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Anya Seton's novel was first published in Ladies Home Journal between August and December 1943. According to a June 6, 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item, Gregory Peck was first considered for the "co-star role" of this picture, and a modern source reveals that studio production chief Darryl F. Zanuck intended to feature Peck as "Nicholas" and John Hodiak as "Dr. Jeff Turner." Hollywood Reporter production charts indicate that Michael Francis and then William Eythe were assigned to play "Dr. Jeff Turner." According to a April 4, 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item, actor Albert Van Antwerp suffered a heart attack and was replaced by Addison Richards, and actor Alec Craig was replaced by Walter Baldwin when Craig became ill with influenza. A April 20, 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item includes Stuart Holmes in the cast, but his appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Some scenes in the film were shot at Sherwood Forest, CA.
Information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library discloses that the film was originally to end with a fire in which "Nicholas" died. The Breen Office ordered that the sequence be changed, however, to avoid any implication that "Nicholas" committed suicide "in order to escape justice." [A March 4, 1945 New York Times article stated that the ending was changed by studio officials due to its resemblance to previous films Rebecca and Jane Eyre.] The PCA also discouraged "showing Nicholas resorting to opium as an escape." Although "Nicholas" clearly states that he is a drug addict in the finished film, he does not indicate to which drug he is addicted. The PCA also advised: "Because of the prevalence of Oleander in this country, and as a detail of crime which could be easily imitated, we must ask that this dialogue referring to being poisoned by Oleander be rewritten in such a way as to confuse the method."
Numerous pre-release sources credit Ernst Lubitsch as the producer of the film. According to a modern source, Lubitsch withdrew from the project due to his poor health and conflicts with director and screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Dragonwyck marked Mankiewicz' first directorial effort. Another modern source states that Lubitsch demanded the removal of his name as producer after Zanuck ordered the elimination of one of his favorite sequences, in which "Nicholas" discusses his philosophy of life. The Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, contain an December 11, 1945 letter from Lubitsch to the studio requesting "that no screen or advertising credit be given me in connection with the motion picture Dragonwyck." Some reviews credit Zanuck as the film's producer.