The Three Faces of Eve
Director: Nunnally Johnson. Cast: Joanne Woodward, Lee J. Cobb, David Wayne, Edwin Jerome, Terry Ann Ross, Ken Scott, Alistair Cooke, Nancy Kulp, Douglas Spencer. Screenplay: Nunnally Johnson (based on the book by Corbett Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley).

Photo © 1957 20th Century Fox
Joanne Woodward won an Oscar, and virtually every other acting prize in sight, for her titular role as Eve, a woman whose psyche has frayed into three distinct personalities. From its strange opening prologue, narrated by a scientific "expert," the film insists that its story was derived from a true incident and thus comprises a revelatory, crucial moment in the history of psychological knowledge. Regardless of how closely The Three Faces of Eve hews to case histories or cognitive science, the film solely exists to give an actress the workout of a lifetime. Woodward throws herself into her role—or rather, into all three of her roles—with enough energy and skill that she actually grows even more compelling as the film goes on. We do begin to believe that three different characters are competing for occupancy of Woodward's slender frame. Yet unlike, say, Dead Ringers, a much later and much darker film in which a single personality seems to split between two identical twins, The Three Faces of Eve never uses its provocative premise to say anything interesting about identity, or science, or even about the relationship between its characters, all of whom, including Lee J. Cobb's patient psychiatrist and David Wayne's baffled husband, pale into insignificance alongside Woodward's tour de force. In the end, the actress is all dressed up in three different outfits, and she still doesn't have anywhere to go. C

Academy Award Nominations and Winners:
Best Actress: Joanne Woodward

Golden Globe Nominations and Winners:
Best Actress (Drama): Joanne Woodward

Other Awards:
National Board of Review: Best Actress (Woodward; also cited for No Down Payment)

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