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The working title of this film was The Silent Bell. In the opening credits, the title appears as "Guy de Maupassant's Mademoiselle Fifi." The film opens with the following prologue: "1870 The Franco Prussian War. Then as in our time, there was an occupied and an unoccupied territory." According to a memo contained in the RKO Legal Files, in October 1943, producer Val Lewton, hoping to enhance his reputation by moving out of the horror film genre, proposed that the studio make a period piece based on the stories of de Maupassant starring Erich von Stroheim and Simone Simon. Charles Koerner, RKO's production chief at the time, responded that although he believed the studio could exploit the use of de Maupassant's name in the project, he was fearful of the film's subject matter. Koerner's reservations proved justified as in previews of the film, the audience objected to the ending, which they viewed as showing submission to the Prussians. The film fared poorly at the box office, losing more than any previous Lewton film. According to a pre-production news item in Hollywood Reporter, the studio negotiated with George Sanders to play the role of "Fifi." Another news item in Hollywood Reporter adds that the snow sequences were shot around Big Bear, CA. Captain Carl F. Cook, who served as the film's technical advisor, was a German Naval officer in World War I, according to Hollywood Reporter. Other films based on de Maupassant's story "Boule de Suif" were the 1934 Russian film Boule de Suif and the 1945 French film of the same title.