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News items in Hollywood Reporter add the following information: Ben Stoloff was originally pencilled in to direct. William K. Howard was then scheduled to direct but was replaced by Ray Enright when the former was assigned to Law of the Tropics (see below). Humphrey Bogart was suspended after he turned down the role later played by Dennis Morgan, and Sam McDaniel replaced Willie Best in the role of "Wash." James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, George Raft, George Brent and John Garfield were all considered for the film. A March 20, 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item lists Ronald Reagan in the cast and a Hollywood Reporter production chart includes Ricardo Cortez in the cast, but neither appeared in the film. This film marked Faye Emerson's debut. According to a Warner Bros. motion picture press release, the studio received a petition from James D. Idol, the mayor of Harrisonville, MO, asking that the film's world premiere be held in the town in honor of the Younger brothers' father, Henry W. Younger, who had been the second mayor. Some scenes were filmed on location in Sonora, CA.
The real Younger brothers, who lived during the later 19th century, turned outlaw after the end of the Civil War. In 1866, Cole Younger joined Jesse James and was followed by Jim, John and Bob. John was shot dead by Pinkerton detectives in 1874, but the rest of the gang continued to rob banks and trains. In 1876, when the gang tried to rob a bank in Northfield, MN, Jim and Bob were injured. Jesse James left the wounded men behind with Cole and the three were eventually captured and sentenced to life imprisonment. Bob died in jail, and after being parolled, Jim committed suicide and Cole took a job selling tombstones. Technical advisor Pearl May Kearns was Cole Younger's last surviving relative.
Among the many films that feature the Younger brothers are the 1948 Warner Bros. film The Younger Brothers, the 1948 RKO film Return of the Bad Men, and the 1950 Paramount film The Great Missouri Raid (see below); The Maverick Queen produced by Republic in 1956 and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Alan Hale and directed by Joseph Kane; the 1958 Allied Artists film Cole Younger, Gunfighter, directed by R. G. Springsteen and starring James Best; The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid produced by Universal in 1972, starring Cliff Robertson and Robert Duvall and directed by Philip Kaufman; and The Long Riders, directed by Walter Hill in 1980 for United Artists and starring David Carradine, Keith Carradine and Robert Carradine.