Audrey Hepburn was first offered the role of Anne Frank, and Otto Frank was among those who nominated her. She refused it for three reasons. Firstly, she had decided to accept the role in Green Mansions (1959). Secondly, she had lived in occupied Holland during the war and had seen the Nazis carry out street executions and watched as they herded Jews onto boxcars to carry them to concentration camps. She knew that making the film would bring back memories that were far too painful for her. However, thirdly, she was thirty and felt that she was too old to play a teenage character convincingly on screen.
Otto Frank and one of the men who had helped his family, Johannes Kleiman, were hired as technical advisers. Otto Frank worked closely with the production, met with Diane Baker and Millie Perkins, and approved their casting as his late daughters Margot Frank and Anne Frank. But he never could bring himself to watch the play or film, because of the extreme sadness involved.
Shelley Winters donated the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award she won for the role of Mrs. Van Daan to the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, after promising Otto Frank that she would do so if she were to win the award. It remains on permanent display in the museum to this day.
George Stevens chose to film in black and white as he believed it would heighten the drama. He also deliberately shot some scenes in near darkness, forcing the viewer to really concentrate on the details.
George Stevens had trouble getting suitable emotion from the actors when the American plane passes by. So a record player was hidden in the soundstage and set to play "The Star Spangled Banner" to evoke an emotional reaction from the American actors.
The DVD and Blu-ray released on June 16, 2009 by 20th Century Fox not only commemorates the film's 50th anniversary, but also what would have been Anne Frank's 80th birthday. She was born on June 12, 1929.
Miep Gies, played by Dodie Heath, died on January 11, 2010 at the age of 100. Gies was the last friend of the Frank family who helped hide them, provided them with food and news, and who found Anne Frank's diary.
Anne Frank's father, Otto Frank - the only survivor of his immediate family and of the hidden group - signed a contract with 20th Century Fox in May 1957, giving his approval for a film version of Anne Frank's story. Shooting started the following spring with a $3 million budget.
20th Century Fox was filming most of its movies in the extra large dimensions of Cinemascope in order to lure patrons out of their homes and away from their small televisions. However, George Stevens felt that the wide spectrum of Cinemascope took away from the claustrophobic feel that being confined in an attic for two years would produce. Therefore, in order to achieve the effect that he desired without defying the order to film in Cinemascope, the director added columns on each side of the set, supposedly to be the beams that were supporting the attic but actually to narrow the width of the screen, thus producing the stifling feel he originally intended.
Anne Frank created aliases for her roommates in the diary, feeling that some of her revelations would prove embarrassing and harmful to them should they survive the war. The "Van Daan" family was really named Van Pels, and the surname of Mr. "Dussel" the dentist was really Pfeffer.
The original Broadway production of "The Diary of Anne Frank" by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett opened at the Cort Theater on October 5, 1955, ran for 717 performances and won the 1956 Tony Award for the Best Play, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in the same year. Joseph Schildkraut, Gusti Huber and Lou Jacobi recreated their stage roles - respectively Otto Frank, Edith Frank, and Mr. Van Daan - in the movie version for which Goodrich and Hackett also wrote the screenplay. Susan Strasberg, who had played Anne on stage, and was nominated for 1956 Tony Award for Actress in a Drama, turned down the chance to play her on film, so Millie Perkins took over the role.
In 1942, Hannukah begins on December 7, and some characters compare it to Saint Nicholas. This is because Dutch Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas, inspiration for Santa Claus) has his day on December 6. This is unlike the rest of the world which reassigns him to December 25 for convenient conflation with the Birth of Christ commemoration.
Ed Wynn was born before the real life person he plays in the film: Wynn was born in 1886, Fritz Pfeffer ("Albert Dussel" in Anne Frank's list of aliases) was born in 1889. Add the time difference between 1944 and 1959, and the age gap between actor and character increases.
The following prologue is featured at the beginning of this movie: "The filming of scenes at the house where Anne Frank wrote her diary was made possible through the cooperation of the City of Amsterdam."