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. (more…)

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