black pops out and goes wtf!!!


Then Eve Black hits on Dr. Luther and he flirts back and it’s really creepy. ETHICS, sir, ETHICS! Eve Black complains about how Dr. Luther likes Jane more than he likes her, and then she expresses her fears that they’ll never get well and that they’re all going to die. She starts crying. Oh crap, does this multiple personality HAVE ITS OWN MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES?!?


Eve Black keeps insisting that Dr. Luther take her sexy red dress “if anything should happen.” Frankly I don’t think it’ll look as good on him as it did on her, but I won’t judge a book by its cover. Maybe Dr. Luther’s got some killer gams under there. Anyway, he then calls out Jane and as Eve Black fades away, she says a very sorrowful goodbye, as if she’ll never see Dr. Luther again.


When Jane comes out Dr. Luther asks her if she’s remembered any more about being under the house, but she just gets agitated and shakes her head. Then he rapidly calls on Eve White who suddenly SCREAMS INTO MY EAR DRUMS CAN YOU PLEASE NOT I AM WATCHING THIS WITH HEADPHONES OW OW STOP.


FLAAAAASHBAAAAACK. Eve is a teeny little girl playing under the house with a friend. They are racing to see who can empty a bucket of sand the fastest, which tells us that this is in the past, before the invention of fun. Eve’s mother comes and drags her out. Eve’s mother is Miss Hathaway?!? That totally explains her trauma! But no. (Well, I mean, yes, Eve’s mother is actually played by Nancy Kulp, but that’s not the source of her trauma.) Eve’s mother brings Eve inside to a room full of solemn people and forces her to kiss her dead grandmother goodbye. That’s it?!? OH COME ON. It’s not like Grandma reached up and went OOGA BOOGA BOOGA! It’s not like a maggot came crawling out of her nose. I’ve been sitting here for ninety minutes waiting for THAT?!?!? Censors of 1957, you are officially ON NOTICE.


Good to see Dr. Luther is just as disappointed as I am.


Jane is calm again and explains that she knows her mother didn’t mean any harm by making her kiss her dead grandma, that in those days people just thought it would help you to miss them less if you kissed your dead relatives goodbye one last time. If that worked at all, I think it was because it scared you into not wanting them to come back, but whatever. Jane starts quoting Shakespeare and says she learned it in high school. Dr. Luther asks her more about high school and her childhood, and she answers him without any hesitation. Do you know what this means?!? Jane remembers!


Jane is all excited about reciting the name of everybody she’s ever known, but Dr. Luther gets bored with it and calls out Eve White. We’re sorry, the number you have dialed is not in service. He tries Eve Black. Address unknown. It’s all Jane, all the time! Only, instead of merging all three personalities into one, haven’t we really just killed off the two we found the most unpleasant? That’s… sort of unfair, but the point is, the movie’s over! And everyone lives happily ever after! Um, except the two Eves, because they died and stuff. But anyway yaaaaaaaaay THE END.

Final Thoughts: You know how sometimes when you watch a movie, even if you know nothing about the origins of the script, you can tell it was based on a stage play just by the sets and the blocking? This movie is like that… except it wasn’t based on a play. The whole thing just feels very claustrophobic and stiff. There are virtually zero scenes that take place outside, and with the exception of the dancing and wife-beating scenes, really not a lot of movement in general. It’s just talk talk talk, contained outburst, sad violins. Even though this is supposed to be a psychological drama about the inner workings of one disturbed woman, for the most part the camera stays very far away from Eve, and there are a lot of wide shots of people talking to each other which don’t feel very intimate at all. Everybody who isn’t Joanne Woodward really sort of phones in their performance, but they’re not exactly asked to do much more than that, with the possible exception of David Wayne as Ralph. The revelation of Eve’s trauma is incredibly unsatisfying; I’m not asking to be disturbed, I am just asking that you make me believe. Even if the circumstances of said trauma were the same, there are definitely cinematic techniques, audio and lighting effects, a plethora of tools to make it feel legitimately traumatizing for the viewer. This movie was so concerned with telling it as it (supposedly) happened that it forgot to make me feel anything (except ripped off). Censorship is no excuse for a lack of creativity.

Without Joanne, this is a good, not great, picture, in that it gets the job done and ties the whole story up in a neat little package. Joanne, however, makes this a movie worth watching, and makes it the classic it has become today. Her performance is flawless. She literally plays three characters in one movie, and she does it effortlessly. Not only do her tone and inflection change when she switches personalities, her movements, her posture, her entire way of being are instantly and smoothly altered. What’s more, she so wholly creates and owns these characters that you can very easily tell them apart just by the way she stands. She is what makes this story intriguing and she is what keeps you watching. She’s. Just. PERFECT. If you want to see a movie about dissociative identity disorder that will haunt your dreams and may traumatize you into dissociation, try Sybil, which has the advantage of being made in 1976 when censorship laws had already flown out the window. If you want to see a great actress wholly embody a character – three-fold – give The Three Faces of Eve a chance.


The Three Faces of Eve (1957) – 3.5/5 stars

8 Comments

  1. Joanne Woodward is so beautiful and such a great actress, but I have to admit, I think Lee J Cobb is a bigger selling point for me. He’s just brilliant in so many ways. I like him as the hothead, he’s a lot more fun, but no matter what, he’s awesome. I’ll have to put this one on my list now to see. Thanks for the recommendation!

  2. Wonderful review, Caroline! I have always loved this movie, and have seen it so often I could quote and act the three parts myself. I have to agree with Constant Writer that I thought Lee J. Cobb gave a stellar performance as Dr. Thigpen (I mean Dr. Luther — who could say Dr. Thigpen without thinking of the Peanuts gang!) The scene in which Eve Black is “dying” is so poignant, and I missed her. I didn’t miss Eve White at all! And frankly, Jane was a little boring, so I was kind of sorry to see her win out.

    I’m sure you are quite right that the childhood trauma could not have been only kissing the dead grandmother. If that were true, 3/4 of the world would be raving mad! I will have to follow your links to find out why the real Eve sued about the movie.

    Joanne Woodward was just perfection in this role. I admire her very much. Her ability to underplay her beauty for the sake of a part reminds me of Bette Davis. Joanne is just a great actress. And how wonderful she was in “Sybil”! The one constant and true friend/doctor in the sad and chaotic life of Sybil.

    Your picture and captions were hilarious! I too love to spoof even a movie I love. In closing, I remember a comment from Paul Newman that is such a perfect example of their love. Someone asked him if he was ever tempted by the women who throw themselves at him. He said “Why should I go for hamburger when I’ve got steak at home.”

    • I know, it makes me sad that everybody ELSE just decided for Eve that Jane was the best for her, at the expense of killing off the other parts of herself. I wanted the three to come together as facets of one whole person, but Jane just seemed to be the most manageable for everybody else and not necessarily for Eve. I don’t know that much about Dissociative Identity Disorder but Sybil rings more true to me, which also makes it a lot harder to watch. That and its three-hour running time make it a once-every-three-years kinda film. But while you can quote Three Faces of Eve from memory, I can quote Sybil. :) Both Joanne Woodward and Sally Field are so brilliant in that film.

      I can’t even THINK about Paul and Joanne without tearing up, I just admire them so much. I have one of Roddy McDowall’s Double Exposure photography books in which he pairs photographs of actors with essays written about them by other actors — there are three of these books and they are wonderful gems for film fans — and he had Joanne write Paul’s essay and Paul write Joanne’s. Joanne says of Paul something to the effect of, “People ask me what it’s like to be married to the sexiest man in the world. And I say, sexiness fades over time, but going home to someone who makes you laugh every day is timeless.” Beautiful. <3

  3. Page

     /  February 26, 2011

    Caroline,
    I loved your pictorial review! What fun! I hope you do more of them in the future. You know how much I enjoy snark and this review did not disappoint.
    Page

    • Thanks, Page! I used to do a blog that was ALL pictorial reviews, but it proved to be just waaay too much work to keep up. Going through a movie inch by inch and screencapping seems fun but it often takes days to do! But I love doing them occasionally — when I’m not watching movies all I watch is “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” so I can’t not be snarky — so there will definitely be more to look forward to. :)

  4. sjb3

     /  May 20, 2013

    Jane actually was an amalgam of Eve White and Eve Black. Both had their good and bad points and the best of both comprised Jane. I didn’t have any trouble seeing that. As for the visual style of the movie itself, well, it was 1957, and that’s what a documentary-style film looked like then. An even better example of the style would be “The Naked City” from 1948 (what marvelous, long-gone views of New York those were !).

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