In the film, Ronald Colman plays a fictional actor who stars in the longest-running "Othello" in history. In real life, actor Paul Robeson, who had just become the first black actor to star in an otherwise white production of "Othello" on Broadway, had just completed the longest run of the play.
In movie, Anthony John stars in a Broadway production of "Othello" that plays more than 300 performances and runs over a year. In reality, no production of a William Shakespeare play has chalked up anywhere near that many performances on Broadway; at best, most are lucky to run several months, like Richard Burton's four-month stint in a 1964 production of "Hamlet", which undoubtedly owed much of its success to his then-notorious relationship with Elizabeth Taylor.
As a nervous seventeen year-old Shelley Winters read for the part of Scarlet O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939) with her Brookyln accent. George Cukor chased everyone out of his office, sent for two cokes, and advised her to go to college and visit public places to see how ordinary people walked and talked. It wasn't until after he had cast her in this film that he realized who she was.
The "Othello" scenes were filmed separately and in the exact order in which they occur in Shakespeare's play, so as to give Ronald Colman the feeling that he was actually appearing in "Othello". Colman felt uneasy about performing Shakespeare, so director George Cukor and Shakespearean actor Walter Hampden, who acted as coach and advisor for these scenes, tried to make Colman as comfortable as possible in them.
Paddy Chayefsky, who later became a highly successful author and playwright ("Marty"), can be seen as an uncredited photographer at the death scene. According to Shelley Winters, Chayefsky needed the money to go to New York and get married.
"A Double Life" is about an actor playing Othello. In December of 1947, the year that "A Double Life' was released, Arturo Toscanini, at that time considered the greatest conductor in the world, led a two-part radio broadcast performance of Giuseppe Verdi's "Otello", an operatic version of the play, with Ramón Vinay singing the title role.
At the beginning of the movie, posters show Anthony John starring in a play by Robert Emmet Sherwood, who wrote The Petrified Forest, Idiot's Delight, and other celebrated plays. During the 1940's Sherwood served as a speechwriter for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and wrote a book, published in 1949, Roosevelt and Hopkins: An Intimate History. The book won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography and a 1949 Bancroft Prize.