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According to information contained in the file for this film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Shopworn was originally intended as an adaptation of Charles Norris' novel Zelda Marsh. In May 1931, however, the PCA responded negatively to Columbia's desire to adapt Zelda Marsh into a screenplay, noting that it was "filled with dangerous material," including "immoral relations" and abortion. As a December 1931 PCA memorandum suggests that the novel and a 4 December draft of the screenplay were "very dissimilar in every respect," the extent of the film's basis on the book is unclear. The PCA called the 4 December draft of the script a "very grave problem." According to a synopsis of the original script of Shopworn, it called for the leading female character to enter a life of prostitution following her release from the reformatory, and for her to take "the object of her early love away from his very good and charming wife." The PCA rejected this and further criticized the script's characterization of people of "decent and conventional society" as "unsympathetic, narrow, selfish and insincere...[while] prostitution and its reward are made very attractive." The PCA also noted that this was Columbia's first attempt to "include in one picture incidents of fornication, prostitution and a 'kept' woman." To remedy the problem of the script's characterization of the female lead, the PCA suggested that she be made to struggle against the injustice of other unscrupulous characters in the story, which would "justify the sympathy and final admiration of the audience and of the people who represent the cleaner and conventional side of life in the story."
Following completion of production on Shopworn, the PCA, on January 16, 1932, informed Columbia that the film "violated the Code, both in spirit and in letter," citing examples in the film of the PCA's initial complaints about the story. In a memo sent to MPPDA President Will H. Hays, Colonel Jason S. Joy, Director of the Studio Relations of the AMPP, called the production "an example of the stubborn refusal of this particular company to take advice." In late February 1932, Columbia agreed to make a number of changes in the film and to resubmit it to the PCA for a second review. The revised version of Shopworn, which eliminated, among other things, the hint of prostitution on the part of the lead, made the picture "satisfactory under the Code." The Variety review noted that the film had "episodes that do not blend into the story smoothly, sequences that hang in the air lacking background and significance as though passages depending upon them had been deleted."
In 1938, when Columbia submitted a request to the PCA for re-issue certification, the PCA rejected the request on grounds that it was the story of "the life of a loose and immoral woman, without the necessary compensating moral values," and that it contained a number of lines of "unacceptable" dialogue. According to a September 1938 memo, under the supervision of Columbia producer Joseph Sistrom, the studio made additional eliminations in the film to bring it into agreement with PCA demands.
Modern sources list Joseph Sauers, Joan Standing, Martha Mattox and Dorothea Wolbert in the cast. Modern sources also note that Lila Lee was originally slated for the part played by Barbara Stanwyck. According to a biography of Stanwyck, Stanwyck disliked the script and called it "one of those terrible pictures they sandwiched in when you started."