Cast & Crew
Twenty-five-year-old Elizabeth Richmond is a mousy office worker at the Los Angeles County Museum who suffers from severe headaches and insomnia. Elizabeth's distress is compounded by the malicious and threatening notes signed "Lizzie" she has been receiving, but co-worker Ruth Seaton assures her the notes are merely pranks. Despite Ruth's attempts to befriend her co-worker, Elizabeth avoids socializing. One evening, when Elizabeth asks her spinster aunt Morgan, with whom she lives, about the notes and begins to question her own sanity, Morgan is too consumed with gambling and bourbon to take the girl's problems seriously. As Elizabeth turns her back while Morgan drunkenly rambles on, she suddenly calls Morgan a "drunken old slut." Morgan confronts Elizabeth, who, now quiet, feigns ignorance of her insult and runs to her room. Once at her dressing room mirror, Elizabeth's personality changes into that of a coquett and she applies heavy makeup and piles her hair on top of her head. Late that evening, she goes to Rick's Tavern, a nightclub where she brazenly flirts with men until museum janitor and playboy Johnny Valenzo recognizes her from work. Elizabeth introduces herself as "Lizzie" and insists on calling him "Robin." Johnny finds the new Elizabeth so irresistible that he agrees to play along with her. The next morning Elizabeth complains of having a headache, but has no recollection of the previous evening. Morgan reports her suspicions about Elizabeth's late night escapades to her neighbor, Walter Brenner, who suggests to Elizabeth that she see his psychiatrist, Dr. Neal Wright, about her "insomnia." Elizabeth at first refuses, but when Johnny calls her "Lizzie" at work and she finds another note, she decides to seek Wright's help. At the appointment, the kindly doctor asks her questions while she is under hypnosis. At first Elizabeth replies with her own name and circumstances, but when Wright presses her, the girl suddenly becomes a mean-spirited woman who calls herself "Lizzie" and says she wants to destroy Elizabeth and move away with Robin. After four more weeks' treatment, Wright decides to put Elizabeth into a deep hypnotic trance to reach further into her subconscious. The resulting personality, "Beth," has empathy for Elizabeth's sickness and confesses that she stopped talking when she was a little girl. Days later, Wright meets with Morgan and Walter, who have become closer through their shared interest in Elizabeth. Walter tells Wright that Elizabeth was distraught and broke off plans with co-workers on her last birthday. Wright explains Elizabeth has multiple personalities due to a mental block because of some past harmful incident. Wright then reveals his plans to develop the normal, lovely Beth so she can dominate the others. During another appointment, Beth, while under hypnosis, recounts a trip to the beach with her mother and her mother's boy friend Robin, during which the couple chastises the innocent girl for interrupting their romantic afternoon. Beth says the incident made her feel unwanted, prompting Wright to tell her that he cares for her. When the doctor persists with questions about Robin, Beth becomes too distraught to continue the session. One evening when Morgan leaves Elizabeth at home, Lizzie emerges and invites "Robin" to a night of drinking and sex at the house. When Morgan returns home later, she is shocked by Lizzie's slattern appearance and calls Wright for help. The doctor arrives at the house and slaps Lizzie, causing Elizabeth to return. Wright then has Elizabeth look in the mirror at "Lizzie." The following morning, Elizabeth's birthday, Morgan is so frustrated by the girl's unpredictable nature that she congratulates each of her three personalities on their birthday, thus provoking Elizabeth to become Lizzie. The young woman throws a glass at Morgan and runs from the house. Wright arrives soon after to speak with Morgan and Walter about the girl. He begs Morgan to have compassion for Elizabeth, but Morgan is tired of taking care of her niece and reveals that she resents her sister, Elizabeth's mother, an unprincipled woman who left the child in her care when she died. Morgan then recounts Elizabeth's thirteenth birthday when her mother returned home with Robin too late to celebrate the occasion. She had forgotten her daughter's birthday and was too drunk to console the little girl. Elizabeth was so hurt by her mother's neglect that she shook her. Weak-hearted from years of drinking, Elizabeth's mother fainted and died later that evening. Wright suspects that Elizabeth feels she is responsible for her mother's death and devises a plan to return to that fateful night. Later that day, Elizabeth receives a note from Lizzie suggesting that she kill herself. Elizabeth climbs the stairs to the roof and is about to jump, when Ruth sees the roof door open and finds Elizabeth. Not suspecting that Elizabeth is contemplating suicide, Ruth s reports that Wright is waiting for her in the lobby. Wright then drives Elizabeth to her house, explaining that Morgan has invited them to dinner. When Elizabeth opens the door, she finds a birthday cake lit with candles. Elizabeth breaks down and voices her fear that she caused her mother's death. Morgan tells Elizabeth about her mother's weak heart, but Elizabeth is oblivious to her surroundings and continues to remember the evening. After her mother was carried upstairs, Robin cornered Elizabeth on the stairs, forcing her into her bedroom where he raped her. Reliving the brutality of the event sends Elizabeth running to her room, where she hallucinates about being trapped in the museum searching for her mother among the statues and displays. When she looks in the mirror, Elizabeth sees Beth and Lizzie battling for control over her. As the voices escalate, Elizabeth screams and smashes the mirror. Wright rushes up the stairs, where he finds that Beth has won the battle. He explains to Morgan and Walter that the shattered mirror symbolizes Beth's dominance over the other personalities. Now confident that her niece is well on her way to recovery, Morgan apologizes to Beth for not being more understanding. After Wright encourages Beth to start a new life, she graciously thanks him.
Burt P. Bacharach
Parker, a three-time Oscar® nominee in her own right, was 35 when she played the role of the 25-year-old Elizabeth Richmond, an assistant in a natural museum who is plagued by headaches and illness. With simple dresses and skirts, minimal make-up and hair pulled back to create the plain, mousy girl, she plays the role with a nervous, furtive quality, as if living in perpetual fear. Lizzie, in sharp contrast, leaps out of the eternally tired Elizabeth aggressive and angry, like a coiled spring suddenly let go, and she applies make-up like a war mask to announce her arrival. It's a plum role for the actress and Parker runs with it. As Elizabeth, she plays a convincingly younger woman, but looks older in experience, if not years, as the feral Lizzie, who comes on like an aggressive barfly version of Sunset Boulevard's (1950) Norma Desmond. She adds another dimension when the third persona is pulled out through hypnosis, but the extremes of the shy, timid Elizabeth and the "coarse and evil" (in the words of the doc himself) Lizzie give Parker her meatiest opportunities.
Hugo Haas directs and plays the good-natured neighbor who takes an avuncular interest in Elizabeth. Haas was a comedy star in the Czech film industry of the thirties. Like many artists, he fled the Nazis for the U.S., where he became a busy character actor and director, specializing in low-budget, noir-inflected melodramas about scheming young women and cuckolded middle-aged men (which he invariably played himself). This is something different. Lizzie (1957) isn't based on a real-life case study like Eve was, but on Shirley Jackson's 1954 novel The Bird's Nest -- in fact, it's the first big screen adaptation of any of her writings. And while Haas plays up the psychodrama of battling personalities within the same mind and body, he also treats the psychiatric side seriously. The opening credits play over inkblots, an instant (if not necessarily accurate) visual metaphor for modern psychiatry, and Haas turns to expressionist techniques reminiscent of Arch Oboler's Betrayal (an earlier psychodrama built around the concept of multiple personalities) to suggest the internal battle of the personas.
Richard Boone plays the compassionate psychiatrist committed to helping Elizabeth. He'd previously specialized in cunning villains and tough, driven characters on the big screen and established his medical credentials with the TV show Medic. He plays this role with gentle professionalism, understated authority, and patience, explaining the concept of multiple personalities in simplistic terms to both the characters and the audience. A few months after the film was released, Boone made his debut in his most famous role: the erudite Paladin in Have Gun - Will Travel.
Playing Elizabeth's boozy but protective aunt is Joan Blondell, the lively, streetwise star of dozens of comedies, musicals and snappy dramas through the thirties turned sardonic character actor. This is a change of pace for her, a cynical, middle-aged lush who is suspicious of psychiatry and increasingly unnerved by her niece's schizophrenic behavior but does worry over the girl, who has survived a lot of heartache in her life.
The lounge singer in the piano bar is none other than Johnny Mathis in his only big screen appearance. He has no lines but sings two songs: "Warm and Tender," composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the film, and "It's Not for Me to Say," which became a hit for the crooner. And if you think you recognize Elizabeth's friendly co-worker, it's young Marion Ross, later to become a TV icon as the mother on the nostalgic 1970s sitcom Happy Days.
By Sean Axmaker
The working titles for this film were Hidden Faces and Woman in Hell. During the opening credits for the film, hands blot ink on paper and produce a series of Rorschach prints behind the titles. The film's screenplay was based on an unpublished play also by screenwriter Mel Dinelli. Director Hugo Haas cast himself in the role of advice-giving neighbor "Walter Brenner." "It's Not for Me to Say," which was sung by Johnny Mathis in the film, became one of the popular singer's biggest hits. Lizzie marked Mathis' film debut.
Another film produced in 1957 also dealt with the issue of multiple personality. That film, a Twentieth Century-Fox release entitled The Three Faces of Eve, was directed by Nunnally Johnson and starred Joanne Woodward (see below). According to a September 1956 HR news item, Lizzie's producers sued Fox to postpone The Three Faces of Eve because of the similarity of their plots. Fox then decided to delay the production of their film until early in 1957, after the publication of the biography on which The Three Faces of Eve was based.
Joanne Woodward received an Academy Award for her portrayal of Eve in The Three Faces of Eve. According to modern sources, M-G-M expected that Eleanor Parker would receive a nomination for her role in Lizzie; however, when she was not nominated, they then blamed Haas for directing Parker to overact the vamp personality.