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Florence Barrett Willoughby's novel was serialized in Hearst's International-Cosmopolitan (Sep 1935-January 1936). Information in the Paramount story files at the AMPAS library reveals that Willoughby's novel was previously considered as material for a film, but was rejected due to its similarity to RKO's The Silver Horde. Early scripts were authored by Robert M. Yost and Stuart Anthony. Also included in the files are a story authored by Kurt Siodmak and a screen story written by Thames Williamson. Their contribution to the final film has not been determined. Early scripts cast Georges Rigaud in the lead, however, according to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, he was replaced by Henry Fonda after shooting began because his French accent was too strong for the role. In addition, in other scripts, Fred MacMurray was cast as "Jim," and Frances Farmer as "Dian." Hollywood Reporter news items reported the following: Randolph Scott was cast in a lead role, but left due to a commitment to another film. Maine sailor Captain Simray Graves was brought to Hollywood to appear in the film, Porter Hall was testing for a role in the film, and Beulah Bondi and Polly Moran were cast, however, they did not appear in the released film. As early as 1936, director Henry Hathaway was preparing the film, which was originally to be shot in color. According to a later news item in Hollywood Reporter, Paramount sent a camera crew headed by Richard Talmadge to Ketchikan, Alaska to film the opening scenes of a salmon run. In a contemporary educational supplement to the film, Hathaway stated that the expedition to Alaska lasted fourteen weeks and resulted in 80,000 ft. of film shot.
Paramount constructed a steel and concrete tank on the studio lot which held 375,000 gallons of water, in which fishing boats and power cruisers were launched for close range shots. In addition, some scenes were filmed on location at Lake Arrowhead, Lake Tahoe, Balboa Island and the coast of Southern California where a fishing village was built. A news item in Motion Picture Herald mentioned that two women were injured in the crush of the crowd awaiting the preview in Westwood, CA. In 1938, the following were given Academy Awards for outstanding achievement in creating special photographic and sound effects: Gordon Jennings for special effects, assisted by January Domela, Dev Jennings, Irmin Roberts and Art Smith; transparencies by Farciot Edouart, assisted by Loyal Griggs; sound effects by Loren Ryder, assisted by Harry Mills, Louis H. Mesenkop and Walter Oberst.
Variety commented, "Merit of the film is in the persuasive and authentic photographic record of Alaskan life and customs. Highly interesting views of Indian ritual are shown as a new spawning season begins." In 1954, Paramount released Alaska Seas, a remake of Spawn of the North, directed by Jerry Hopper and starring Robert Ryan, January Sterling and Brian Keith.