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As depicted in the film, Dolley Payne Todd Madison (1768-1849), who was reared in Virginia by Quaker parents, rose to fame as a premiere White House hostess, during both the presidency of Thomas Jefferson and that of her second husband, James Madison. Although the CBCS list and reviews spell the heroine's name as "Dolly," the correct spelling was "Dolley." The New York Times review notes that, while many basic historical facts in the film are true, the subplot about a romantic rivalry between Madison and Aaron Burr, and the overall romanticized version of Dolley's life, are highly exaggerated. The duel between Burr and Alexander Hamilton which is depicted in the film took place on July 11, 1804. Hamilton died the next day. Burr was acquitted of treason in 1807 and died in 1836.
Universal production notes add that writer Irving Stone purposely avoided repeating the well-known historical episode in which Dolley saved a portrait of George Washington and important state papers during the 1814 British attack on Washington. A January 1946 Hollywood Reporter article reports that Stone had originally intended to use his Dolley Madison research for a novel, but was persuaded by the producers to write an original screenplay instead. Stone had previously written several biographies, and, in 1946, sold the screen rights to five of his novels. Universal borrowed David Niven from Samuel Goldwyn's company for the film. In 1951, Universal entered into a legal battle with the Bank of America when the bank foreclosed its mortagages on several of the studio's films, including Magnificent Doll. In an unprecented move, Universal countered by launching a suit in which it asked to be found not liable for repayment. According to a December 1953 Variety article, however, the Bank of America was eventually awarded a cash judgment of over $134,000.