Sybil by Flora Schriber, 1973
Flora Rheta Schreiber was the psychiatry editor of Science Digest when she first heard about a patient being treated by Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, a therapist. Dr. Wilbur's patient was Shirley Mason, later named Sybil in the book to protect Shirley's identity. Originally in treatment for social anxiety and memory loss, Shirley manifested sixteen personalities after extended therapy involving drugs and hynopsis. The book took seven years to write and was published by the Henry Regnery Company in 1973. Sybil had an initial print run of 400,000 and hit the New York Times best seller list that same year. This 373 page book is believed to have been the impetus for the later upsurge in the diagnoses of dissociative identity disorders.
Sybil, the Movie, 1976
Sally Field starred as Sybil while Joanne Woodward portrayed Sybil's psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelia B. Wilbur. Woodward had earlier in her career starred in The Three Faces of Eve in which she portrayed a woman with three personalities. That role won her an Academy Award for Best Actress. The movie Sybil, as did the book, tells the story of Sybil Dorsett who suffered from dissociative identity disorder as a result of psychological trauma suffered as a child. Ms. Field's portrayal of Sybil as a young woman with sixteen personalities, or alternates, won her much critical acclaim as well as an Emmy for best actress in a television drama.
Director's Cut, Sybil, 2006
The director's cut of Sybil and a documentary about the making of the original movie were released July 18th, 2006 in a two DVD set. The creator of this web site, Nancy L. Preston was interviewed about her long association with Miss Mason and that interview is included in the DVD in the section The Paintings of Sybil ; a clip can also be found on youtube. It is interesting to note that Shirley Mason's name is not mentioned in the DVD although in my interview I repeatedly called my friend Shirley, not Sybil. I was told that it was due to legal problems with the use of Miss Mason's real identity in connection with the book Sybil.
Sybil, the Re-Make, 2007
The re-make of the movie, starring Jessica Lange as Dr. Wilbur and Tammy Blanchard as Sybil, was filmed in Canada and some of Shirley’s art is featured in it. Both movies are now frequently rerun on cable television. I like the introduction of the remake as it accurately portrays how Shirley's therapy art was found hidden in her basement after her death; and how that art was subsequently purchased by Mr. James Ballard of Lexington, Kentucky. I felt the endings of both movies were too rushed and did not accurately portray how the integrations took place. Also, the simplistic endings did not address what life was like as my friend tried to integrate her old world as she knew it with her new world as she learned to live with reality.