Cast & Crew
In the late 1890s, after bidding her Missouri family goodbye, pretty Carrie Meeber boards a Chicago-bound train and soon is chatting with Charles S. Drouet, a smooth-talking, traveling dry goods salesman. Despite her prediction that she will do well in the city, Carrie ends up working as a seamstress in a shoe factory, and living in squalid conditions with her sister Minnie and harsh brother-in-law Sven. One day, in an effort to please her demanding boss, Carrie rushes to finish a shoe and gets her hand caught in her sewing machine. Though the injury is minor, her boss sends her home, then replaces her. Unable to find another job, Carrie shows up at Charlie's dry goods office and begs for work. Instead, Charlie gives her ten dollars and invites her to dine with him at Fitzgerald's, a fancy restaurant. Carrie reluctantly accepts, but after Minnie chastises her for taking money from a strange man, she goes to Fitzgerald's, intending to return his ten dollars and break the date. After Carrie inadvertently walks into Fitzgerald's "men only" bar, manager George Hurstwood happily escorts her to the restaurant. Charlie then appears and talks Carrie into staying. During the meal, George sends some champagne to Carrie's table, and she begins to relax and enjoy herself. Afterward, Charlie insists that Carrie stay in his apartment, claiming he is leaving on a business trip that night. While packing his bag, Charlie attempts to seduce Carrie, but she does not respond. Sometime later, however, Carrie has moved in with the salesman but becomes upset when a neighbor girl refuses to speak to her because she and Charlie are unwed. Carrie demands that Charlie marry her and when he refuses, threatens to return to Minnie's. To change her mind, Charlie buys her a puppy and, while returning home with the dog, runs into George, whom he knows casually from the bar. Charlie invites George inside, and Carrie enjoys playing cards with the erudite manager. Before leaving, George offers Charlie and Carrie two theater tickets, but Charlie, who is going out of town, encourages George to take Carrie instead. Later, George, who is married to the socially ambitious, cold-hearted Julia, returns to see Carrie and suggests they go to the play together. Unaware that George is married, Carrie agrees, and after they spend several evenings together, George stops by Fitzgerald's, where the perceptive, older Fitzgerald warns him about straying. Fitzgerald then spies Carrie and assumes she is George's mistress. Before bidding her good night, George kisses Carrie and, the next day, sends a note, asking her to meet him. Despite Charlie's return, Carrie rushes to see George, who begs her to go away with him. Carrie eagerly consents, but when she later runs into Charlie at Fitzgerald's, he tells her about Julia. George, meanwhile, asks Julia for a divorce, but she refuses to grant one and enlists Fitzgerald in her cause. After George is confronted by an angry Carrie, he runs into a drunken Charlie, who announces he is marrying Carrie the next day. Stunned and distracted, George inadvertently removes an envelope of cash from Fitzgerald's safe, then impulsively decides to steal it. He tricks Carrie into accompanying him to the train station and, once on a New York-bound train, begs her forgiveness and assures her that he and Julia are divorcing. Later, in New York, the now-married George and Carrie are visited by Allen, a private detective hired by Fitzgerald. Although Allen allows George to return Fitzgerald's unspent cash without legal consequence, he warns George that his reputation has been ruined. Without confessing his crime, George then informs Carrie that he was compelled to give Allen all their money, and the understanding Carrie vows to stick by her husband. Despite Carrie's optimism, George cannot find a decent job, because word of his theft has spread among the city's restaurant owners. George's worries increase after Carrie reveals she is pregnant, and he must fight for a lowly dishwashing job. When Julia appears at their doorstep, needing George's signature to sell their Chicago house, Carrie finally learns that George never obtained a divorce. Although Julia agrees to divorce George in exchange for his half of the sale proceeds, Carrie is devastated. Later she has a miscarriage and increases George's feelings of guilt with her bitterness. After recuperating, Carrie gets work as a chorine in a Broadway show. George, meanwhile, learns that his son, George, Jr., has married and will be in New York briefly with his socialite bride. Carrie urges George to reunite with his son, but George cannot go through with the meeting and leaves without making his presence known. When he returns home, he finds that Carrie, who feared that George, Jr. would resent her presence, has moved out. Carrie's acting career takes off, and after becoming a star, she is visited by Charlie, who reveals the truth about George's theft. Convinced that she was the cause of George's ruin, Carrie searches for him, to no avail. One night, George, who has become a bum, sees Carrie's photo on a theater poster and waits outside the stage door for her. Relieved, Carrie vows to "make it up" to George and declares they will be together again. After advising Carrie not to live in the past, George, ill and dazed, accepts a quarter from her and quietly departs.
Jacqueline De Wit
Jean De Briac
F. Patrick Henry
Jasper D. Weldon
Mike P. Donovan
Raymond Russell Roe
G. Raymond Nye
Charles B. Smith
Oliver A. Cross
Allen D. Sewall
Paul E. Burns
Edward J. Marr
C. Kenneth Deland
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Dreiser's tale of an ambitious small-town girl who decides that living in sin is an easier way to the top than working in a sweatshop created an uproar on initial publication because of the writer's refusal to judge his characters. Publisher Frank Doubleday declined to even distribute the first edition after his wife complained the book was too sordid. Only the efforts of fellow novelist Frank Norris, who was then working as a reader at Doubleday, got it to reviewers, though even then it was met with mixed notices. The subject matter was still shocking in 1935, when Paramount first submitted the book for approval by the Production Code Administration. Joe Breen turned it down, stating that its story of a kept woman who drives a man to suicide had no "compensating moral value," meaning there was no effort to condemn the characters' immorality. The property passed to Warner Bros., Columbia and RKO, but none of them could get the story past Breen.
Looking for materials with which to set up his own production company, Wyler picked up the rights from RKO in 1947. Initially he asked Lillian Hellman to adapt the novel; Wyler had previously brought her plays The Children's Hour and The Little Foxes to the screen successfully. She agreed but then proved too busy. He asked her to approach Arthur Miller about the job, but he, too, was too busy. She suggested Norman Mailer, but Wyler thought him too young and inexperienced to capture George Hurstwood's descent into destitution. By that point, he had been working happily with Ruth and Augustus Goetz on The Heiress (1949), the screen version of their stage adaptation of Henry James' Washington Square. He gave them the writing assignment, then worked with them for months getting the treatment and screenplay just right. To appease the Production Code, he added a character, Hurstwood's business partner, to act as a spokesman for traditional morality. When the studio and Breen asked that he cut Hurstwood's suicide, however, he refused, determined that if he filmed it tastefully he could overcome the censors' objections.
As he worked on the screenplay, Wyler sent a draft to independent producer Selznick for advice (Selznick was considered one of the best script and movie doctors in Hollywood). Realizing the power of the title role, Selznick began a campaign to win it for his wife, Jones. Hoping to use the film to build up her career, Selznick bombarded Wyler with memos suggesting alternative endings, a more marketable title (The Loved and the Unloved) and leading men he would consider appropriate to work opposite his wife. At the top of the list was Laurence Olivier.
Wyler may have been on the fence about Jones, but he needed no encouragement about working with Olivier. The two had been friends since working together on Wuthering Heights (1939), and the director sent a script to him. When Olivier informed him that he was tied up with a stage production, Wyler offered to postpone filming until he could make the film and even offered to find another property if Olivier didn't want to make Carrie. This was more than friendship. Although some in Hollywood had cautioned the director that the British actor was far from suitable for the role of the Midwestern Hurstwood, Wyler felt that Olivier's elegance was perfectly suited for the role of a man who seduces Carrie with his sophistication. The only actor in Hollywood he thought could pull off the role was Cary Grant, who had already turned it down. Fortunately, Olivier was so intrigued by the project that he agreed to make the film as soon as he could close his current stage production. Part of his motivation was the desire to remain close to his wife, Vivien Leigh, who would be in Hollywood at the same time filming A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).
At that point, Wyler decided that Elizabeth Taylor - who had just scored a hit in another Dreiser adaptation, A Place in the Sun (1951) - was perfect for the title role in Carrie and asked Olivier to speak with her while she was in London. Unfortunately, MGM refused to approve the loan. Paramount's executives then pushed to cast Ava Gardner, while Wyler also considered Jeanne Crain. When Selznick got wind of this, he exploded, sending Wyler a lengthy telegram complaining that he had been led to believe Jones had won the role and had turned down an offer of $250,000 for a Warner Bros. film so she would be available for Carrie. He also stated that she was no longer interested in the film anyway. When Wyler apologized for not telling him he was looking at other actresses, he calmed down. Crain wasn't available either, so Paramount finally offered the role to Jones, though for far less than the $250,000 Selznick claimed to have turned down.
Olivier arrived in New York in August 1951 to meet with the Goetzes and tour the flophouses in the Bowery. He also asked Wyler to get him a dialect coach and asked Milwaukee-born star Spencer Tracy, whom he had coached on a British accent for Edward, My Son (1949), to give him some pointers. When he arrived on the set he not only threw himself into the role, but also proved eager to learn about the latest developments in film technology, hoping to incorporate them into his own work as a movie director.
Shortly after they started filming Carrie, Wyler read an item in Louella Parsons' column indicating that Jones was pregnant. Though the actress denied it publicly, she had to admit to her director that she was indeed expecting. When he asked why she hadn't told him sooner, she said she was afraid it would cost her the part. He assured her that they could shoot around her condition and even told her that she did not have to wear the corsets required for the film's late 19th century fashions while shooting close-ups. Ever the perfectionist, she wore them throughout production. Nonetheless, Wyler abandoned his famous tracking shots in her scenes, using close-ups critics would later complain gave the film a static feeling. After filming was completed, she suffered a miscarriage.
Whether it was the seriousness of the subject matter or a variety of personal problems, the atmosphere on the set was often funereal. Wyler was still recovering from the death of his year-old son. Olivier had an unspecified, painful leg ailment that often left him cranky, and he began insisting on a closed set. He also developed a dislike for Jones, claiming in a letter to Leigh that "she doesn't know anything about anything. No soul, like we always said about them [Jones and Selznick], dumb animals with human brains". For his part, Selznick, who had promised Wyler he would steer clear of the set, sent endless memos complaining about their overworking his wife.
Filming on Carrie was completed in November 1951, at which point Paramount left the film sitting on the shelf. The problem was political. The rising tide of McCarthyism had hit Hollywood so hard the studio was afraid to distribute a film showing American characters as immoral and, eventually, unsuccessful. Finally, they cabled Wyler in Rome, where he was preparing to shoot Roman Holiday (1953), asking his permission to make cuts that would make the film more positive. Although he had final cut in his contract, the studio was not obligated to release the film, so he consented, even though it meant losing Olivier's suicide scene (it would be included among the extras in the DVD version).
Even then, Paramount buried Carrie in minor bookings. The reviews were far from encouraging, with several critics accusing the filmmakers of sentimentalizing the novel, particularly in the treatment of Jones' character. Only Olivier emerged unscathed, winning strong reviews. Initially, Wyler defended Jones' performance (and the Goetzes said outright that they thought she was truer to Dreiser's writing than Olivier; they had actually campaigned to cast Fredric March instead). According to Wyler's widow, however, he privately stated that she had been all wrong for the role. For the most part, however, he blamed himself for making such a depressing film at a time when American audiences wanted escape in the face of the early days of the Cold War. Although later critics would hail Olivier's and Eddie Albert's performances, they would agree with the film's contemporary critics in condemning Jones' work. Nor did the film's box office failure do much to bolster her career.
Producer-Director: William Wyler
Screenplay: Ruth & Augustus Goetz
Based on the novel Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
Cinematography: Victor Milner
Art Direction: Hal Pereira, Roland Anderson
Music: David Raksin
Cast: Laurence Olivier (George Hurstwood), Jennifer Jones (Carrie Meeber), Miriam Hopkins (Julie Hurstwood), Eddie Albert (Charles Drouet), Basil Ruysdael (Mr. Fitzgerald), Ray Teal (Allen), Mary Murphy (Jessica Hurstwood), Don Beddoe (Goodman), Royal Dano (Captain), Snub Pollard (Man).
by Frank Miller
Olivier by Terry Coleman
Though based on Theodore Dreiser's novel "Sister Carrie," the movie was released simply as "Carrie" because the studio feared audiences would think "Sister Carrie" was the story of a nun.
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.