powered by AFI
Parts of the best-selling book, Anything Can Happen, described as an autobiographical novel, appeared originally as short stories in the magazines Direction and Common Ground. Location shooting for the film was done in New York City; Gallup, New Mexico, at an Indian reservation; and in California in West Covina ("Besso's" farm), Pasadena ("Helen's" grandmother's house), Azusa, Saugas and Simi. The S.S. Saturnia was used in the opening scenes of the boat entering New York harbor. Author George Papashvily appeared as an extra on the boat. Other New York scenes were shot in Central Park, on a midtown bus and at 153 E. 57 St. at the Magistrate's Court. According to publicity, the film marked the screen debuts of Oscar Beregi, who was a top Hungarian actor before the postwar Communist government; George Voskovec, known as the Czech Charlie Chaplin; Alex Danaroff, a restaurateur; and stage actors Oscar Karlweiss and Gloria Marlowe. Natasha Lytess was loaned from Twentieth Century-Fox. The film marked Eugenie Leontovich's first screen appearance since the 1941 Columbia release The Men in Her Life (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50).
Tiny Timbrell, formerly a guitarist in Harry James's band, coached Jos Ferrer in playing a five-string guitar. Robert Merrill was originally to star in the film, according to a September 27, 1950 Hollywood Reporter news item. In February 1951, Nancy Olson was signed to co-star. Producer William Perlberg saw Kim Hunter in a preview screening of A Streetcar Named Desire in June 1951 and gave her the role. Jack Albertson, who played the role of a flower vendor, was originally cast in the role of "The Fixer." Sources conflict concerning the roles played by Voskovec and Danaroff; while the CBCS and reviews list Voskevec as "Pavli" and Danaroff as "Eliko," a studio cast list credits Voskevec as "Kortan" and Danaroff as "Pavli." In addition, the CBCS and the studio cast list credit a second actor, Elia Louis Geladze, in the role of "Eliko." It is not known if Geladze was in the final film. A Hollywood Reporter news item adds Dorothy Vernon, Buddy Mason and Coynne Kiel to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
The film had a preview showing in January 1952 at Hunter College to 2,000 delegates attending the U.S. National Commission for Unesco, according to a New York Times news item. A spokesman for Paramount stated, "Unesco officials feel that the picture, by showing the assimilation of immigrants into the American way of life and the opportunities available to all Americans, illustrates what Unesco is trying to accomplish." Los Angeles Examiner, in their review of the film, commented, "I'm sure Messrs. William Perlberg and George Seaton, its producer-director-writer combination, didn't intend it to be American propaganda-but it is that, so completely and thoroughly, that I wish it could be shown in every city, town and hamlet behind the Iron Curtain." While most reviews were favorable, New Yorker called the film "somewhat superficial," and New York Times opined that while the Papashvilys' tale of immigration twenty years earlier "was reasonable," the film's story was not, as "the prospect of such a young fellow arriving today is nigh absurd." New York Times also criticized the depiction of the immigrant group Papashvily finds in New York: "that a strong and gregarious colony of South Georgians is currently thriving and being chauvinistic in this land is beyond the range of acceptance of all but the lovers of romance. Thus the cozy picture Mr. Seaton presents of a band of genial eccentrics singing songs and having feasts in old-country style, as of the present, is in the realm of myth."
The length of the version prepared for foreign distribution was 868 feet (or about ten minutes) shorter than the domestic version. According to a New York Times news item, a theater in Baltimore showing the film was picketed on May 21, 1952 by members of a local American Legion post because Jos Ferrer had been questioned a year earlier by the House Committee on Un-American Activities concerning membership in the Communist party. Ferrer denied ever having been a Communist.