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A condensation of Rosemary Taylor's novel was published in Reader's Digest in September 1943. In a letter in studio files, author Taylor noted, "Don't let the public know, please, but most of 'Chicken' was either fiction or facts so scrambled as to be unrecognizable. Only our family names are real." However in a New York Times article dated April 2, 1944, Taylor noted that the book was "a story about my family." According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Warner Bros. bought the motion picture rights in August 1944; in August 1945, Fox paid Warners $275,000 for the rights. During the period in which Warner Bros. owned the rights, Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein, who wrote the play based on the novel, wrote a screenplay based on the play and novel and Mervyn LeRoy was slated to direct it. It is not known if the Epstein screenplay was later used by the Fox writers. Mary C. McCall, Jr. wrote a screenplay and revisions for Fox, but the extent of her contribution to the final film has not been determined.
Hollywood Reporter news items indicate that John Payne was considered for a top role in the film. According to publicity for the film in the AMPAS production files, Maureen O'Hara and Henry Fonda were scheduled to play the leads, and Vanessa Brown was listed in the cast in September 1946. Jeanne Crain was scheduled for the role of the daughter when production was to begin on November 4, 1946, and later Hollywood Reporter news items indicate Betty Ann Lynn was cast as her replacement. Studio legal files note that Veda Ann Borg replaced Martha Stewart in the role of "Rita Kirby." According to information in the studio's Produced Script Collection, also at UCLA, the studio planned to test Florence Bates for the role of "Minnie Moon." The film was postponed a number of times due to actors' scheduling conflicts. The Tucson Mountains area was used for backgrounds. Other location shooting was done in the Nevada towns of Gardnerville, Minden, Carson City, Virginia City and Silver City, according to publicity and the legal records.
On June 13, 1956, The Hefferen Family, also based on the Taylor story, was broadcast on television as part of the Twentieth Century-Fox Hour. It was produced by Samuel Marx, directed by Jules Bricken and starred Paul Douglas and Alexis Smith. According to a Daily Variety news item in 1960, Julius J. Epstein, the estate of his late brother Philip, and author Taylor initiated a copyright infringement-breach of contract suit against the studio in 1959, contending that Fox did not own the television rights. The studio settled out of court for $100,000. A musical, entitled East Street, West, with book by Julius J. Epstein, and music and lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, based on the Epsteins' play, was to be tried out in 1966 or 1967, but no information on its production has been located.