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The onscreen credits read, "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer presents A. J. Cronin's The Green Years." Contemporary sources note that M-G-M paid a record sum for a novel of $200,000 for the film rights to A. J. Cronin's best-selling book, topping the previous record of $175,000, set by Warner Bros. in its acquisition of the rights to Edna Ferber's Saratoga Trunk (see below). Cronin's novel was serialized in Redbook magazine, but the dates are undetermined. A May 1944 Hollywood Reporter news item indicates that Sam Zimbalist was originally assigned to produce the film. Harold S. Bucquet was named as the director in an August 1945 New York Times article. The article also noted that producer Leon Gordon and Bucquet spent "considerable time" searching for actors to play "Robert Shannon" as a boy and as a young man before settling on Dean Stockwell and Tom Drake, and that some "large-scale exterior" filming was set for Washington state.
According to M-G-M News, Reginald Owen was originally set for the part played by Lumsden Hare. Although a 1945 M-G-M news item noted that Nickie Johnson "won a featured role" in the film as a Glasgow librarian, her appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. A 1949 Daily Variety news item notes that an English appeals court tossed out a lawsuit filed against M-G-M by BBC critic Edith Arnot Robertson, who, after reporting negatively on the film, alleged that she was libeled and slandered by the studio in a letter asking that she be barred from reviewing M-G-M films for the BBC in the future. Although Robertson initially won her suit againt M-G-M, the decision was reversed in appeal. This film marked the screen debut of child actor Guy Stockwell, brother of Dean Stockwell. Charles Coburn was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, and George Folsey was nominated for a Best Cinematography Academy Award. Coburn, Tom Drake, Beverly Tyler, Hume Cronyn and Dean Stockwell reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on January 13, 1947.