A lot of 20th Fox Cinemascope was travelogues that only incidentally told a story, to which novelty besotted customers responded Give Us More! as record hits were made of Three Coins In a Fountain, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing and others that saved them air fare to places gloriously captured on newly-wide screens. Cinemascope avoided 3-D's flame-out for being not such an obvious gimmick, but like anything shiny and new, wore down as movies again were judged for content rather than size. Best Picture-winning Marty bespoke patronage done with vistas and little else, its award less recognition for modesty than rebuke to Hollywood's over-size to fit all. Fox began losing money on Cinemascope from a first anniversary of the process and The Egyptian celebrating same. 1955 would be back to business as usual of grosses made on merit, Cinemascope's crutch having been snatched from the patient.
Still there was hope that lightning could be pushed back in wide bottles. A short novel revolving around Greek treasure hunts was bought by Fox in mid-1955, this just off euphoria Three Coins and its Rome locale excited. Boy On A Dolphin was among ideas seemingly good at the time. Why not an exotic adventure filmed on sites not before captured, let alone by anamorphic cameras? Tense, lively, and good-humored was the book, said reviewers, so approach to its content seemed wide-open. Initial casting of Bob Hopesuggested the humor, but that may have been more a joke on trades. By July '55 and serious reflection, there was Clifton Webbfor menace with Joan Collins the menaced, then months-later possibility Robert Stack to romantic lead. How Boy On A Dolphin bloated from said manageable beginning was a saga typical of stars and expense frittering hope of Fox's eventual $3.3 million (over) investment coming back.
So many bad decisions came in the wake of Darryl Zanuck leaving Fox to pursue independent production. That happened in 1956, just as Boy On A Dolphin hoisted anchor on what would be six months spent shooting in Greece, then Rome, under direction of Jean Negulesco, whose previous trip to the latter yielded Three Coins In A Fountain. 20th production management now vested in Buddy Adler, his look and carriage ideal for studio chiefdom, even if he'd prove, in modern putdown terms, to be All Hat and No Cattle. Veteran producer/writer/directing talent saw Fox as treading water after Zanuck's departure. Few or none had confidence in Adler. East coast commander Spyros Skouras, kept at bay by DFZ, now moved in to implement his notions of pic making, creative walls easily breached with on-lot leadership now in a vacuum.
As was often case with shaky propositions, Boy On A Dolphin took out policies of star insurance. Director Negulesco was already filming Greek backgrounds when Alan Laddwas signed back home to play Dolphin's lead. Fox had already scotched Gina Lollobrigida for fresher pasta Sophia Loren, proof if nothing else of inroads foreign pics had made since the war. Loren's casting promised a bonus of infatuated-with-her Cary Grant, willing to do another bad picture, it seemed, so long as it was with Loren (their just previous together was The Pride and The Passion). Grant's sudden withdrawal necessitated but-quick signing of Ladd, it being felt that Boy On A Dolphin needed top marquee bait to justify $ already splurged in Greece.
Ladd was paid, perhaps overpaid, with $275K up front (some put it at $325), plus a percentage. Either way, Fox's largesse overlooked reality of Ladd's decline. Would Zanuck have approved this gift? Negulesco thought it crazed that Adler and administrators would pair 5'6'' (if that) Ladd with strapping Loren, 5'8'' or better stripped. Leading men were in any case interchangeable for much of what Fox shot wide during the fifties. Boy On a Dolphin might have seen profit had a cheaper-bought Dick Egan or Victor Mature paired with Loren. Either would certainly have been more credible in the clinches than a Ladd she could as readily toss over either shoulder.
There was an unfinished script, by-now customary for on-location Fox, Ivan Moffat being flown over to continue the writing barely ahead of cameras. Meanwhile, Fox was laying off employees at home. Projects scheduled for summer '56 had been postponed, leaving little to do on the lot. Department heads were told to trim staff, beginning on back-lots not being used thanks in part to Boy On a Dolphin's interiors being filmed in Rome, funds frozen by the Italian government thawed by virtue of shooting there.