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According to pre-production news items, producer William Cagney and his brother, actor James Cagney, were interested in purchasing the original Bogart Rogers-Mark Kelly story for their own company as a starring vehicle for James. When M-G-M bought the property, they intended to co-star Wallace Beery and Gracie Fields as "Jocko Wilson" and "Aggie Dawlins." Later, Blanche Ring was considered for the role of Aggie, and Van Johnson was considered for the role of "Nipper" as an adult. News items include Arthur Stenning, Carol Lou Nugent, Naomi Scher and David Shurian in the cast, but their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. One news item mentioned that "the four Severn boys," Christopher, Ernest, Raymond and Clifford, would portray Nipper at four different ages, but only Christopher and Raymond portrayed Nipper. Ernest had another small role in the film, but Clifford's appearance has not been confirmed. Elmo Veron is listed in one Hollywood Reporter news item and on early Hollywood Reporter production charts as the film's editor, but only George White is credited onscreen and in reviews. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Charles Laughton suffered a knee injury during a fight scene and was off the production for about two weeks.
While the film's plot concerns possible incestuous feelings of "Nipper" for "Mary," the word incest was not used in the film or in reviews. The PCA file on the film, in the AMPAS Library, indicates that the script and film were accepted without elimination, although it was suggested by the PCA that some lyrics of the song "E Pinched Me" should be changed to make it less "vulgar." The PCA file also reveals that another song was written for the film by Earl Brent, "Three Little Birds in a Blue Gum Tree," but that song was not in the released film.