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Although the onscreen credits did not have a comma in the film's title, both contemporary and modern sources refer to it as Hallelujah, I'm a Bum. The film's working titles were The New Yorker, Happy Go Lucky and The Optimist. In 1941, it was re-issued as The Heart of New York, which had also been a working title, in a re-edited version that ran for 68 min. In Britain, where the word "bum" is slang for the posterior, the title of the film was changed to Hallelujah, I'm a Tramp, and the title song was changed accordingly. Although Tammany Young's character is listed as "Frank the Jockey" in the onscreen credits, contemporary sources refer to him as "Orlando." Young's spoken name within the film could not be determined.
According to a May 4, 1932 Film Daily news item, Harry d'Abbadie D'Arrast was to direct the film under the supervision of Lewis Milestone. According to modern sources, D'Arrast left the picture after one day of shooting because of disagreements with Al Jolson. The Film Daily news item also noted that Irving Caesar would provide the music and dialogue, but his contribution to the completed film has not been confirmed. According to Hollywood Reporter news items and production charts, Chester Erskin took over direction of the picture, under the supervision of Milestone. Production charts list Charles Lederer as co-adaptor with S. N. Behrman, but the extent of Lederer's contribution to the finished picture, if any, has not been confirmed. According to an October 8, 1932 Hollywood Reporter news item, Joseph M. Schenck was displeased with the picture's reception at a preview and ordered that the script be rewritten. Hollywood Reporter and Film Daily news items in November 1932 indicate that Frank Morgan, who played "Mayor John Hastings," replaced Roland Young, who was forced to bow out of the picture due to illness, and that the picture was largely reshot in November (although modern sources state that filming on the new version began in Oct). The inclusion in the finished film of any scenes directed by Erskin has not been confirmed. Contemporary news items noted that exteriors were shot on location in New York, and include the following actors in the cast, although their participation in the completed film has not been confirmed: Bodil Rosing, Heinie Conklin, Vince Barnett, Sidney Skolsky and Gino Corrado. A March 12, 1933 New York Times article reported that Schenck originally wanted Ruby Keeler, who was married to Jolson at the time, for the female lead, but she decided that it would not be "a good idea" to make her film debut in her husband's picture.
Hallelujah I'm a Bum is well-known for its "rhythmic dialogue," in which the characters speak rhymed lines in a sing-song manner. Over half of the dialogue is done in a normal style, however, contrary to assertions of the pressbook (and some modern sources), which proclaimed that the picture was "the first film ever made entirely in rhythmic dialogue." Some of the rhythmic dialogue sequences, written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, were: "I Gotta Get Back to New York," "My Pal Bumper," "Laying the Cornerstone," "Bumper Found a Grand" and "Kangaroo Court." Modern sources note the similarity between "Mayor John Hastings" and Jimmy Walker, the controversial mayor of New York City, who was famous for his love of casinos and nightlife. Modern sources also state that Rodgers appears in the film as a photographer and Hart as a bank teller, and include Harold Goodwin and Burr McIntosh in the cast. Hallelujah I'm a Bum was to be the first of three films done by Jolson for United Artists, however, the other two were not made. Modern sources note that the picture cost $1.25 million to produce and that it failed to recoup its production costs at the box office. This was the first film in which Jolson appeared since the 1930 Warner Bros. picture Big Boy (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.0388).