Three Faces of Eve, The (1957)

20th Century Fox

Playing a young housewife and mother from Richmond named Virginia, who has three different personalities, Joanne Woodward won the 1957 Best Actress Oscar for her showy but impressive performance; she was only 27.

The screenplay by Nunnally Johnson, who also directed, is a fictionalized version of a true story documented by two psychiatrists in their book of their treatment of the woman in real life. Hollywood being Hollywood, the text is at once too simplistic, under-explained, and basically upbeat in terms of therapy and cure. Ultimately, the film's psychology is shallow and gimmicky but the two central actors are appealing.

In the brief introduction, an emotionally troubled woman is nervously accompanied by her husband (David Wayne), seeking the aid of a psychiatrist named Luther (Lee J. Cobb). At first, Virginia complains of terrible headaches and strange lapses of memory. The benevolent psychiatrist offers some pat suggestions and sends her back home to her husband and child.

The ensuing saga unfolds in a series of encounters between Virginia/Eve and her doctor. The heroine calls herself Eve White when she's good and Eve Black when she's bad and sexy, and there is a third personality, the intelligent woman who represents the ideal norm.

At the end, as the main cause to Eve's problems, the film presents a flashback to Eve's childhood and her traumatic experience, when her mother forced her to kiss her dead grandmother, claiming that it would help her overcome her grief and not miss the deceased.

Though hailing from a rich and educated Southern family, Woodard specialized in playing white trash, drab Southern women, such as Virginia/Eve, the newly wed in “No Down Payment,” and the social misfit in “”The Fugitive Kind,” based on Tennessee Williams' play.

Woodward's showmanship is very likable, which might explain why she won the Oscar in a year in which the other competitors were Deborah Kerr in “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allyson,” Anna Magnani in “Wild Is the Wind,” Liz Taylor in “Raintree County,” and Lana Turner in “Peyton Place.”

It's impossible to tell whether David Wayne, playing her crude, insensitive husband, was miscast or misdirected.

The saga is narrated by Alistair Cooke, who offers wit and occasionally humor in his commentary. At the time, critics complained that the movie is too static and theatrical and not cinematic enough.

Cast

Eve (Joanne Woodward)
Ralph White (David Wayne)
Dr. Luther (Lee. J. Cobb)
Dr. Day (Edwin Jerome)
Secretary (Alena Murray)
Mrs. Black (Nancy Kulp)
Mr. Black (Douglas Spencer)
Bonnie (Terry Ann Ross)
Earl (Ken Scott)
Eve (Mimi Gibson)

Credits

Produced by Nunnally Johnson
Directed by Nunnally Johnson
Screenplay: Nunnally Johnson, based on the book by Corbett H. Thigpen and Harvey M. Checkley
Camera: Stanley Cortez
Editor: Marjorie Fowler
Music: Robert Emmett Dolan
Art Director: Lyle Wheeler, Herman A. Blumenthal
Costumes: Renie

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