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Elizabeth has reoccurring headaches and trouble sleeping. Threatening letters signed by Lizzie are given to her, but she does not know anyone named Lizzie. As her situation deteriorates, she goes to a Dr. Wright who hypnotizes her. Deep in her subconscious, Dr. Wright finds three personalities; Elizabeth, the shy one that everyone knows; Lizzie, the wild one like her mother; and Beth, the good one she should have become. Dr. Wright must help the personality of Beth become the only one.Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Shirley Jackson was not impressed with this filmed adaptation of her novel "The Bird's Nest." Her assessment: "Abbott and Costello meet a multiple personality." (From Ruth Franklin's 2016 biography "Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life.") See more »
In Mathis' first scene at the bar, the position of the microphone head and the drink near it on the piano keep changing positions between shots. See more »
Tawdry but effective suspense film about Multiple Personality Disorder
For whatever it's worth, Lizzie is the best movie Hugo Haas ever directed. And that's not a left-handed compliment. Based on a Shirley Jackson novel, Lizzie remains an effective, if tawdry, glimpse into Multiple Personality Disorder, a controversial syndrome that understandably lends itself to exploitation (hence the suspense mechanisms of the plot). But Lizzie ends up rendering better justice to its subject than the more prestigious The Three Faces of Eve of the same year.
Eleanor Parker plays Lizzie. She also plays Elizabeth and Beth, two other facets of her character's (characters'?) fractured psyche. By day, she's mousy Elizabeth, boring her fellow-workers at a museum with complaints about constant headaches; she also keeps finding poison-pen letters from somebody named Lizzie. At closing time, she goes home to the house (a stark horror) she shares with her aunt (Joan Blondell), who slouches around in a horse-blanket bathrobe while killing still another bottle of bourbon. They cohabit in an uneasy truce, broken by unseemly episodes such as Blondell's being called, from the top of a steep, shadowy staircase, a `drunken old slut.'
Another of Elizabeth's litany of complaints is that she can't sleep. Little does she know that live-wire Lizzie emerges at night, slapping on the makeup with a trowel and then heading out to a piano bar where Johnny Mathis sings. There she guzzles the bourbon she claims to hate (hence those headaches) and picks up men, including a handyman from the museum whom she doesn't recognize next morning.
When Blondell catches her red-handed (ungrateful Lizzie polished off the bottle), kindly neighbor Haas suggests that maybe it's time, as Ann Landers would have phrased it, to `seek professional help.' Richard Boone seems an unlikely candidate for a psychiatrist, but he proves a surprisingly reassuring and compassionate one. Using hypnosis, he uncovers the three layers of his patient's personality. The problem lies in coaxing the well-adjusted Beth (whom nobody has ever seen or heard) out of her psychological shell....
Near the end, Haas overreaches briefly with a dream sequence that recalls the loony phantasmagoria of Glen or Glenda, Ed Wood's autobiographical essay on the torment of the cross-dresser. And of course Lizzie's tidy wrap-up, in uplifting Hollywood fashion, is so much dollar-book Freud. That aside, the movie draws upon on a more valid explanation of MPD than does the de-fanged and disingenuous The Three Faces of Eve. Not until Sybil, a hair-raising 1976 TV movie, would a more candid exploration of the traumatic roots of the syndrome appear, for which Sally Field copped an Emmy. Small wonder: Parts like this are like catnip for scenery-chewers and rarely fail to wow critics (Joanne Woodward won an Oscar for her Eve). It all but defies the order of nature that Susan Hayward didn't, somehow, manage to grab the role of Lizzie. But then again, she always played Lizzie.
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