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  Three Faces of Eve, The Memories Are Made Of This
Year: 1957
Director: Nunnally Johnson
Stars: Joanne Woodward, David Wayne, Lee J. Cobb, Edwin Jerome, Alena Murray, Nancy Kulp, Douglas Spencer, Terry Ann Ross, Ken Scott, Mimi Gibson, Alistair Cooke
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: This is the story of a very unusual case, of a type which many psychiatrists may not ever get to see in their careers. It is known as Multiple Personality Disorder, and the subject was a young housewife named Eve White (Joanne Woodward) who complained of severe headaches and blackouts, so her husband Ralph (David Wayne) opted to take her to see a psychiatrist, Dr Luther (Lee J. Cobb). He saw her for a few months until it seemed as though her trauma had died down, but then, one day after her treatment, a package of flashy dresses arrived in Eve's name - but she had no recollection of ordering them...

The success of The Three Faces of Eve ushered in a strain of psychological casebook movies, the most twisted probably being Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, yet has seen its reputation fall from a serious case history into something akin to high camp. But, I hear you cry, Joanne Woodward won an Oscar for her starring role, how bad could it be? The answer to that is that it's not bad exactly, it's simply hard to accept as an accurate representation of an actual case, and Woodward's personality changes can be somewhat ridiculous to watch with modern eyes.

Maybe it is because we are so used to psychiatry being depicted on screen, both large and small, from thrillers to dramas to comedies, that there's a primitive quality to the rendering in this film. And too often, it provokes unintentional chuckles as the dowdy Eve White is transformed into the trashy Eve Black, leaving both husband and cigar-chomping shrink aghast. Woodward is obviously throwing herself into the role with abandon to ensure that one incarnation is markedly different from the others, but when, as happens at the start, she is baffled as to where those glittery high heels have come from and then tries to strangle her small daughter for an encore, it's all too hard to swallow.

After the too-casually shrugged off attempted murder, Eve is not rushed to the local police station, but taken back by her husband to see Luther instead and after a bit of examination he is of the opinion this is a genuine MPD sufferer he sees before him. So he suggests that she be taken to a mental hospital and kept there, where bad girl Eve can taunt the male orderlies while her dim-witted and repressive husband frets. Then, with no noticeable improvement in her condition, she is taken out of the place and sent to live alone in a dingy apartment, something which seems incredible if she was judged a danger to herself.

Eve Black is the most fun to watch as she gloats that Eve White has no idea of what she's up to and picks up men in bars - she even gets her own musical number, a ditty named "Hold Me!" But what of the third face of Eve, as denoted in the title? She is Jane, and appears in the final half hour as the most normal personality that carries us through to the happy ending; it's interesting that sexuality seems to be at the heart of Eve's troubles, either too wayward with E.B. or, thanks to her husband, too staid with E.W., so you would expect some kind of murky and harrowing secret in her past to be the trigger for all of this. Not so, leaving you thinking that the almost trivial reason for her condition as presented here must have been made up by the filmmakers: the whole film badly strains credulity. Music by Robert Emmett Dolan.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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