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Production on this film underwent many changes before it was finally completed. In early January 1936, this film began production under the title Invitation to Happiness, with Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer starring, and with a script written by Melchior Lengyel and John Van Druten. A Hollywood Reporter production chart in mid-January shows that the title had been changed to I Loved a Soldier and the film was being produced by Ernst Lubitsch. Production continued under that title through 10 Feb, after which the film dropped out of the production charts, then reappeared on 16 March under the title Hotel Imperial, with a screenplay by Grover Jones. Henry Hathaway is listed in the chart as director and co-producer with Jones. By that time, Dietrich had been replaced by Margaret Sullavan, and Boyer was no longer in the cast. Other cast members at that point in production included Akim Tamiroff, Samuel S. Hinds, John Miljan, Ted Oliver, Nestor Aber, Siegfried Rumann, Harry Cording and Brandon Evans. The last production chart for Hotel Imperial in 1936 appeared on 23 Mar, and a news item in Film Daily on 27 March states that production was shut down when Sullavan broke her arm. According to a modern source, disagreements between Hathaway and Dietrich first caused the replacement of producer Benjamin Glazer by Lubitsch, then a re-write of the script and a title change to I Loved a Soldier. By March 1936, however, Lubitsch was no longer production chief at Paramount, and subsequent efforts to reunite Dietrich and Hathaway failed. Ultimately the old footage was discarded, and new production chief William LeBaron had an abbreviated script written for a more modestly-budgeted film. Italian actress Isa Miranda was imported to play the lead, and after testing such actors as Robert Preston, Ray Milland was given the role opposite her.
Production resumed in late October 1938. Rudolph Forster is listed in the cast in November 1938 production charts, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. During the week of December 6, 1938, shooting took place at the Paramount Ranch. Lajos Bir's play was also the source of a 1927 silent film, also called Hotel Imperial, directed by Mauritz Stiller and starring Pola Negri (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30; F2.2597). The property has since been remade as a film many times, including Five Graves to Cairo (Paramount, 1943), directed by Billy Wilder and starring Franchot Tone, and Hotel Sahara (United Artists, 1951), directed by Ken Annakin and starring Yvonne DeCarlo.