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The onscreen credit for Richard Brooks reads: "Screenplay and Direction by Richard Brooks." The onscreen literary source credit reads: "From the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky In its English Translation by Constance Garnett." A Hollywood Reporter January 1955 news item noted that German producer Eugen Frenke was in negotiations with Constantin Films to simultaneously make both an English and German version of The Brothers Karamazov . The article indicated that Niven Busch had already completed a treatment, Philip Yordan would be writing the screenplay and Joan Collins was in consideration for the female lead.
Frenke had attempted to make the film in 1937 and again in 1942 using Busch's treatment and starring Anna Sten, who had appeared in a version of the Dostoyevsky's novel in 1931 for Germany's Terra Films. A March 1947 Los Angeles Examiner news item indicated that M-G-M had purchased the novel rights and Robert Taylor and Van Heflin were to be cast in the film. A September 1956 Hollywood Reporter item noted that Millard Kaufman was to write the screenplay. According to a 1957 Los Angeles Times article, Marilyn Monroe was in negotiations with M-G-M for the role of "Grushenka." Brooks indicated that negotiations with Monroe fell through due to "her contractual demands and personal troubles." The same article noted that Carroll Baker was also in contention for the role, but could not secure a release from Warner Bros. According to a June 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, Yul Brynner suffered a fractured back while practicing strenuous trick riding for the picture. Brooks shot around Brynner for two days, after which the actor insisted on returning to the production.
Several major differences occur between the film and the book. In both, "Dmitri" returns to his hometown for his inheritance, but in the film Dmitri already owes his father a debt, which becomes central to the plot, while in the novel Dmitri owes money to "Katerina." The novel's central character is Dmitri's brother, the apprentice monk "Aloysha," who questions his own convictions and develops a strong relationship with his mentor Zosima and neighborhood children, while in the film this character, known as "Alexey," has a smaller role. At the end of the film, "Katya" submits evidence against Dmitri, thus securing his conviction, and his brothers arrange for his escape and reunion with Grushenka, while in the novel this character, known as "Katerina," assists Dmitri in his escape and reunion.
In an article he wrote for the New York Times in September 1957, Brooks discussed the difficulties of condensing the massive novel into script form. Brooks explained that he decided to change the central character from Alyosha to Dmitri because the latter was a more action-oriented character and thus provided the motivating force behind the complex tale. Brooks also felt Dostoyevsky's constant use of flashback was not well suited for the film as a direct story line.
The Brothers Karamazov was shot on location in London and Paris. The film marked the American film debut for Austrian-Swiss actress Maria Schell (1926-2005), who previously had worked primarily in West German and British productions. The film also marked the feature debut of young Miko Oscard. Lee J. Cobb received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as "Fyodor." Two German adaptations of The Brothers Karamazov have been made for the screen, one in 1918, and the other, noted above, made in 1931. In 1947 an Italian production was released, directed by Giacomo Gentilomo. In 1968 a Soviet version was produced, co-directed by Mikhail Ulyanov, who also starred in the film. This latter version was distributed in the United States in 1980 by Columbia Pictures.