After the success of Tennessee Williams' play on Broadway, where, directed by Elia Kazan, it earned three Tony nominations and became an audience favorite, film director Richard Brooks decided to adapt the story into a film. The film retained much of the Broadway cast, including its leads Geraldine Page as Princess and Paul Newman as Chance. Additional cast members included Shirley Knight, Ed Begley, and Rip Torn.
For its jump from stage to screen, the controversial elements of Williams' plot were muted for a wider audience. While Chance is a gigolo in the play version, he is simply a drifter in the film. Additionally, Heavenly's surgery is left out of the movie, and Chance does not face certain castration at the end. The sexual elements of the plot were removed, in spite of the fact that they are some of the driving and most haunting and evocative elements of the original script.
The film was a smash success, earning almost $8 million at the box office. It won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Ed Begley, and Shirley Knight and Geraldine Page were nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress, respectively. In 1989, it was adapted again into a made-for-television film, directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mark Harmon.