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The working titles of this film were Heller with a Gun and Wagon Train. A written prologue before the credits states that, in an era of famous gunmen, one actress became a legend of the Old West with her beauty and flirtatiousness. The opening credits roll in the style of a silent film reel. In April 1957, Daily Variety announced that Michael Rennie had formed an independent production company with author Louis L'Amour to produce L'Amour's story, entitled Heller with a Gun, and hoped to star Marlene Dietrich. By August 1957, Los Angeles Times stated that their company, named Ren-Mor Productions, planned to shoot the film in early 1958 with Anne Baxter as a possible lead, and would develop a television series from the same story.
According to information found in the file for the film in the Paramount Collection at the AMPAS Library, Paramount bought the options to L'Amour's story for $25,000 in March 1958 and in September 1958 hired Zo Akins to write an outline. After Akins died of cancer on October 29, 1959, Dudley Nichols took over the writing assignment, and Walter Bernstein was then hired in February 1959. Although the Paramount files note that January Lustig, John Dunkel and Alec Coppel also wrote early versions of the script, their contribution to the final film has not been confirmed, and only Nichols and Bernstein received onscreen credit. Heller in Pink Tights marked the last film for Nichols (1895-1960).
An April 1958 "Rambling Reporter" item in Hollywood Reporter mistakenly referred to Heller in Pink Tights as being based on a Ray Wander story entitled Layover at El Paso. The Paramount Collection information states that location shooting took place in Arizona in Tucson and the Empire Ranch in Sonoyta, as well in Bronson Canyon, CA. Late 1958 and early 1959 Hollywood Reporter news items list Jack Warden, Marion Lorne, Jack Lemmon and James Garner as possible lead actors in the picture, but none appeared in the final film.
Heller in Pink Tights marked the first Western film for both director George Cukor and star Sophia Loren. Modern sources describe Cukor's exhaustive research into the lives of late eighteenth-century theater actors in the West. The character of "Angela Rossini" was based partially on real-life Western theater star Adah Isaacs Menken, who famously strapped herself to a horse while wearing flesh-colored tights for a performance of the play Mazeppa, which was based on a Lord Byron poem.
After filming ending in April 1959, Hollywood Reporter reported the budget as $3.5 million. Some modern sources assert that after Cukor spent five weeks supervising the editing of Heller in Pink Tights, Paramount re-cut the film to the director's distaste. The picture received positive reviews, with the New York Times critic praising Loren's performance as one of the most warm and natural of her career. The film marked the last for Ramon Novarro, who was murdered in 1968.