Here's what Franchot had to say about this endeavor in 1957:
You might say that I was driven by a wish to immortalize our production. I don't know exactly when the wish was born, but I do know that once it was, I could not put it away. I kept thinking what a shame it would be for the play to end just because it had run its course on Fourth Street. It was so good, the ensemble playing was so superb, and Stark Young's translation was so beautiful and fresh that I couldn't put the thought out of my mind.
Then suddenly it occurred to me that the play could and ought to be put on film just the way we were doing it on the stage, with some changes, of course, to avoid the danger of its becoming a static thing on the screen. That, you know, is the great pitfall in trying to make an exact copy from the stage.
Up until comparatively recently, of course, the idea of putting a play such as this on film would have been pretty foolhardy. The market potential would not have warranted the financial risk. But there has been tremendous growth of the art-film houses throughout the country which can only be attributed to the maturing artistic taste that is everywhere notable among our people. There was a time when you could count the number of art houses in New York on one hand, and the number throughout the country was equally minute. Although there are no firm figures at present, it is estimated that there are now over four hundred of these little houses across the country catering to that discriminating clientele that is seeking better and more intelligent fare than they can find on their television sets or in their neighborhood movie palaces.
But even with this knowledge, I still was not in a position to take the risk until I had really professional advice. I called upon my old friend Arthur Krim, who used to be the lawyer for the Group Theatre when I belonged to it, and who now is the president of United Artists. He saw the play and assured me that with the proper budget, I might hope to break even and perhaps make a little money. That did it.
We didn't want to have anyone else's mind or anyone else's creativity super imposed on or interfering with the play. We realized that for a motion picture it would be necessary to get more action into the telling of the story than there was on the stage. But we felt that whatever action we wanted we could get from the play itself. By following Chekhov's directions and his writing we could move the action around up a staircase, around a room, in the garden. This we believed would be sufficient to give the film the necessary fluidity.
Yes, there have been a few cuts. But I don't think anyone is going to really mind those decisions. They have been made only where we found that Chekhov was somewhat repetitions. For instance, playwrights have to contend with intermission and when their plays resume they are bound to reiterate exposition points. This repetition has been eliminated because in pictures once you've made a statement you can believe that the audience will not forget it.
It's one of the biggest gambles of my life. But I cannot recall when I received more gratification from an undertaking. This is the first time in America that anyone has put Chekhov on film. Call it a great financial risk, a noble experiment or what you will. But if we've succeeded in duplicating what we had on 4th street, there will be no greater thrill for me. It surely would have been a terrible waste to lose forever George Voskovec's Uncle Vanya, Clarendon Derwent's Serebriakoff, Geraldine Hiken's Telegin, Mary Perry's Marina, Peggy McCay's Sonia and Shirley Gale's Maria Vasilievna. And, although we have lost Signe Hasso's Elena, we have Dolores Dorn-Heft, giving what I think is another beautiful portrait. Who knows? We may wind up among the archive films of the Museum of Modern Art.
Source: Funke, Lewis. "Uncle Vanya." Theatre Arts Monthly. October 1957.