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According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, independent producer Mike Todd purchased the screen rights to H. Allen Smith's best-selling novel Rhubarb in October 1946. Although credited onscreen as "Rhubarb," the star's real name was Orangey Murray. His complete onscreen credit reads: "and introducing the newest addition to Hollywood's great galaxy of stars-that dynamic, exciting, scintillating personality Rhubarb (by special arrangement with the S.P.C.A., A.H.A., Y.M.C.A., U.C.L.A, B.P.O.E., R.F.C.)."
According to news items and studio publicity material, contained in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library, producers William Perlberg and George Seaton spent six months searching for a cat to play Rhubarb and held auditions to find one. Bing Crosby and James Mason reportedly offered their cats for the part. After reviewing hundreds of applications, the producers selected Orangey Murray, a former stray cat from Sherman Oaks. Frank Inn, assistant trainer of Lassie, trained Orangey Murray for the part. According to publicity, Orangey Murray was given his own dressing room and Hollywood apartment, where he lived with his stand-ins during filming. The last scene in the film includes a gag in which Rhubarb and his new cat family are seen passing by actor Paul Douglas as he sits on a park bench reading a newspaper. Douglas, who won acclaim in the 1949 Twentieth Century-Fox film A Letter to Three Wives, notices the long line of cats and kittens trailing Rhubarb and says, "What a cat-a litter from three wives!"
Athlete-turned-actor Jim Thorpe's adopted son Bill Thorpe, also known as William Thurlby, made his screen debut in the production. Hollywood Reporter news items add Hank Wells, James Conaty and Jack Gerrlings to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Publicity material notes that the film's baseball scenes were shot at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. According to a publicity item contained in the film's copyright records, songwriters Jay Livingston and Ray Evans wrote a jingle for the mock television commercial that is used in one scene. Rhubarb marked Seaton and Perlberg's first release as a production team at Paramount. According to an August 1951 Variety item, Paramount promoted the picture by planting a phony story in the New York World Telegram about an Orangey Murray kidnapping and sponsoring "meet Rhubarb" events at supermarkets. Although Hollywood Reporter announced in March 1951 that Lubin was planning a sequel to Rhubarb called Rhubarb's Daughter, no film sequel was ever made. In 1967, author Smith published a sequel to his novel, entitled Son of Rhubarb.