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"Sybil" (1976) More at IMDbPro »TV mini-series 1976-1976

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8.0/10   5,354 votes »
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Down 6% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
View company contact information for Sybil on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
14 November 1976 (USA) See more »
A young woman whose childhood was so harrowing to her that she developed 16 different personalities. Full summary »
Nominated for Golden Globe. Another 6 wins & 4 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
Vivid, unsettling true story given enormous stature by Joanne Woodward and Emmy-winning Sally Field. See more (60 total) »


 (Series Cast Summary - 26 of 28)

Joanne Woodward ... Dr. Cornelia Wilbur (2 episodes, 1976)

Sally Field ... Sybil (2 episodes, 1976)

Brad Davis ... Richard (2 episodes, 1976)

Martine Bartlett ... Hattie (2 episodes, 1976)
Jane Hoffman ... Frieda Dorsett (2 episodes, 1976)

Charles Lane ... Dr. Quinoness (2 episodes, 1976)
Jessamine Milner ... Grandma Dorsett (2 episodes, 1976)

William Prince ... Willard Dorsett (2 episodes, 1976)

Penelope Allen ... Miss Penny (2 episodes, 1976)

Camila Ashland ... 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)

Paul Tulley ... 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)

Series Directed by
Daniel Petrie (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Writing credits
Flora Rheta Schreiber (2 episodes, 1976)
Stewart Stern (2 episodes, 1976)

Series Produced by
Jacqueline Babbin .... producer (2 episodes, 1976)
Philip Capice .... executive producer (2 episodes, 1976)
Peter Dunne .... executive producer (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Original Music by
Alan Bergman (2 episodes, 1976)
Leonard Rosenman (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Cinematography by
Mario Tosi (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Film Editing by
Michael S. McLean (2 episodes, 1976)
Rita Roland (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Casting by
Dianne Crittenden (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Production Design by
Tom H. John (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Set Decoration by
John H. Anderson (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Makeup Department
Janis Clark .... hair stylist (2 episodes, 1976)
Robert Norin .... makeup artist (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Production Management
Gene Fowler Jr. .... post-production supervisor (2 episodes, 1976)
Marty Hornstein .... unit production manager (2 episodes, 1976)
Neil T. Maffeo .... executive in charge of production (2 episodes, 1976)
Lee Rich .... production supervisor (2 episodes, 1976)

Lynn Guthrie .... production manager (unknown episodes)
Series Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Gary Adelson .... second assistant director (2 episodes, 1976)
Anthony Brand .... first assistant director (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Art Department
Russell Goble .... property master (2 episodes, 1976)
Al Rohm .... construction coordinator (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Sound Department
Victor Guarnier .... sound effects supervisor (2 episodes, 1976)
Dick Kupper .... loop editor (2 episodes, 1976)
Al Overton .... production sound mixer (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Camera and Electrical Department
Gene Griffith .... key grip (2 episodes, 1976)
Joel King .... camera operator (2 episodes, 1976)
Joe Pender .... gaffer (2 episodes, 1976)
Paul Caven .... lighting technician (1 episode, 1976)
Joseph Cosko Jr. .... second assistant camera (1 episode, 1976)
Series Casting Department
Shirley Rich .... casting consultant (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Costume and Wardrobe Department
Patricia Norris .... costumes (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Editorial Department
LaReine Johnston .... assistant editor (2 episodes, 1976)
Bob Pickarts .... assistant editor (2 episodes, 1976)
Series Music Department
Alan Bergman .... lyricist (2 episodes, 1976)
Marilyn Bergman .... lyricist (2 episodes, 1976)
Ken Runyon .... music editor (2 episodes, 1976)
Gloria O'Brien .... singer: theme music (1 episode, 1976)

Dan Wallin .... score mixer (unknown episodes)
Series Other crew
H. Bud Otto .... script supervisor (2 episodes, 1976)
Patricia A. Sonsini .... production coordinator (2 episodes, 1976)
Cornelia Wilbur .... psychiatric consultant (2 episodes, 1976)
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
USA:198 min (original television version) | Finland:133 min (theatrical version) | USA:187 min (DVD version)
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

Patty Duke auditioned for the lead role, although was not cast due to a clash with the original director. Daniel Petrie later signed on to direct, but Sally Field already accepted the role.See more »
Anachronisms: In present day scenes (set in mid Seventies), Sybil appears to be in anywhere from 25-to-30 years old. But in flashbacks to her childhood scenes when she around five (which would be either late 1940's or early-mid 50's), everything (cars, fashions, hair, etc.) appears to be set in 1930's - long before she was even born.See more »
Child Sybil:[to her Surgeon] I want to be your little girl!See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in "Revenge: Madness (#4.12)" (2015)See more »


What is 'Sybil' about?
Is 'Sybil' based on a true story?
What is the music that Hattie plays on the piano while admonishing Sybil to hold her water?
See more »
75 out of 75 people found the following review useful.
Vivid, unsettling true story given enormous stature by Joanne Woodward and Emmy-winning Sally Field., 18 April 2001

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."

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