A young woman whose childhood was so harrowing to her that she developed 16 different personalities.
Reviews
Popularity
3,538 ( 289)

On Disc

at Amazon

Episodes

Seasons


Years



1  
1976  
Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 6 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »

Photos

Add Image Add an image

Do you have any images for this title?

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Sybil (TV Movie 2007)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A true story of a young woman whose abusive childhood results in her developing a multiple personality disorder.

Director: Joseph Sargent
Stars: Jessica Lange, Tammy Blanchard, Ron White
Sybil (TV Series 2016)
Animation | Adventure
Stars: John Vodka, Pete Polyakov, Sergio Emilio Torres
Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A doctor treats a woman suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder.

Director: Nunnally Johnson
Stars: Joanne Woodward, David Wayne, Lee J. Cobb
Norma Rae (1979)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A young single mother and textile worker agrees to help unionize her mill despite the problems and dangers involved.

Director: Martin Ritt
Stars: Sally Field, Beau Bridges, Ron Leibman
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

In the Deep South in the 1930s, a widow and her family try to run their cotton farm with the help of a disparate group of friends.

Director: Robert Benton
Stars: Sally Field, Lindsay Crouse, Ed Harris
Go Ask Alice (TV Movie 1973)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Inadvertently, a 14-year-old girl in the late American 1960's is sucked into an odyssey of sex and drugs. She eventually seeks help.

Director: John Korty
Stars: William Shatner, Ruth Roman, Wendell Burton
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Emma is a divorced woman with a teen-aged son who moves into a small town and tries to make a go of a horse ranch. Murphy is the widowed town druggist who steers business her way. Things ... See full summary »

Director: Martin Ritt
Stars: Sally Field, James Garner, Brian Kerwin
Comedy | Fantasy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

Not until three years after the death of her husband Jolly, Kay dares to move back into their former home, persuaded by her new fiancé Rupert. But soon her worst expectations come true, ... See full summary »

Director: Robert Mulligan
Stars: Sally Field, James Caan, Jeff Bridges
Soapdish (1991)
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

An ambitious TV soap actress connives with her producer to scuttle the career of the show's long-time star, but nothing works as they plan.

Director: Michael Hoffman
Stars: Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey Jr.
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

This movie is a teaching tool about a teenage girl struggling with alcoholism to cope with her feelings of insecurity and usual problems of adolescence.

Director: Richard Donner
Stars: Linda Blair, Larry Hagman, Verna Bloom
Gidget (1965–1966)
Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Frances "Gidget" Lawrence lives with her widowed college professor father in Southern California. Anne is her older sister who is married to John Cooper, an obtuse but lovable psychology ... See full summary »

Stars: Sally Field, Don Porter, Lynette Winter
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

After finding out that the hippie lifestyle isn't as glamorous as the media makes it look, Dennie comes home to find disapproval and judgment at every turn, and her sister Susie wanting to follow in her footsteps.

Director: Joseph Sargent
Stars: Sally Field, Eleanor Parker, Lane Bradbury
Edit

Cast

Complete series cast summary:
...
 Dr. Cornelia Wilbur (2 episodes, 1976)
...
 Sybil (2 episodes, 1976)
...
 Richard (2 episodes, 1976)
Martine Bartlett ...
 Hattie (2 episodes, 1976)
Jane Hoffman ...
 Frieda Dorsett (2 episodes, 1976)
...
 Dr. Quinoness (2 episodes, 1976)
Jessamine Milner ...
 Grandma Dorsett (2 episodes, 1976)
...
 Willard Dorsett (2 episodes, 1976)
...
 Miss Penny (2 episodes, 1976)
...
 Cam (2 episodes, 1976)
Tommy Crebbs ...
 Matthew (2 episodes, 1976)
Gina Petrushka ...
 Dr. Lazarus (2 episodes, 1976)
Harold Pruett ...
 Danny (2 episodes, 1976)
Natasha Ryan ...
 Child Sybil (2 episodes, 1976)
...
 Dr. Castle (2 episodes, 1976)
Anne Beesley ...
 The Selves (2 episodes, 1976)
Virginia Campbell ...
 The Selves (2 episodes, 1976)
Missy Karn ...
 The Selves (2 episodes, 1976)
Tasha Lee ...
 The Selves (2 episodes, 1976)
Cathy Lynn Lesko ...
 The Selves (2 episodes, 1976)
Rachel Longaker ...
 The Selves (2 episodes, 1976)
Jennifer McAllister ...
 The Selves (2 episodes, 1976)
Kerry Muir ...
 The Selves (2 episodes, 1976)
Karen Obediear ...
 The Selves (2 episodes, 1976)
Tony Sherman ...
 The Selves (2 episodes, 1976)
Danny Stevenson ...
 The Selves (2 episodes, 1976)
Edit

Storyline

The story tells of a young woman admitting to having blackouts, fearing they are getting worse. She is diagnosed as suffering from multiple personalities, as a result of severe abuse at the hands of her mother, whom her psychiatrist, Cornelia B. Wilbur, believes was schizophrenic. The movie Sibyl is based upon author Flora Rheta Schreiber's biography of Shirley Ardell Mason, an American psychiatric patient, suffering from multiple personality disorder. The book, also called Sibyl, was in its turn based largely on the actual accounts of psychiatric treatment that Shirley Ardell Mason underwent, documented by American psychiatrist Cornelia B. Wilbur. Written by Jim Berg

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

14 November 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sybil - en verklig mardröm  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(original television) | (theatrical) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

In searching for the lead role of Sybil, Joanne Woodward was originally wanted for the role. She had played a multiple personalities patient in The Three Faces of Eve (1957). However she declined and asked to play the role of Dr. Wilbur. See more »

Goofs

On the day Sybil meets Dr. Wilbur, just before she "awakens" in the doctor's office we see a close shot of Dr. Wilbur's right hand as she takes notes. There is a ring on the doctor's right index finger. Then we switch immediately to wider shot of the doctor still writing, but there is no longer a ring on her right hand. It is clear that there was no break in writing between the shots. See more »

Quotes

Hattie: [snatches one of Sybil's crayons away] Do you think life is all sunshine, singing and colors when you grow up? I should say not. You are bad. You are spoiled rotten. You better learn quick.
[pushes crayons off the table to the floor and begins stomping on them]
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Vivid, unsettling true story given enormous stature by Joanne Woodward and Emmy-winning Sally Field.

How does one survive, much less overcome, long-standing child abuse? Newscasts are littered with the more unusual, horrific stories - children imprisoned in closets or chained to beds with little more than food or water; tiny children dying in hot, sweltering autos or stuffed into car trunks while a parent works. In yesterday's paper alone, an archbishop of a progressive church was charged with the strangulation of a 15-year-old girl he sexually assaulted for years, while on the opposite page a woman and her boyfriend were charged with beating two of her children with a metal pipe, their battered bodies bearing the marks of years of abuse. How does a child get through this WHILE IT IS HAPPENING? Somehow, some way they MUST build up some sort of mental toughness or defense mechanism to combat the agony and fear - either by tuning out or systematically shutting down -- going into deep states of denial and emotional withdrawal. And then there is Sybil Dorsett...

Sally Field is unforgettable as the titular victim of incessant child abuse, a woman who dissolved into SIXTEEN separate and distinct personalities in order to cope with a mother who inflicted indescribable childhood tortures. She is nothing short of amazing, especially in her "dissociative" scenes as she morphs with lightning speed into one or more of her "inner family" -- a combative, self-assertive Peggy Lou, a mothering but suicidal Mary, a vivacious, ambitious Vicky, a frightened, thumb-sucking Sybil Ann, or even an athletically-inclined Mike. All of them personalities created and programmed unconsciously by Sybil to endure any situation she herself couldn't handle, and triggered by almost anything -- a hostile argument, piano music, certain colors, street sounds, even a word.

What is incredible about Field's performance as Sybil (not her real name) is the ability to tear down her own barriers to such an extent that she can revert into a flood of strange babblings or shockingly infantile behavior at the drop of a hat. It is such a compelling and all-consuming feat that these scenes come off almost improvisatory in style. One particular marvel of a scene has Sybil's psychologist discovering her patient, an artist by nature, lodged under a piano taken over by one of her more immature personalities, tormented by thunderous sounds of Dvorak and Beethoven, illustrating her torment on paper with brightly-colored crayons. It is to director Daniel Petrie's credit that he was able to create such a safe environment for Field to let herself go like this. With "Sybil," Field, who won an Emmy, forever dispelled any theories that she was a one-note actress trapped with a Gidget-like cuteness.

In an ironic bit of casting, Joanne Woodward essays the role of Sybil's psychologist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, who finally pinpoints Sybil's mental disability and starts her on the long, arduous journey of putting the "selves" back together. Woodward won an Academy Award decades earlier as a similar victim of MPD (multiple personality disorder) in a curious but ultimately heavy-handed and very dated film "The Three Faces of Eve." Woodward is superb here as a professional clearly out of her element but determined to find a light at the end of the tunnel for this poor, unfortunate girl.

The late Brad Davis, as an unsuspecting acquaintance who wants to get to know Sybil better, adds a tender, sympathetic chapter to Sybil's turbulent life, while William Prince and Jane Hoffman are compelling as Sybil's bloodless father and stepmother who offer puzzling, ignorant explanations to Sybil's "problem." Charles Lane has a significant scene as Sybil's small-town doctor (as a child) who failed to report his examination findings, and little Natasha Ryan, in flashback sequences, must be commended for reenacting the more harrowing details of Sybil's childhood torment. Jessamine Milner as Sybil's grandmother has a few affecting moments as a doting grandma who offers Sybil brief moments of respite.

However, the most chilling portrait of evil you'll ever witness on TV goes hands down to stocky, harsh-looking Martine Bartlett as Sybil's monster of a mother. She lends horrifying believability to the fragmented, unbalanced woman who gets sadistic pleasure out of her routine torturous acts. Bartlett, a respected stage actress little seen on film, was known for another bizarre but fascinating screen role as a crazy, self-abusing mental patient in "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden." As Hattie Dorsett, she displays subtle, calculating menace, which makes her even more terrifying, as she devises a number of "games" to inflict on her only child. Some of these scenes are extremely repelling and graphic in nature, but it is all handled as responsibly as possible, considering the actual incidents DID occur.

Hopefully seeing this dark, disturbing, but ultimately important TV-movie will inspire you to read Flora Rheta Schreiber's best selling book, which details Sybil's childhood, blackout episodes (the real Sybil once woke up finding out she had missed the entire sixth grade(!), therapy sessions, the battle of alter-egos for control of Sybil, and the subsequent unifying process, through the professional vantage point of Dr. Wilbur and with more depth. Trust me, you won't be able to put it down and you'll never question the boundaries and/or consequences of child abuse again.

WARNING - Don't rent the confusing, chopped-up two-hour version, also available on tape. This was a two-part, over three-hour long drama when initially shown and THIS version is what rates a "10."


72 of 72 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Does the book explain why her mother abused her and disliked her? katejane10
The film is abusive in itself Lilith-Luna
Different Versions afn01288
Were they all children? Steven_Titchenell
Mason house Dodge Center mbaby33
Discuss Sybil (1976) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?