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A 18 September 1934 Variety news item announcing Fox's purchase of the rights to Ramona from Edwin Carewe, who had produced an earlier version of Helen Hunt Jackson's novel, noted that a Spanish version was also likely to be filmed, however, none was made. A January 30, 1935 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Philip Klein and Robert Yost had been signed to work on the adaptation, but their contribution to the completed picture has not been confirmed. Pre-production work on this film began before Twentieth Century and Fox merged in the summer of 1935, while actual shooting was done after the merger. A March 18, 1935 Hollywood Reporter news item states that John Ford was scheduled to direct the film, while the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library add that Eugene Forde was originally signed as the director before Henry King. Hollywood Reporter news items also noted that Lew Pollack and Paul Francis Webster had been assigned to write the music for the picture. Among the actors considered for the part of "Alessandro" were Pietro Gentili, Phillip Reed, Gilbert Roland (who was also considered for the part of "Felipe") and John Boles (who was released from the role when he ended his contract with the studio). A August 24, 1935 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Charles Sellon, who was cast as "Juan Can," was forced to drop out of the film due to illness, and the legal records confirm that O. P. Heggie, who was contracted to play "Father Salvierderra," went instead into Twentieth Century-Fox's 1936 production, The Prisoner of Shark Island (see below). According to Hollywood Reporter news items, Frances Dee was considered for the part of "Ramona," which was first assigned to Rita Hayworth (then known as Rita Cansino,) and then to Loretta Young after Darryl F. Zanuck, Twentieth Century-Fox's vice-president in charge of production, announced that "the story is in the special class and deserves more elaborate treatment than formerly called for." Production was delayed from late Jul, and Twentieth Century-Fox considered removing Kent Taylor, who had been borrowed from Paramount for the role of "Felipe," to replace him with "a more important name," however, Taylor did play the part. The film was again postponed in late August 1935 by Young's illness. When she was still not ready to begin by mid-October 1935, she was replaced by Rochelle Hudson. In late Oct, Zanuck announced that the picture was to be shot in Technicolor, which, because the film would be "80 percent exteriors," required another postponement to avoid the rainy season. By the time shooting began on May 11, 1936, Young had been reinstated in the part of "Ramona."
The film was shot on location at Warner Hot Springs and the Mesa Grande Indian Reservation, both in San Diego County, CA. According to a modern source, the Indian extras from the reservation were descendents of the Indians about whom Jackson wrote her novel. A June 17, 1936 Los Angeles Times news item reported that Young saved two-year-old Raymond Lugo, with whom she was performing a scene, from a fire that started on the set in Mesa Grande. Althuogh Hollywood Reporter production charts list Paul Stanton and Fritz Leiber as cast members, their participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, the picture's release was delayed because Technicolor could not supply enough prints in time to meet the deadline. Although a September 9, 1936 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Ramona was to have its world premiere simultaneously in Pittsburgh and Bar Harbor, ME, the date of the premiere has not been confirmed. This was the first Twentieth Century-Fox film shot in Technicolor. The New York Times reviewer praised the color, commenting: "Chromatically, the picture is superior to anything we have seen in the color line," and the Variety reviewer noted: "...the fact that the color angle becomes less noticeable as the picture unwinds, and never interferes with the telling or reception of the story, is evidence that color has finally found its place in film production." According to a September 15, 1935 New York Times article, the film was estimated to cost in excess of $750,000 to produce, but in a modern source, King stated that it was produced for a little under $600,000. Jackson's novel was previously filmed three times, all of which were titled Ramona. The first version, a 1910 Biograph film, was directed by D. W. Griffith and starred Mary Pickford and Henry B. Walthall (see Film Beginnings, 1893-1910; A.12778). Donald Crisp directed Adda Gleason and Monroe Salisbury in the 1916 Clune Film Producing Co. version and Edwin Carewe directed Dolores Del Rio and Warner Baxter in the 1928 Inspiration Pictures production. From 1922 to the early 1940s, a "Ramona Pageant" was held every spring in a natural outdoor amphitheatre near Hemmet, CA. The pageant, which was resumed after World War II, recreated incidents from Jackson's book. In the 1936 pageant, John Carradine played "Jim Farrar," which was also his role in the film. According to modern sources, the producers of the picture viewed the pageant in the early 1930s for ideas.