powered by AFI
The working title of this film was The Devil's Hornpipe. The film begins with the following written statement: "This picture is sympathetically dedicated to labor and its problems in coping with a new and merry type of public enemy...the charming, well-dressed gentleman who cons his way to a union throne, and never needs to blow a safe again." According to a July 6, 1956 Daily Variety article, Universal purchased the rights to Maxwell Anderson and Rouben Mamoulian's unproduced play in 1956. In November 1957, studio press materials announced that Anderson and Allie Wrubel had written thirteen songs for the film, but only five are included in the finished print.
According to the Hollywood Reporter review, "months of sneak previews and re-editing" delayed the picture's release by almost one year. On October 16, 1957, the "Rambling Reporter" column in Hollywood Reporter erroneously stated that Jayne Mansfield had been cast in Never Steal Anything Small, and noted on October 28, 1957 that Audrey Meadows and Nita Talbot were being considered for the role of "Winnipeg Simmons." Hollywood Reporter reported on October 30, 1957 that director of photography William Daniels had replaced Harold Lipstein, who was called off the shoot due to an illness in the family. However, Lipstein received sole onscreen credit for photography.
According to Hollywood Reporter news item, many scenes were shot on the Fulton Street Pier and other locations around New York City. The Variety review noted: "Because of the Universal Pictures' ban of Variety and Daily Variety on news and reviews," the newspaper was forced to review this and other Universal films at public rather than press screenings. Never Steal Anything Small marked the last time James Cagney sang and danced onscreen.