After a tryout in Philadelphia, the play opened on Broadway on 24 November 1950 and closed on 28 November 1953 after 1200 performances. The play won a Tony for best musical and another for best choreography for Michael Kidd, who staged the dances and musical numbers in this movie. Original cast members included Robert Alda (father of Alan Alda) as Sky Masterson, Isabel Bigley as Sarah Brown, and Sam Levene as Nathan Detroit. Vivian Blaine as Adelaide, Stubby Kaye as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, B.S. Pully as Big Jule and Johnny Silver as Benny Southstreet all appeared in their original Broadway roles for the movie.
Marilyn Monroe wanted to play Adelaide, but director Joseph L. Mankiewicz didn't want to work with her again (she appeared briefly in All About Eve) and supposedly pretended he never got her phone messages. Animal lover Betty Grable was in talks to play Adelaide but when she canceled a meeting with Goldwyn to be with her sick dog, who had to be taken to the vet with a broken leg, a miffed Sam Goldwyn would not reschedule and dropped her from consideration. Judy Holliday was also briefly considered for the role.
The songs "A Woman in Love", "Pet Me Poppa" and "Adelaide" were written for the screen version and were not in the original Broadway show. On Broadway, Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) doesn't sing in the title song. That was added for the film to increase Sinatra's singing part.
The decision to cast Marlon Brando was hotly contested, largely by Frank Sinatra, who wanted the part of Sky Masterson himself. Later in his career, he made Sky's big number "Luck Be A Lady" part of his stage act.
Several of the songs from the Broadway show that were cut from the film were featured in the movie as background music. Among them are "A Bushel and a Peck", "My Time of Day" and "I've Never Been In Love Before".
The character of Sky Masterson is rumored to be based upon New York sportswriter - and former frontier marshal - William Barclay 'Bat' Masterson. In another rumor, according to David Blaine's book "Mysterious Stranger", Sky Masterson was one of the few men to successfully con gangster Al Capone.
After filming repeated takes of the scene where Sky (Marlon Brando) and Nathan (Frank Sinatra) first meet, they had to quit for the day when Sinatra had too much cheesecake. He said he could not take one more bite. Practical joker (some would say jerk) Brando, knowing how much Sinatra hated cheesecake, purposely flubbed each take so that Sinatra would have to eat piece after piece of cheesecake. The next day, they came back and shot the scene perfectly on the first take.
Very few contractions - 'aren't' for 'are not' or 'wouldn't' for 'would not', for example - are used in the dialogue in this movie (the songs are a different story). While it makes the language seem stilted and excessively formal at times, this is true to the writings of Damon Runyon. He also eschewed the use of contractions, and this characteristic gave his works a very recognizable style.
The "blank dice" gag is a reference to an old gambler's trick in which the sides of a pair of dice are altered so that only odd numbers come up on each die when you make a roll, so that both dice make an even number.
The original Broadway production of "Guys and Doll" opened at the 26th Street Theater on November 24, 1950, ran for 1200 performances and won the 1951 Tony Award (New York City) for the Best Musical. Vivian Blaine, Stubby KayeB.S. Pully and Johnny Silver recreated their stage roles in the movie version.
Marlon Brando had been cast in the role of Sky Masterson, a role coveted by Frank Sinatra, while Sinatra was relegated to the supporting role of Nathan Detroit. Relations between the two actors were strained during production. Many years later, Brando said of Sinatra, "Frank's the kind of guy who, when he gets to Heaven, is going to give God a hard time for making him bald."
Both Vivian Blaine (Adelaide) and B.S. Pully (Big Julie) appeared previously in Greenwich Village. In that earlier film, though playing a character similar to "Big Julie". Pully managed to sing and dance, to the delight of the movie audience
The storyline was based on the 1933 Damon Runyon short story, "The Idyll Of Sarah Brown", That story was later a radio play, broadcast on "Damon Runyon Theater", in 1949, on NBC radio. The voice of Sky Masterson, at that time, was Richard Egan, who had just begun his acting career.