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After the opening credits, a written dedication reads: "Dedicated to the United States Navy without whose cooperation production of this picture would not have been possible." According to a January 3, 1931 Motion Picture Herald news item, the picture cost $1,000,000 to produce and consisted of 28 reels before editing, including "125,000 feet shot at the naval air base at Lakehurst, N. J." Dirigible was Capra and Columbia Pictures' first film to open at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, a new sign of prestige for the studio. In the program for the premiere, photographer Victor Scheurich's name is spelled Sherick. The Variety review states that this was Columbia's most expensive production to date. According to contemporary sources, a French version was directed by Robert Harari, who also wrote the adaptation and dialogue, and a German version was directed by Egon Goltzen. A 1930 New York Times article mentions that Howard Hughes was working on a film to be called Dirigible, scripted by John Monk Saunders. It is possible, however, that the article was referring to one of Hughes' aviation films, such as Hell's Angels or Sky Devils, as he did not make a film entitled Dirigible. In a modern interview, sound engineer Ed Bernds states that a grip named Harry was killed in the hangar used for the dirigible when he fell from the rafters. According to Frank Capra's autobiography, the scenes of the South Pole were shot in the San Gabriel Valley, CA. Capra also states that the mooring used by the dirigible Los Angeles during the filming was the same one used by the Hindenburg zeppelin, which exploded in 1937 at Lakehurst, killing 36 people. Modern sources say that Boris Karloff had a bit part as a member of the dirigible expedition which fails, although this could not be confirmed in the print viewed.
Dirigible was the first of many films for which Commander Frank Wilber Wead wrote the story. Wead, an ace Navy pilot in World War I, led the fight to strengthen the Navy's air power once the war had ended. After he was paralyzed in an accident in the 1920s, Wead turned to writing and became a well-known novelist and screenwriter. Wead died in 1947 after visiting Pacific battle sites to implement reforms he had suggested to the Navy. In 1957, John Ford directed John Wayne in M-G-M's The Wings of Eagles, a biography of Wead based on his writings.