Sunday, October 31, 2010
The Hugo Haas-directed Lizzie (1957), based on the 1954 novel The Bird's Nest by Shirley Jackson, was adapted for the screen by Mel Dinelli. Lizzie's producers (which included actor Kirk Douglas) sued to have the release of a similar-themed production, the bigger-budgeted The Three Faces of Eve, postponed. Both dealt with a woman harboring three distinct personalities. The major studio (Fox) release was delayed for six months, but it did the bare-boned-budgeted Lizzie no good. Joanne Woodward received an Academy Award for her portrayal in Eve, while Eleanor Parker’s riveting, edgier performance was shut out of even a nomination. Some blame this slight on Hugo Haas’s direction of Parker’s “bad girl” personality. They claim he encouraged her to overact. Watching the film today, however, the extremes work against each other perfectly. Haas’s subtle, no-nonsense handling of the trance scenes have a raw, in-your-face intensity that was lacking in the glossier Eve. The movie is stark, the atmosphere bleak and uncompromising. The week-long shoot was key in keeping Lizzie's story tight and nervy. Hugo has a nice supporting part as a sympathetic neighbor. His banter with Joan Blondell, playing Lizzie’s stewed-to-the-gills aunt, has charm, and he shows genuine concern for the plight of the young girl. Richard Boone attractively plays the doc who wrestles with Lizzie’s cluttered mind. Ric Roman plays the usual Haas hottie, while Marion Ross, years from TV’s Happy Days, plays Lizzie’s co-worker and friend. The working titles for this film were Hidden Faces and Woman in Hell.