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The film's working title was The Heartless Kid. The film's title card reads: "Neil Simon's The Heartbreak Kid." A March 1977 New York Times article noted that "A Change of Plan," Bruce Jay Friedman's short story on which Simon's screenplay was based, was only two pages long. According to Filmfacts, the picture originally concluded with "Kelly" and "Lenny" sailing for Europe on their honeymoon. During the cruise, Lenny discovers that he finds Kelly as objectionable as "Lila," his first wife. This sequence was cut before the print was released. According to an August 1971 Hollywood Reporter news item, Jerry Orbach had been the "top candidate" for the title role.
Filmfacts noted that location filming was done in New York City, Miami Beach, FL and Minneapolis, MN. Jeannie Berlin, who played Lila, is the daughter of director Elaine May, and Greg Scherick, who played the "Young boy," is the son of producer Edgar J. Scherick. Although onscreen credits list the boy under the name of Greg Scherick, in studio publicity materials, he is billed as Greg Pecque. "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" was a popular, iconic commercial song heard in the film. Modern sources add Jim Westcott to the cast, but his appearance in the film has not been confirmed.
For their work in The Heartbreak Kid, Eddie Albert was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Berlin was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Another adaptation of Friedman's story, also entitled The Heartbreak Kid is scheduled for release in October 2007. That film, a DreamWorks production for release by Paramount, was directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, and starred Ben Stiller and Michelle Monaghan.