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The film starts with the following written foreword: "It has always been man's nature to invent idols on whom he could place the responsibility for his own actions. Perhaps these three strangers in this story, whose lives have really nothing to do with each other, would never have met except for a very ancient idol: the Chinese goddess, Kwan Yin. And perhaps their separate stories might have been different except for what happened that night. And then again, perhaps not." According to a June 12, 1939 Los Angeles Times news item, Bette Davis and George Brent were expected to star in the film. At that time, the story was entitled Three Men and a Girl. A treatment of that story, written by John Huston, was purchased by Warner Bros. in 1937, according to memos reproduced in a modern source. An undated contemporary press release names Humphrey Bogart, Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor, co-stars of the popular 1941 Warner Bros. picture The Maltese Falcon, as the prospective stars of the film. Modern sources list additional actors considered for the leading roles: For "Arbutny," Lionel Atwill, Donald Crisp, Ian Hunter and Claude Rains; for "Crystal," Miriam Hopkins and Kay Francis; and for "West," Errol Flynn, David Niven, Leslie Howard, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Robert Montgomery.