In 1957, Joanne Woodward delivered an Oscar®:-winning performance in The Three Faces of Eve as a young woman with three distinct personalities struggling for dominance. Thanks to Woodward’s performance and the film’s pedigree and polish, it overshadowed another film that arrived in theaters a few months earlier starring Eleanor Parker as a young woman with – you guessed it – three distinct personalities.
Parker, a three-time Oscar® nominee in her own right, was 35 when she played the role of the 25-year-old Elizabeth Richmond, an assistant in a natural museum who is plagued by headaches and illness. With simple dresses and skirts, minimal make-up and hair pulled back to create the plain, mousy girl, she plays the role with a nervous, furtive quality, as if living in perpetual fear. Lizzie, in sharp contrast, leaps out of the eternally tired Elizabeth aggressive and angry, like a coiled spring suddenly let go, and she applies make-up like a war mask to announce her arrival. It’s a plum role for the actress and Parker runs with it. As Elizabeth, she plays a convincingly younger woman, but looks older in experience, if not years, as the feral Lizzie, who comes on like an aggressive barfly version of Sunset Boulevard‘s (1950) Norma Desmond. She adds another dimension when the third persona is pulled out through hypnosis, but the extremes of the shy, timid Elizabeth and the “coarse and evil” (in the words of the doc himself) Lizzie give Parker her meatiest opportunities.
Hugo Haas directs and plays the good-natured neighbor who takes an avuncular interest in Elizabeth.
Plays Monday, June 17 on Turner Classic Movies