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The working titles of this film were Chicago and Chicago Gal. Opening credits include a written statement dedicating the picture to "all the beautiful women in the world who have shot their men full of holes out of pique." Nunnally Johnson's onscreen credit reads: "Produced and Written for the Screen by Nunnally Johnson." According to the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Walter Catlett was originally signed for the part of "E. Clay Benham." According to letters in the film's file, however, the studio decided to replace Catlett because "the character has now been changed and we are going to use another man." The Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also at UCLA, contains notes for a September 4, 1941 conference with executive producer Darryl F. Zanuck, during which Dana Andrews and John Shepperd were considered for the role of "Homer Howard." A Hollywood Reporter news item stated that Thomas Mitchell was cast in the picture, but he does not appear in the finished film and it has not been determined what part he was to play. Ginger Rogers was borrowed from RKO and Lynne Overman was borrowed from Paramount for this production. A December 9, 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item includes Vernon Rickard in the cast but his participation in the completed film has not been confirmed. According to a October 13, 1941 studio press release, Erich von Stroheim, Jr. was to assist director William Wellman, but his contribution to the finished picture has also not been confirmed. A December 29, 1941 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the picture was going back into production for a new ending. According to the news item, producer Nunnally Johnson "decided on a different tag after seeing the rough cut." Rogers and George Montgomery were to be included in the different ending. It has not been determined what the original ending was.
According to the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in early 1941, Columbia was interested in producing a picture based on Maurine Watkins' play Chicago. The PCA advised Columbia that "a picture based on this material would be in violation of the provisions of the Production Code and that we could not approve it." The PCA's objections were based on the nature of the characters and the story throwing "a very discreditable light upon the court process of our country." Studio legal records reveal that Twentieth Century-Fox purchased the film rights from Columbia, Watkins and the estate of producer Sam H. Harris. When the studio sent its July 19, 1941 version of the script, entitled Chicago Gal, to the PCA, the PCA rejected the script because "the story seems to be a travesty on the administration of justice and on the courts in this country which would undoubtedly tend to weaken respect for law and order generally." The PCA objected to the characters, notably "Roxie Hart" and "Billy Flynn," committing perjury and subornation of perjury; the script "condoning, if not glorifying, female murderesses, and of minimizing the seriousness of the crime of homicide"; and wondered "whether this picture will not be considered an attack on American institutions and way of life, and, if so taken, will not inevitably call down condemnation on the whole motion picture industry." Subsequent versions of the script were approved by the PCA, although the studio was repeatedly cautioned not to make the judge and court process in general objects of ridicule.
Maurine Watkins' play was first filmed in 1927 as Chicago by De Mille Pictures. It was directed by Frank Urson and starred Phyllis Haver and Victor Varconi. On June 3, 1975, the musical Chicago, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, opened on Broadway. It starred Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach. In 2002, Miramax Films released a motion picture based on the musical, also entitled Chicago, which was directed by Rob Marshall and starred Rene Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.