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Studio records give the release date as December 11, 1936 while Motion Picture Herald lists it as December 4, 1936. Variety lists a song by McHugh and Adamson entitled "Sippy," which was not in the final film and is not included in the music cue sheets for the film in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library. Also, according to the legal files, the actor and director Norman Foster functioned as a representative of the studio in negotiating the acquisition of the rights to the novel. This was the first film in which Barbara Stanwyck sang and danced. According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Henry Fonda was originally scheduled to play "Ernie." According to various news items, Stanwyck was borrowed from RKO, Goldwyn loaned Joel McCrea and Walter Brennan, Anthony Martin replaced Michael Whalen in the role of "Chick Bean" and a special company filmed authentic scenes of Mississippi River life among the shanty boatmen of New Orleans and its environs. It is unknown whether any of this footage was incorporated into the film; the filming May have been undertaken as part of pre-production research. A Hollywood Reporter news item states that the studio originally announced the film as a Janet Gaynor vehicle. According to the legal records, Margaret Hamilton was original cast in the role of "Gurtha," but because she was tied up in another film, she was not able to appear in this one.
According to correspondence in the PCA file for this film, PCA Director Joseph Breen warned the studio after he read the final script that the picture would be rejected by the PCA if certain elements in the script were not changed. Breen found the "excessive drinking" objectionable and also complained about "the suggestive running gag showing Newt's efforts to have Pearl and Ernie sleep together so that the marriage May be consummated, and his hopes of an heir fulfilled." Darryl Zanuck, the studio's production head, responded vehemently in a letter to Breen, complaining, "Your reader has injected smut and sex where none was ever intended." Zanuck defended the script submitted and stated, "We are telling a beautiful love story laid among a certain type of river people that exist on the Mississippi today. They are not drunks; they are not whores....[Newt] tries to get [Ernie and Pearl] together; he tries to stop them from quarreling. It is not a case of trying to get them to climb into bed with each other. He wants them to be in love with each other because he knows that if they are, eventually they will have children and he will have an heir. In God's name, what is wrong with this?...I urge you to...retract the letter that has been written. I do not want to make any filthy pictures or any sex pictures. I do not want to have anything in my pictures that is not in good taste." Subsequently, members of the studio staff agreed to tone down the drinking scenes and to include dialogue in which Newt explains that at the time of his own wedding, neighbors serenaded him and his bride with the song, "St. Louis Blues," and that he has been waiting many years to play the song for his own son on his wedding night.
Hollywood Reporter news items state that Tobacco Road, Inc. sued Twentieth Century-Fox for $1,000,000 and asked for an injunction against the exhibition of the film because of a reference made to the play Tobacco Road in the advertising for the film. Tobacco Road, Inc. claimed that the line in question-"The elemental force that has kept Tobacco Road on Broadway for three years now sweeps like the mighty Mississippi into your own theater"-destroyed the motion picture value of the play. According to the legal records, the application for the injunction was denied; no additional information regarding the disputation of the suit has been located. The film was re-released in 1943.