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According to a November 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, Ruth and Augustus Goetz were set to adapt Max Catto's novel, The Killing Frost, and Wolf Mankowitz is listed in a July 1955 news item as contributing additional dialogue, but the contribution of these writers to the final film has not been determined. An August 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that Montgomery Clift was under consideration for the role of "Tino Orsini." Trapeze marked the American film debuts of British director Carol Reed and Italian star Gina Lollobrigida. Tony Curtis was borrowed from Universal-International for the production. "Bouglione's" character was loosely based on the Cirque d'Hiver's real-life proprietor, Joseph Bouglione. Burt Lancaster began his career as a circus acrobat until an injury forced his retirement.
According to Hollywood Reporter and New York Times news items, the film was shot on location in Paris at the 103-year-old Cirque d'Hiver, in the village of Versailles, and with interiors shot at Billancourt Studios in Paris. Many news items noted that the ad campaign put on by Hecht-Lancaster and United Artists exceeded two millions dollars, making it the most expensive to date. Trapeze was the third top grossing film of 1956.
According to an item in the "Rambling Reporter" August 1956 Hollywood Reporter column, the stuntwoman for Gina Lollobrigida died after suffering a broken back from a forty-foot fall during the film's production. Modern sources add the following actors to the cast: Mme. Felco Cipriano, Betty Codreano, Gabrielle Fontan, Willy Krause, Sally Marlowe, Mylos, Michael Thomas, Edward Ward and Achille Zavatta.
A modern biography on Lancaster indicates that the script removed a homosexual twist in Catto's novel: Orsini is executed for murdering a woman who left him for "Ribble," but the real killer proves to be Ribble who wanted Orsini. In March 1957, Daily Variety indicated that writer Batia Jacobs filed a property right infringement suit against Hecht-Lancaster, UA, Catto and agent Ben Medford, claiming her manuscript entitled No Alternative was the basis for Catto's novel. The outcome of the suit has not been determined.
A July 1957 Variety item noted that screenwriter Daniel Fuchs filed suit for $250,000 and one-sixth of the profits of Trapeze, charging infringement of copyright, break of implied contract and violation of a confidential relationship. Fuchs indicated he wrote a story for Collier's magazine in 1940 entitled "The Daring Young Man" and in 1946 hired Harold Hecht as his agent. Fuchs claimed that, in 1952, he gave Hecht a screenplay adaptation of the story which, by that time, was entitled "Trapeze." The suit charged that in 1955, Trapeze's writers produced and "copied in substantial part" Fuchs's original story. A May 1959 Daily Variety article noted that an out-of-court settlement, "believed to be one of the largest of its kind in motion picture history," ended the two-year litigation. Although none of the parties disclosed the amount of the settlement, one contemporary source estimated it to be about $50,000.