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The film's working titles were Ever for Each Other and The Young Years. A studio pressbook lists the film's title as The Rebel Generation (formerly All the Fine Young Cannibals). According to information in the MPAA/PCA files at the AMPAS Library, the PCA objected to the title All the Fine Young Cannibals and pressured producer Pandro S. Berman and director Michael Anderson to change it. Alhough Berman and Anderson refused, it is possible that the studio considered changing the title to appease the PCA. The MPAA/PCA file also indicates that a June 1959 draft of the film's script was rejected by the PCA because it contained too many illicit affairs, brothel scenes and blasphemous dialogue. The PCA also objected to the inclusion of the word "nigger" in the dialogue, noting that "even when legitimately used, it has caused fierce resentment among many members of the audience."
Although the script was revised according to some of the PCA's suggestions, it was again rejected in October 1959, primarily because the affairs had not been eliminated. In the final film, Robert Wagner's and Pearl Bailey's characters are seen living together, but the relationship is portrayed as platonic. The Hollywood Reporter reviewer commented that Wagner's character "has a vague relationship with Pearl Bailey that introduces some superfluous notes of Negro-white tolerance."
According to an April 1957 Hollywood Reporter news item, James Stewart and Lauren Bacall were first considered for the leads in the film. All the Fine Young Cannibals marked the first and only time in which Wagner and then-wife Natalie Wood appeared together in a theatrically released feature film. The couple married in 1957 and divorced in 1963, then remarried seven years later. Hollywood Reporter news items add the following actors to the cast; however, their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed: Cheerio Meredith and Marla Ming. A Hollywood Reporter news item added Bety Field to the cast but she was not in the released film. Although modern sources claim that the film was inspired by the life of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, little of the film's story corresponds with Baker's life. The British rock group Fine Young Cannibals took its name from the picture.