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The film opens with a lengthy written explanation about the state of England's prisons in the late 18th century and King George III's plan to send convicts to New South Wales. Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall's novel was published serially in The Saturday Evening Post from 27 September-November 1, 1927. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Paramount bought the rights to the story in August 1941 on the basis of a verbal outline, intending to film the project "within the year." Nordhoff and Hall also wrote the popular "Bounty" trilogy, which included the novel Mutiny on the Bounty. Although Alex Frazer is listed in the CBCS in the role of "King George III," that part was not included in the viewed print. Hollywood Reporter production charts and news items list Rex Thompson, Peter Pagan and Wayne Schafer in the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
Botany Bay marked Alan Ladd's last film for Paramount, the studio under which he had been under contract for many years. The film also marked the motion picture debut of Jonathan Harris (1914-2002), the popular television character actor who portrayed "Dr. Smith" on the series Lost in Space. According to a October 16, 1953 New York Times item, the world premiere of the picture took place at the San Diego Zoo in southern California.