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James Lee's play opened off-Broadway at the Actors Playhouse on April 30, 1957. According to 1958 Hollywood Reporter news items, for the film adaptation, Bette Davis was originally sought for the part of "Shirley Drake," while William Holden was considered for "Maurice Novak." Although Hollywood Reporter news items include Hal Rand, Joe Gray, Leslie Barrett and Ward Wallace in the cast, their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to a modern source, Carolyn Jones was originally cast as "Sharon Kensington" but switched roles with Shirley MacLaine in order to play Shirley Drake because she wanted the less flamboyant role.
The picture marked the first re-teaming of Dean Martin with producer Hal Wallis since the breakup of Martin's partnership with Jerry Lewis after the 1956 film Hollywood or Bust (see below). According to modern sources, Martin still owed Wallis four pictures under their old contract, and Wallis refused to raise Martin's salary, despite Martin's increased fame. As recounted in by a biography of Martin, the actor was intrigued by the role of Maury, which was more dramatic than most of his previous parts, and so agreed to appear in the picture.
Anthony Franciosa received a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor-Drama for his work in Career. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Art Direction (black & white), Best Cinematography (black & white) and Best Costume Design (black and white). Career marked the screen debut of actress Donna Douglas, who became well known for her work on the television series The Beverly Hillbillies. Modern sources include Bobby Barber, Franklyn Farnum, Art Fleming and Sam Harris in the cast of Career.