William Castle acquired the movie rights to the novel. Robert Evans of Paramount agreed to green-light the project if Castle did not direct. This was due to Castle's reputation as a director of low-budget horror films. He was, however, allowed to make a prominent cameo appearance.
Before the filming of the scene of Rosemary calling Donald Baumgart (the actor in the story who mysteriously goes blind), Mia Farrow did not know who would be speaking the lines. It was Tony Curtis, and in the scene Farrow shows slight confusion, finding the voice familiar but not able to place it. This confusion was exactly the effect director Roman Polanski hoped to capture by having Curtis read the lines.
According to John Parker's recent biography of Jack Nicholson, Robert Evans suggested Nicholson to Roman Polanski but, after their meeting, the director stated that "for all his talent, his slightly sinister appearance ruled him out".
Directed by Roman Polanski, whose pregnant wife actress Sharon Tate was murdered in 1969 by the followers of Charles Manson, who titled their death spree "Helter Skelter" after the 1968 song by The Beatles, one of whose members, John Lennon, would one day live (and in 1980 be murdered) in the Manhattan apartment building called The Dakota--where this movie had been filmed. Curiously enough, Lennon had written "Dear Prudence" for Mia's sister Prudence Farrow after the pair had spent some time with The Beatles in India at a Transcendental Meditation seminar hosted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (February 1968).
Ira Levin felt that this film is "the single most faithful adaptation of a novel ever to come out of Hollywood." William Castle speculated the reasons for this were because it was the first time Roman Polanski had ever adapted another writer's work, unaware he had the freedom to improvise on the book.
Rosemary (Mia Farrow) says to Terry Gionoffrio (Angela Dorian), "I thought you were Victoria Vetri, the actress," to which Terry responds, "Everyone says that, but I don't see the resemblance." Victoria Vetri is Angela Dorian's real name.
Many scenes are shot in one continuous unbroken take or with minimal cuts in an unnoticeable way, such as the opening scene where Rosemary and Guy first tour their apartment (two cuts), the laundry room scene (only one cut), the "let's have a baby" scene, the New Year's Eve party, Rosemary's and Guy's argument after their party, Rosemary's getting the unfortunate phone call about Hutch, the final scene at Dr. Sapirstein's office where she tells him of Adrian Marcoto, Rosemary's phone call with Baumgard, and the famous phone booth scene.
The script called for Rosemary (Mia Farrow) to explain to Guy (John Cassavetes), that she'd "been to Vidal Sassoon" for her dramatic new haircut. Thus, Vidal Sassoon was in fact flown to the set to arrange Farrow's hair into the now iconic pixie cut she sports during the second half of the film. For the first part, she wears a blonde wig designed by famed stylist Sydney Guilaroff.
This was Roman Polanski's first American film. His first American film was going to be Downhill Racer (1969), but Robert Evans of Paramount decided that "Rosemary's Baby" would be more suited to Polanski.
Roman Polanski was so faithful to the novel that he asked Ira Levin the date of the issue of the New Yorker in which Guy Woodhouse sees a shirt he wants. Levin confessed that he had made up the detail.
Production chief Robert Evans has admitted that he simply used an offer to direct Downhill Racer (1969) to lure Roman Polanski from Europe. It was his intention to have Polanski direct this film all along.
The film is almost an exact adaptation of the novel on which it's based. Most of the material left out during adaptation was done so for time, but the vast majority of all events and characters in the film play out the same way and in the same order as they do in the book.
The book that Hutch leaves for Rosemary has a passage referring to Tanis root, the substance in her necklace. The full paragraph reads, "In their rituals they often use the fungus called Devil's Pepper. This is a spongy matter derived from swampy regions having a strong pungent odor. Devil's Pepper is considered to have special powers. It has been used in rituals and worn on charms."
When Rosemary receives the book "All of Them Witches," she is told that 'the name is an anagram.' At first she tries to rearrange the letters of the book's title, but then realizes that the clue referred to a name within the book. However, the title actually is an anagram for "Hell a Cometh Swift".
A scene was shot, but not used, of the characters attending an off-Broadway play. Mia Farrow and Emmaline Henry attend a performance of "The Fantasticks" and meet Joan Crawford and Van Johnson as themselves. Along with several other insignificant scenes, this was deleted to reduce the film's running time.
Ira Levin said in a 1991 Chicago Tribune interview to promote his book Sliver that he's "almost always disappointed when" Hollywood adapts his books into films. He said "the exception would be Rosemary's Baby. That's the only movie I can watch without wincing".
In a scene where Rosemary is getting her blood drawn, Rosemary tells the doctor that she just saw the off- Broadway show "The Fantasticks." In that play, the parental figures arrange a "rape" of the ingénue (meaning, in this case, "abduction," from the Latin "rapere," rather than sexual assault), by a dark devilish character (named El Gallo), so a young man can save her, hoping that the young girl fall in love with the young man and marry him.
Mia Farrow said in a recent interview that the actor playing the Devil, Clay Tanner, was completely naked during the rape scene, dressed up in demonic makeup with vertical contact lenses. She said Clay Tanner spent hours grinding on top of her as they were shooting the rape scene. After they were done he got up, shook Mia's hand in a very cordial and businessman type way and said "Miss Farrow, it was a pleasure working with you". Mia shook his hand back and said "thank you. He was a very lovely man", she said. Clay Tanner is an actor and an extra who has appeared in a lot of movies, most notably The Outlaw Josie Wales and Lady Sings the Blues. This, of course, dispells the urban legend that Anton LeVay, founder of the Church of Satan, served as a technical advisor on the film and performed the rape scene himself, dressed in Devil make-up.
This is a rare example of "urban horror". Horror movies almost always take place in small towns, in the rural backwoods of America somewhere, or in the suburbs; they almost never take place in a big city like New York.
The Dakota Building (1 West 72nd Street) on Manhattan's Upper West Side was renamed The Bramford for the film. However, the inspiration for the original novel was the Alwyn Court apartments (180 West 58th Street) where author Ira Levin had once lived.
When Rosemary lays down on the couch just before Minnie and her friend interrupt her, she's reading "Yes I Can" by Sammy Davis Jr.. Davis was a member of the "Rat Pack" that included Frank Sinatra, who was married to Farrow at the time.
Rosemary is estranged from her parents because they don't like that she, a Catholic girl, married Guy, who has a mixed Jewish/Protestant religious background. This might explain why Rosemary never calls her parents even though she is going through all these horrific events.
Mia said Cassavetes resented Polanski's highly structured method of shooting scenes, saying he preferred to improvise and a more freewheeling approach. Eventually the tensions grew between the two because of their conflicting approaches to film.
The devil costume that Anton LaVey was falsely rumored to have worn in the impregnation scene was later re-used in the film Asylum of Satan (1972). A small woman had difficulty fitting into the tiny suit.
Guy becomes a huge movie star in the sequel, Look What Happened to Rosemary's Baby, and then he dies while trying to save Andy. Rosemary gets transported off by a possessed bus never to be seen again, also while trying to save Andy- (the implication is she gets killed, just like Guy). Andy runs away from the coven; we're not sure what happens to him. After getting raped by Marjean (Tina Louise), a woman he meets that is in cahoots with the coven, he winds up unintentionally giving birth to a son which is also adopted by the Castavets just like he was.
All of Ira Levin's books and plays have to do with a conspiracy. Rosemary's Baby has to do with a conspiracy to birth the Antichrist and for the Satanists to take over the world, the Stepford Wives is about a conspiracy for the men in Stepford, Connecticut to kill off the women and replace them with lookalike robots, the Boys From Brazil has to do with a crazy doctor's conspiracy to clone and mass produce Hitler, and Deathtrap is about two gay lover's conspiracy to kill off one man's wife, and then a conspiracy for each partner to kill each other off.
Rosemary meets the Devil (again, as she met him in Rosemary's Baby) at the end of Son of Rosemary when she goes to Hell. (The Devil drags Rosemary to Hell at the end of Son of Rosemary). His nickname is Joseph.
According to an article in The Wrap Mia Farrow left Frank Sinatra to play the Devil's mom. Sinatra pressured Mia Farrow to quit Rosemary's Baby as their marriage was suffering, and she was about to relent, but then Paramount executive Robert Evans showed her the dailies and said "Mia, you'll win the Oscar if you do this". That was all she had to hear, and she soldiered on with the production. Several days later Frank Sinatra served her divorce papers on the set of Rosemary's Baby.
The book that Rosemary reads in the cab is the Book of Ceremonial Magic, by A.E. Waite, Chapter IV: The Rituals Of Black Magic: Section 4: The Grimoire of Honorius. The italic section has been entered into the natural flow of the text; the previous paragraph has been shortened to make space for it.
Rosemary's Baby is routinely called one of the best movies ever made; was certainly the best demon child movie ever; and was both a critical and box office smash. But both attempts at a sequel were legendary bombs; both called among the worst sequel attempts ever. The 1976 TV movie "Look What Happened to Rosemary's Baby" which co-starred Ruth Gordon reprising her Oscar winning role as Minnie Castavet, and Patty Duke standing in for Mia Farrow (AKA Rosemary) got horrible reviews and ratings and quickly vanished after it was shown once. Similarly, Ira Levin's sequel novel "Son of Rosemary" got scathing reviews and was trashed for it's horrible ending.
Producer Robert Evans enticed Roman Polanski to the US with the rouse that he could direct Downhill Racer, a skiing movie, because he knew Polanski was a skiing fanatic . However, once Polanski arrived here he pulled a bait and switch tactic, substituting Rosemary's Baby for Downhill Racer. The ploy worked, and Polanski accepted the offer.
Maurice Evans plays Rosemary's longtime friend and father figure Hutch, who tries to warn her about the Bramford and also gives her the book about Steven Marcato before the coven kills him off. Maurice was also a reocurring character on Bewitched, Samantha's father Maurice, when this movie came out. Ironically, Bewitched was a show about witches, just like Rosemary's Baby was. Although on Bewitched he was a witch, and in Rosemary's Baby he was a witch hunter.
They took out the scene from the book where Rosemary stockpiles up the sleeping pills Saperstein has been giving her and spikes Mia's drink with it. Mia was the person in the coven who was watching Rosemary. Rosemary drugs Mia in the book, waits till she falls asleep, and then confronts the coven in the other room. At this point they, seeing Mia is unconscious, confront Rosemary with killing Mia. Roman tells Rosemary not to worry, she wasn't well liked anyway, and that the coven would cover for Rosemary as long as she played the mother role to Andy. Rosemary then tells them she didn't kill Mia, she just put her to sleep. In the movie Lara Louise is watching Rosemary, and Rosemary just waits till she's out of the room and then she confronts the coven.
William Castle was convinced there was a Rosemary's Baby curse. He thought the Sharon Tate murders and a urinary tract infection and various other maladies and illnesses he suffered during this period were evidence of that. Ironically, the producers of The Omen and The Exorcist also thought their movies were cursed. Castle was so scared that the Devil was out to get him during this period he remained in seclusion for several years.
You can see product placement for the Yamaha Corporation at the beginning of the movie when Guy appears in that Yamaha commercial: They repaid Roman Polanski by giving him and John Cassavetes free scooters for showcasing their products in the movie. Cassavestes and Polanski would race around New York in the scooters (with Mia Farrow riding on the back seat) for the first few weeks of shooting.
Rosemary's Baby was cited by the critical community as one of the most faithful adaptations from book to film that Hollywood has put out ever. Ira Levin himself said it was the best adaptation of any of his books ever.
William Castle wanted to direct himself, but Paramount Studios executive Robert Evans felt that he didn't have the right touch; that he'd be too schlocky and obvious and not have the right dose of subtlety and satire to make this a respectable grown up's horror movie; which was the big end game. Evans felt that newbie Roman Polanski, who had just directed the elegant arthouse thriller hit Repulsion, would have the right sensibilities. So he lured Castle out of the director's chair, and lured Polanski into it; with a little bit of bait and switch, sneakiness and manipulation; kind of like Minnie Castavet with her chalky Chocolate mousse.
Towards the ending of Ira Levin's novel Roman and Rosemary argue about what the baby's name will be. He insists it should be Adrian Steven Castavet, she insists it should be Andrew Woodhouse. They argue and eventually Minnie sides with Rosemary. She and the rest of the coven then stand around Rosemary shouting "Hail Rosemary! Mother of Andrew! Hail Rosemary! Mother of Satan!" while Rosemary makes baby talk and plays with Andrew/Adrian in his crib. All of this was cut out of the movie.
This movie resurrected Ruth Gordon's career and she parlayed her Oscar winning success with Rosemary's Baby into a number of "funny old women" roles (kind of like the roles Betty White plays now) in movies throughout the 70s like Harold and Maude and My Bodyguard.
In Son of Rosemary Andy tells Rosemary that the conception happened when it did because Satan wanted a Christ like figure to emerge right when the Millennium happens, to help lead humanity in a certain direction. By raping Rosemary in 66 or 67, he insured that Andy/Adrian would be about 33 when the Millennium happened, which is about the same age as Christ was when he came to prominence.
The whole scene where Rosemary goes to Vidal Sassoon and gets a weird haircut was inserted into the screenplay to explain Mia Farrow's mod haircut which she'd had for two years since she'd starred on Peyton Place. Polanski decided it might be another interesting visual signal of Rosemary's transformation and disintegration in the movie from sheltered Catholic girl to incubus for Satan Spawn and then rebel against the coven at the ending; so he added a scene ( not in the book) where the straight-laced, conservative looking Rosemary gets a crazy 1960s mod haircut. The scenes at the beginning where Rosemary has an old school, longer haircut were accomplished by Mia Farrow wearing a wig.
According to "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" the biographical book about the auteur movement in Hollywood in the 70s, Roman Polanski had an affair with Mamma and the Pappas singer Michelle Phillips. When Pappa John found out about it he threatened him with a meat cleaver.
There are two anagram puzzles in the original Rosemary's Baby: All of Them Witches, which is the title of a book Hutch gives Rosemary; and then Roman Castavet, which is the anagram for another name in the book, Steven Marcato. There is also an anagram puzzle in Son of Rosemary: Roast Mules, which never gets solved.
Another in a long line of Polanski's women-going-through-a-nervous-breakdown type movies, along with Repulsion and Chinatown. Also another in Ira Levin's cannon with women going through a breakdown and finding out there's some big conspiracy against them, along with Stepford Wives and Deathtrap.
In Son of Rosemary Andy (AKA Adrian) is not hideous and monstrous like he is in Rosemary's Baby. (In Rosemary's Baby he has demon eyes, or more specifically, "tiger eyes", as Ira Levin describes them in the book. There is a line or two in Son of Rosemary about him getting contacts or "using black magic " to normalize his eyes. Adrian/Andy is also described as having strange hands and feet, perhaps clubbed hands and feet or cloven hooves, like a goat or a stereotypical demon, in Rosemary's Baby. But this idea is not followed through in Son of Rosemary where his hands and feet are normal). He also denies being Satanic, saying he has rejected both Satan and the legacy of the Castavets; rebelling from his demonic past. He is now running a world organization for world peace and hunger called "God's Children" and is loved the world round, almost like Christ; infact everyone has buttons which say "I Heart Andy". But then in one scene he makes a pass at his own mother, which makes Rosemary think Andy is indeed evil. By the end of the book as he brings about Armageddon by unleashing a virus onto the world at the New Year's Millennium celebration, and when Satan himself, called Joseph in the book, then summons Rosemary to Hell, it's pretty clear Andy was always Satan incarnate, always acting on the Devil's orders.
Some people have interpreted Rosemary's horror as the psychological horror of an anti-Semitic person in a mixed marriage. As a sheltered Catholic girl she might view her part Jewish part Protestant husband as evil; his Jewish and Protestant friends as Satan worshippers, her baby as the Spawn of Satan for not being baptized.
Ironically, John Lennon was murdered by crazed fan Mark David Chapman in the Dakota, the same "haunted and cursed" building where Rosemary's Baby was filmed. Also ironically, Chapman said he was inspired by Satan to do the killing, and prayed to the Devil before he committed the murder. All of this plays into the movie's Dakota-is-possessed-by-the-Devil themes. (The Dakota is referred to in the movie as the Bramford. It's nicknamed the "Black Bramford", and it's stated over and over again that the building is haunted and cursed, and is where all these strange and tragic goings on happen during the course of the story, including Terry's suicide, the death and persecution of Adrian Marcato and various other witches, and all the coven activity in Rosemary's Baby which leads to the birth of the Antichrist).
Rosemary's Baby is closely associated with The Omen and The Exorcist. But whereas those movies both became big franchises, with many sequels and prequels and remakes between them, Rosemary's Baby only had one TV movie sequel which was a bomb and fizzled out, getting terrible ratings and reviews and never to be shown again, shutting down any ideas of a franchise.
Rosemary's Baby was for schlock master producer William Castle, who was known for gimmicky fare like The House on Haunted Hill and Smellovision, a bid for respectability. It was also a bid for respectability for Mia Farrow, who was known for TV work like Peyton Place, and for being Mrs. Frank Sinatra. In both cases it worked.
Paramount executive Peter Bart, who worked with Roman Polanski on Rosemary's Baby, had this to say about him: "Roman was a brilliant man... But in those days people who were close to Roman had a tendency to die". Bart is of course referring to, among other things in Roman Polanski's chaotic, troubled life, the death of Sharon Tate and the Charles Manson murders.
Some people have called Rosemary's behavior as "docile and stupid" and this tale of a 1960s Catholic housewife going along with most of the abusive machinations her husband and the coven lay upon her as "misogynistic".
Rosemary's Baby is about the rape of a young woman; ironically, Polanski himself was charged with the rape of a young woman, Samantha Bailey; a woman who said Polanski plied her with drugs and alcohol and raped her when she was 13 in Jack Nicholson's apartment.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Producer William Castle wanted to display a grotesque demon baby at the end of the film when Mia Farrow looks at her child but Roman Polanski (and the other producers) vetoed the idea in lieu of a more ambiguous scene.
In the novel it explains that the raw meat Rosemary eats after the New Years Eve party is a chicken's heart. In the olden days, chickens and hens were used to aid witch hunters and were believed to be symbols of God and light. So, because of the unholy child inside her, this explains why the chicken's heart was the only raw meat that made Rosemary sick.
Mia Farrow went on to play the nanny to "devil child" Damien in The Omen (2006), the remake of The Omen (1976) of almost 40 years before. The film was released to coincide with the date 06/06/06 in order to spark interest and gain publicity.
In the novel, Minnie deduces that Rosemary has found out about Roman's father because of Rosemary's sudden behavioral distance. Minnie confronts Rosemary about it, condemning Adrian Marcoto, saying, "I could kill that crazy old man if he wasn't dead already; he's been the bane of poor Roman's existence!" and further explains that that's the reason for the Castevets' persistent traveling because they can't stay in one place for too long without people finding out.
Spoiler: At the end of the book Rosemary seriously considers killing Andy and then committing suicide for a few minutes, much like Terry did at the beginning of the novel under similar circumstances. She then takes pity on Andy, after seeing the terrified look on his face. After considering all the options she decides to raise Andy as her own. Even though he's a demon, she decides to love him and mother him and let her good natured human personality influence him, hopefully to do good ( "he's half Devil but half me after all!"). She also decides to report everything to the Pope and the Vatican, and to let them handle the issue as they see fit (whether that be executing Andy, forgiving him or trying to reform him). None of this is said in the movie; we just see Rosemary begin to rock the cradle and look at the baby inquisitively as the camera pulls back, the lullaby cues up on the soundtrack and the movie fades out and ends.
Mrs. Gardenia, the previous tenant at the Bramford, was actually killed off by the coven so that there would be a vacant apartment space and they could ensnare Rosemary in their scheme (which is who Satan really wanted).
In Ira Levin's sequel novel to Rosemary's Baby, Son of Rosemary, it is revealed that Rosemary herself dreamed all the events in Rosemary's Baby after reading Brahm Stoker's Dracula. She realizes that she substituted "Bramford" for "Dakota" because of Brahm Stoker's first name. The end of Son of Rosemary brings us back to 1966, with Guy and Rosemary still deciding which building to move into. Rosemary realizes this dream about the Devil raping her, her giving birth to the Spawn of Satan and then him taking over the world; all of this was a sign, which was meant to steer her away from staying at the Dakota in the first place.
It is often debated if Terry committed suicide or was murdered by the Castevet's for not cooperating. It is likely the latter, and they probably staged the scene to look like a suicide when it was a homicide, because she wouldn't be their surrogate for the Antichrist. This is probably when they figured they had to drug someone surreptitiously, that no one could be bribed to mate with Satan as they had obviously hoped.
It's easy to miss if you're not paying close attention, but the coven kills off Hutch. There's a scene when Hutch pays Rosemary a visit and Roman pops in for a few seconds. Hutch and Roman exchange a few friendly words and then Roman hastily leaves, trying to avoid Hutch's third degree. Then Guy pops in, says hello to Hutch, and as he's giving Hutch his coat upon his departure, steals one of his gloves. Guy had told Roman and Minnie behind the scenes before this that Hutch was nosing about the apartment and asking questions about the coven, and they instructed him to steal a small article of clothing from Hutch and give it to them the next time Hutch paid Rosemary a visit. We know from the scenes where Donald Baumgard goes blind that this is how the coven casts spells on people; they steal an article of their clothing first. This is made more clear in the book. Rosemary, in one of her interior monologues, realizes that the coven had Guy steal one of Hutch's articles of clothing, which is why he rushes home during that one scene when Hutch is there and is quick to hand Hutch his coat when he's leaving, at which point he coincidentally "loses" Hutch's glove. Very soon after Hutch falls into a coma and then very soon after dies, because he knew too much, he was asking too many questions, and he was about to give Rosemary that book about his father Adrian Marcato, All of Them Witches, which spilled the beans about Roman's other identity, Steven Marcato, and his being a witch and Satan worshipper. In the book Rosemary even confronts Guy about this at the ending; about his stealing Hutch's glove at the coven's bidding and Hutch falling into a coma, and Guy of course denies it.