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The book of the stage musical, originally titled Hard to Get and retitled Bon Voyage, was written by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse and was revised by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse into Anything Goes; however, only Lindsay and Crouse receive credit on the film, and no adaptation credits are listed. According to a modern source, Bon Voyage was a comedy that Broadway producer Vinton Freedley planned to produce in the 1933-34 season. When the real-life shipwreck of the S.S. Morro Castle occurred on September 8, 1934, playwright Lindsay, the director of the show, enlisted Crouse to help him revise the script, as Bolton and Wodehouse were no longer available. The Broadway musical ran 420 performances. All songs in the film, except the Cole Porter numbers which came from the Broadway musical, were written expressly for the screen. This film was shot in part on location in Honolulu, Hawaii. According to a August 24, 1935 news item in Hollywood Reporter, Paramount had planned to send six LeRoy Prinz dancers to Honolulu and use them on an ocean liner for background shots, but instead sent only assistant director Nate Watt and a camera, with the intention of using ship passengers as extras in the scenes.
A description of this film's plot in Motion Picture Herald's "In the Cutting Room" differs significantly from the final film. According to Motion Picture Herald, Bing Crosby's character is madly in love with Ethel Merman's, who is without tickets or passports, and Crosby's character is being pursued by Ida Lupino's, a "blonde menace to his romantic ambitions with Miss Merman." Merman reprised her Broadway role. Victor Moore, who played "Moonface" in the stage play, was unavailable for the film version, and several reviewers considered Ruggles' portrayal of "Moonface" inferior to Moore's. According to a news item in Daily Variety on July 3, 1935, Herb Williams and Joe Penner were also considered for the role of "Moonface," but were unavailable. A modern source includes Dennis O'Keefe, who was then known as Bud Flanagan, in the cast as an extra at a nightclub table. In 1956, Robert Lewis directed starring Bing Crosby, Donald O'Connor, Jeanmaire and Mitzi Gaynor in a Paramount remake of the play. According to a modern source, television executives, faced with two movies with the same title, retitled the 1936 film Tops Is the Limit.