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The film's working titles were Tribute to a Bad Man and Memorial to a Bad Man. After the M-G-M logo, the opening credits begin with a shot of the story's fictional studio logo, Shields Pictures, Inc. Each of the names of the principal cast appear before the title, superimposed over the Shields logo, each on a separate screen, in the following order: Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Walter Pidgeon, Dick Powell, Barry Sullivan, Gloria Grahame and Gilbert Roland. Although Vanessa Brown is billed ninth in the opening cast credits, her name does not appear in the end credits.
At the end of the picture, the Shields Pictures, Inc. logo reappears. The cast and character names are then shown superimposed over scenes in the picture; however, end credits list the cast in an ascending order of importance. The above title cast is presented last, in a slightly different order, with Turner the final person shown. After the end credits the following written acknowledgment appears: "We are grateful to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science for permission to use the Academy Award Statuette."
As noted in news items and reviews, George Bradshaw's original story, which appeared under the title Memorial to a Bad Man when it was published in The Ladies Home Journal in February 1951 was about a Broadway producer. Although that story provided the principal structure for the film, an earlier short story written by Bradshaw, "Of Good and Evil" (Cosmopolitan, February 1948), was also purchased by M-G-M and provided some additional basis of the film. According to modern sources, it was Vincente Minnelli and John Houseman who convinced M-G-M production chief Dore Schary that Memorial to a Bad Man would be a much stronger picture if the setting was switched to Hollywood. Many of the film's movie studio exteriors were shot on the M-G-M lot in Culver City, CA. Establishing shots and some exteriors of the Beverly Hills Hotel were also in the film.
Many contemporary and modern sources have speculated that "Jonathan Shields" was loosely based on producer David O. Selznick and the argument between Shields and director "Von Ellstein" was inspired by Selznick's disputes with director George Cukor when Cukor abruptly departed from Selznick's production of Gone With the Wind (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). Some modern sources have speculated that producer Val Lewton also was a partial inspiration for Shields. In The Bad and the Beautiful the film that is the first successful picture for "Fred Amiel" and "Jonathan Shields" was inspired by Lewton's 1942 RKO production Cat People (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50.)
Von Ellstein's character is frequently mentioned as having been inspired by director Erich von Stroheim, and "James Lee Bartlow" is thought by some critics to have been inspired by William Faulkner. "Georgia Lorrison" was also partially inspired by Diana Barrymore, just as "George Lorrison" was based on her father, John Barrymore. Unlike Georgia, however, Diana Barrymore had a brief and unsuccessful film career. George Lorrison does not appear in the film but a recording of his voice is heard, provided by M-G-M contract star Louis Calhern. Photographs of George in Georgia's room are also of Calhern.
A contemporary article in an unnamed source in the AMPAS Library production file on the film noted that preview cards for The Bad and the Beautiful were highly complimentary although many in the audience deemed the picture too long. Following the preview several short scenes, comprising about twelve minutes, were cut for the film's release. As shown in photographs with brief descriptions in the same article, among the deleted scenes were insert shots of Jonathan in a Paris hotel room as he is speaking via phone to the other main characters and a scene in which Georgia first meets James Lee.
Other contemporary news items include Steve Carruthers in the cast as a cameraman and note that trumpeter Maynard Ferguson was to make his motion picture debut in the film, but their appearance in the released film has not been verified. Singers Hadda Brooks and Peggy King, who both appear briefly in the film, made their motion picture debuts in The Bad and the Beautiful. Items in Hollywood Reporter's "Rambling Reporter" columns indicate that actor Fernando Lamas refused to go on location to Mexico for the film Sombrero (see below) because he did not want to leave Turner, with whom he was having a relationship. He was subsequently suspended by M-G-M, but in her autobiography, Turner indicated that her relationship with Lamas was over by that time.
A modern sources states that Turner's personal makeup man, Del Armstrong, and her personal hairdresser, Helen Young, appeared as her makeup man and hairdresser in the film. The same source also includes Jeff Richards (Young man at studio) and Alyce May (Movie extra) in the cast. The Bad and the Beautiful was the first of four films Minnelli directed that starred Kirk Douglas. They also worked together on the 1953 compendium film The Story of Three Loves, the 1956 Vincent Van Gogh biography Lust for Life (see below) and the 1962 Italian-set filmmaking drama Two Weeks in Another Town (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70).
Gloria Grahame earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of "Rosemary Bartlow." Academy Awards also went to Charles Schnee for Best Adapted Screenplay; Robert Surtees for Best Cinematography (black and white); Best Art Director and Set Decoration (black and white) to Cedric Gibbons and Edward Carfango, Edwin B. Willis and Keogh Gleason; and Best Costumes (black and white) to Helen Rose. An Academy Award nomination also went to Kirk Douglas for Best Actor, but he lost to Gary Cooper for High Noon. Since the film's release, it has frequently been cited by film historians as one of the best films ever made about Hollywood.