powered by AFI
The working titles of this film were Sister Carrie and Carrie Ames. Onscreen source credits read: "From the American classic Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser." Dreiser's novel caused much controversy upon its publication in 1900. As noted in the Time review, publisher Frank Doubleday's wife was so shocked by Dreiser's manuscript that the book's first edition was never circulated. The novel also encountered trouble with the MPAA. According to information contained in the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Paramount first approached the MPAA about the novel in 1935, but was told that it was "unacceptable," as its heroine was a "kept woman" and the story contained no "compensating moral values." The MPAA also objected to "George Hurstwood's" suicide, a plot element of the novel.
After Paramount dropped the idea of adapting Sister Carrie, Warner Bros., Columbia, Universal and RKO each submitted proposals to the MPAA between 1937 and 1944. Each time, the MPAA advised against the project, threatening to deny approval if the book was filmed. According to contemporary sources, RKO purchased the rights to the novel in 1944, then sold them to producer-director William Wyler in 1947. On May 25, 1950, according to MPAA records, Wyler submitted a screenplay to PCA director Joseph I. Breen, shortly before production was to begin. Breen repeated complaints that the story was "unacceptable" due to "adultery and illicit sex," and recommended that the "Fitzgerald" character be used as a "voice for morality." Breen also suggested changing the circumstances surrounding George's suicide, which was still in the script. A second draft, which eliminated the suicide and incorporated Breen's suggestions about Fitzgerald, was approved by Breen on 3 August 1950.
At the time of Wyler's purchase, Lillian Hellman was announced as the book's probable adaptor. According to modern sources, Cary Grant turned down the role of "George" before it was offered to Laurence Olivier. Carrie marked Olivier's first Hollywood production since the 1941 Alexander Korda-United Artists release That Hamilton Woman (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). Olivier and Wyler had previously worked together on the acclaimed 1939 Samuel Goldwyn release Wuthering Heights (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). According to modern sources, the recently knighted Olivier requested that he not be listed as Sir Laurence on posters for the film or in the credits. Modern sources also note that to prepare for his role, Olivier made an intense study of Midwestern accents. In September 1950 ParNews announced that Ruth Warwick had been signed to play "Julia Hurstwood," the role portrayed by Miriam Hopkins. Hollywood Reporter news items add Phyllis Brunner, Tanya Somova, Elaine Baik, Irene Dannacher, Jinni Jon, Frankie Park, Ernest Simon and Cathy Biscutte to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to modern sources, star Jennifer Jones, whom Paramount borrowed from David O. Selznick's company, was pregnant during the making of the picture, but suffered a miscarriage shortly after filming. The picture received Academy Award nominations in the Art Direction (Black-and-White) and Costume Design (Black-and-White) category.