powered by AFI
The New York production of the play on which this film is based starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, and was not a musical. The Theatre Guild production was based on the 1911 German play Der Seeruber by Ludwig Fulda. Contemporary news items in Hollywood Reporter indicate that M-G-M paid $225,000 for the rights to the Broadway show, and that the deal included a provision barring the studio from releasing the film before June 15, 1944. A September 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the film, after being assigned to producer Joe Pasternak, was scheduled for "early production" under the direction of Henry Koster. Contemporary news items indicate that the property was shelved in early 1944 and resurrected in August 1945, when a Hollywood Reporter news item noted that M-G-M set Judy Garland to star in the film. Although an April 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the project had been taken off the shelf, and that the script was being polished by Pasternak and Koster, pre-production work on the film did not fully resume until August 1945.
Information in the file on the film in the MPPA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library and in the Arthur Freed Collection at the USC Cinema/Television Library indicates that Joseph L. Mankiewicz wrote the first adaption of Behrman's play in August 1943, and that Mankiewicz's screenplay was reviewed by the Breen Office and given a generally favorable assessment. (The MPPA had earlier objected to the story on the grounds that it suggested infidelity on the part of "Manuela"). Mankiewicz's screenplay was rejected and later followed by several complete and incomplete screenplays and treatments written by various writers, including Myles Connolly, H. Kraley, Edwin Blum, Howard Emmett Rogers, Lillian Braun, Anita Loos and Joseph Than. Materials contained in the M-G-M Scripts Collection indicate that Wilkie Mahoney contributed to the screenplay, and that producer Arthur Freed and writer Robert Nathan were involved in the writing of the retakes. The extent of the contribution to the final film of all the above-mentioned writers has not been determined. Modern sources note that writer Sally Benson contributed to a draft of the screenplay.
News items appearing in Hollywood Reporter in November and December 1943 indicate that M-G-M sought Greer Garson, Cary Grant and Charles Laughton for starring roles in the film. A May 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item announced Lena Horne in a principal role, but she did not appear in the film. According to a Breen Office memo, M-G-M had, at one point, considered starring Ingrid Bergman opposite Cary Grant. Minnelli's biography notes that the film was initially considered as a starring vehicle for William Powell and Hedy Lamarr, and that Myrna Loy was suggested for the part of "Manuela" at the time the Koster and Connelly screenplay was being developed. An unidentified June 30, 1947 news item in the AMPAS production file noted that this picture was to mark the screen debut of Garland's fifteen-month-old daughter Liza Minnelli, but she did not appear in the film.
Production began on February 17, 1947, and although Harry Stradling was the only cameraman credited onscreen, an April 1947 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that George Folsey stepped in for Stradling when he fell ill. According to modern sources, the film's numerous production setbacks and high costs were due primarily to problems relating to Garland, whose mental and physical condition was rapidly deteriorating, and whose addiction to barbituates was becoming increasingly obvious. Garland was committed to a sanitarium in Compton, CA, following the release of the picture. According to modern sources, the final cost of the picture was $3,768,014, and it was the only Garland film ever to lose money for M-G-M. In an interview quoted in a modern source, Gene Kelly expressed his disappointment with the film, stating "whatever I did looked like fake Barrymore and fake Fairbanks. But that's the result of the damned elusive camera I'd been trying so hard to tame." A modern source quotes Cole Porter as having said that the film was "a $5,000,000 Hollywood picture that was unspeakably wretched, the worst that money could buy." Musical director Lennie Hayton was nominated for an Academy Award for his musical score.