An ELEANOR PARKER film new to me, LIZZIE was made independently by Kirk Douglas’s Bryna Productions and released by MGM.
“Lizzie” might have been better known if it hadn’t opened in the same year as a film with the exact same theme of a woman with multiple personalities
“The Three Faces of Eve” , made by Twentieth Century Fox, had a much bigger budget, was heavily promoted and Joanne Woodward won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance.
Although receiving some good reviews, “Lizzie” virtually disappeared without trace until the Warner Archive released it on DVD.
I havent seen “The Three Faces of Eve” so can’t compare the two films. I thought “Lizzie” was well made and Eleanor Parker impressive . And the film provided a good role for JOAN BLONDELL as the tipsy aunt.
The reason I wanted to see “Lizzie” was because I’m interested in the career of filmmaker HUGO HAAS who directed “Lizzie” and also appeared in it.
Haas had made his own B movies which he often wrote, directed and starred in. Titles like Pickup, The Girl on The Bridge, Bait, The Other Woman, Hold Back Tomorrow. All made in the 1950s.
In 1957, Eleanor Parker was an established Hollywood star – her last film prior to “Lizzie” was The King and Four Queens opposite Clark Gable.
One can only assume she took a chance on the small budget “Lizzie” and director Hugo Haas because she recognised the challenge of Mel Dinelli’s adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel, The Bird’s Nest.’
(Dinelli ‘s previous screenplays included “The Spiral Staircase”, The Window” and “Jeopardy.”)
Eleanor,as Elizabeth , is a shy, plain Jane,soft spoke museum worker . ( The film has some impressive scenes in the L.A.County Natural History museum.)
Elizabeth lives with her aunt Morgan ( Joan Blondell) who drinks too much and isn’t paying attention to her unhappy niece. Hugo Haas is their writer neighbour Walter who takes a friendly interest in both of them.
When Elizabeth becomes Lizzie, the change is done subtly, with an application of some heavy makeup, a harsher voice and a brazen confidence that Elizabeth doesn’t possess.
Elizabeth has no memory of anything Lizzie does.
Eventually the neighbour Walter persuades Elizabeth to see a psychologist Neal Wright ( RICHARD BOONE) .
Under hypnosis, Lizzie speaks to Neal, “My name is Lizzie….I’ll destroy Elizabeth….I’m getting stronger and stronger and someday soon I’m taking over.”
The hypnosis also reveals a third personality, Beth who feels sorry for Elizabeth but won’t acknowledge Lizzie.
In one dramatic scene, Elizabeth sits in her bedroom in front of a mirror which has three panes.The three personalities talk to each other and finally Lizzie says, I’m taking over now” as she shuts the mirror.
A short startling scene that stands out in the film has Elizabeth walking upstairs. Without stopping or turning round, she suddenly becomes Lizzie and calls out in a harsh voice, “You drunken old slut!”, referring to her aunt who looks up in astonishment, not quite sure she has heard correctly.
I thought Eleanor Parker , in a complex , demanding role, did extremely well. Joan Blondell added good contrast as the boozy aunt who finally realises how traumatised her niece is because of past events which we see in flashback.
Richard Boone plays well as the sympathetic doctor and Hugo Haas makes the most of his role as the neighbour. Also in the cast, Marion Ross as Elizabeth’s co-worker and friend ,and Ric Roman who gets confused when the woman he knows as Elizabeth suddenly becomes Lizzie!
A strong story which in any other year would probably have received more plaudits and at least an Oscar nomination for Eleanor Parker.