This is one of the finest movies of Joanne Woodward in which she performs the role of a housewife torn between three contrasting personalities; Eve White, Eve Black and Jane. This is a real life story about multiple personality disorder suffered by Chris Costner Sizemore of South Carolina, and diagnosed by Drs. Corbett H. Thigpen, and Hervey M. Cleckley. This story was brilliantly adapted for the screen by the work of Nunnally Johnson, who also wrote for such classics as: How to Marry a Millionaire, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, and We're not Married.
Woodward plays the role of socially repressed Eve White, a housewife and mother of a daughter, Bonnie White (Terry Ann Ross). The second personality is the oversexed Eve Black, clad in sexy bras, and short skirts, drinking, smoking, and always ready for fun at the local bar; and the third person called Jane who is relatively normal. The viewers see a metamorphosis in Eve White who changes from perfect housewife to a downright difficult lady. The real drama unfolds in the offices of Dr. Curtis Luther (Lee Cobb) who methodically investigates the psychological disorder of his patient and comes to the conclusion that Eve suffers from the split personalities of three contrasting women. There is a great deal of drama when the viewers see Eve strangling her only daughter when she "appears" as Eve Black (Eve Black considers that is not her child). The constant fights and domestic problems with her husband Ralph White (David Wayne), and his visits to see her at the psychiatric hospital are very moving. When she is resident of the state facility for mentally disturbed, we find more of the irresponsible and selfish nature of Eve Black who hangs out in the bars, picks men and finally disappoints them, no matter how much it hurts them. In almost all instances we see the appearance of conservative Eve White after Eve black transforms herself; that is, when she sobers of and tries to understand what has happened, and feel embarrassed that she is sitting in the bar in skimpy clothes.
There is an interesting history behind casting. When director Nunnally Johnson's tried to cast actress Jennifer Jones for the leading role; she confessed being terrified of the part. June Allyson simply refused to play, and Judy Garland at first agreed to take part in the movie, but when saw the actual films of Chris Sizemore undergoing psychotherapy, and transformation to split personalities, she got scared. Joanne Woodward read the script on the train from New York to Los Angeles and confessed that she was so afraid of the role she almost returned to New York. Johnson wanted to have Sizemore interviewed for the movie, but her psychiatrists said that she was not ready for the experience. Sizemore continued to manifest new personalities after her supposed cure, up to 22 personalities in all, until 1970s. She did not see the film until 1974, and she found it moving and praised the performance of Joanne Woodward.
There are many situations that are close to the real story. Just as Chris Sizemore had displayed in her therapy, Woodward used a Southern accent for the two Eves and dropped this accent when she became Jane. One change Johnson suggested was making the transformations slowly than Sizemore had actually experienced in the real life. During therapy, Sizemore switched personalities fairly quickly, but the director felt that would not be believable to a movie audience unfamiliar with multiple personality disorder. Each event is chronicled accurately, and as the years in which it all took place pass, viewers see personalities appear and disappear, and transform to one another. One thing that is overlooked over the years in many reviews is the brilliant portrayal of Dr. Luther by Lee Cobb, who has offered brilliant performance and strongly complements the fine work of Woodward.
The Chris Costner Sizemore Papers span the time period 1952-1989, with the bulk of the papers dating between 1956 and 1979. These are currently available at the Duke University library (Duke.edu). The collection consists largely of correspondence; diaries and writings by Sizemore; clippings centered on film and book promotions and speaking engagements. The papers provide an in-depth look into the life of a woman with a rare disorder who later came to clearly articulate her life to the public.