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The title of Olive Higgins Prouty's novel was taken from Walt Whitman's poem "The Untold Want." In a letter to literary agent Harold Ober included in the Warner Bros. Collection at the USC Cinema-Television Library, Prouty made the following suggestions about the novel's adaptation: "...In my novel I tell my story by the method of frequent flashbacks....It has occurred to me, however, that by employing the silent picture for the flashbacks, in combination with the talking picture, similar results can be accomplished, and with much interest to an audience because of the novelty of the technique....I am one of those who believe the silent picture had artistic potentialities which the talking picture lacks. The acting, facial expressions, every move and gesture is more significant....Of course the silent picture has 'gone out' now, but I believe it has a place, for depicting what goes on in the mind of a character...."
Various contemporary sources add the following information about the production: Mary Astor was first signed as the second female lead and Norma Shearer and Irene Dunne were approached to play the role of "Charlotte." Producer Hal Wallis sent Ginger Rogers a copy of Olive Higgins Prouty's novel, hoping to interest her in the film. Juanita Quigley tested for the role of "Tina." Director Edmund Goulding wrote a treatment for the film and, at that time, was scheduled to direct; later Michael Curtiz was assigned to direct the film. Some scenes were filmed on location in Laguna Beach, CA and the Cascade scenes were filmed at Lake Arrowhead, CA. Although Frank Puglia's character is called "Giovanni" in the film, contemporary reviews, the screenplay and the CBCS list it as "Manoel."
According to modern sources, Prouty had written an elaborate cigarette-lighting ceremony for her characters, which proved too awkward to complete on film. In its place, Henreid invented a romantic gesture which has since become famous. He lit two cigarettes at the same time and handed one of the cigarettes to "Charlotte." Modern feminist critics have described Now Voyager as an "initiation" or "coming of age" film in which a psychologically immature woman becomes a self-determining adult and comment favorably on the accurate depiction of the mother-daughter relationship. Although contemporary critics derided the film as contrived and melodramatic, it was Warner Bros. fourth-highest grossing film in 1942 and has enjoyed an enduring popularity. Max Steiner won an Oscar for Best Score, and both Gladys Cooper and Bette Davis were nominated for Academy Awards. The film was adapted for radio and, starring Bette Davis and Gregory Peck, was broadcast on The Lux Radio Theatre on February 11, 1946 and May 24, 1955.