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The working title of this film was The Girl on the Hill. In the early stages of production, some sources listed the film's title as Cathleen. Kathleen was the first and only film that Shirley Temple made at M-G-M. Hollywood Reporter news items throughout late 1940 and early 1941 announced that Temple, who had recently left Twentieth Century-Fox and went under contract to M-G-M, was to star in several projects, among them Babes on Broadway and Panama Hattie ( and below), but she was replaced by other actresses. Her previous film was Young People, released in August 1940 by Twentieth Century-Fox (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films; F3.5257), and her next film was Miss Annie Rooney, released in May 1942 by United Artists (see below).
Although the Variety review called Kathleen "tedious" and said that Temple "does not tee off auspiciously" with her first M-G-M picture, several reviews praised Temple for her new, more grown-up performance. According to Temple's autobiography, neither she nor her mother were happy at M-G-M during Temple's short time at the studio and her mother turned down all other roles offered to the young actress. Temple and Herbert Marshall reprised their roles for a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on December 27, 1943.