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This film marked the first time that one of author James Thurber's works was adapted for motion pictures. My Life and Hard Times is composed of autobiographical sketches in which Thurber describes his life in a small Ohio town, his eccentric family and a football player named Bolenciecwicz. According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, author James Thurber submitted a film treatment of My Life and Hard Times to the studio in the spring of 1941, but was unable to continue further work on it due to his failing eyesight. Hollywood Reporter news items noted that Lamar Trotti had been assigned to work on the script of this picture, but his contribution to the completed film has not been confirmed.
In an August 1941 story conference, studio production executive Darryl F. Zanuck suggested casting either Broderick Crawford, Wayne Morris or Jack Carson as "Boley," and Allen Jenkins as "Seabiscuit." A September 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item listed the following actresses, who were to have roles in the film and then participate in the picture's exploitation: Roseanne Murray, Marion Rosamond, Vivian Mason, Barbara Lynn, Verna Knopf, Claire James, Violet Church, Virginia Maples, Edna May Jones and Mary Scott. Their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed, however. According to another September 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item, Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger also wrote the songs ""It All Depends on Thee" and "Dance It Off" for the picture, but they were not included in the released film.
Walter Brennan was borrowed from Samuel Goldwyn for the film, while George Murphy was borrowed from M-G-M. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, technical advisor Robert C. McNeish was the assistant football coach at the University of Southern California, and Nick Lukats, who instructed Jack Oakie in tackling, was a former Notre Dame All-American. Second unit director Mal St. Clair shot football scenes on location at the USC campus and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and also shot some footage near Chino, CA. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Hays Office warned the studio: "At no time should magical tricks be exposed, since any exposure would involve your company in trouble with the American Society of Magicians." Rise and Shine was the first film produced by Mark Hellinger for Twentieth Century-Fox.