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The working titles of this film were Police Gazette Man and Police Gazette Girl. The Motion Picture Herald Prod Digest review lists The Girl on the Police Gazette as another working title, and a July 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item erroneously listed the film as Police Gazette Woman. The picture's written title cards, "Twentieth Century-Fox presents Betty Grable, Robert Young, Adolphe Menjou in Sweet Rosie O'Grady," are also sung by an offscreen chorus.
Information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department and Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, indicate that when the studio purchased an unpublished story and two books by Edward Van Every in early 1941, it intended to produce a fictionalized account of the formation of the Police Gazette newspaper and of its most successful publisher, Richard Fox. The materials purchased from Van Every were: the unpublished story "The Police Gazette Man," Sins of New York as Exposed by the Polize Gazette (New York, 1930) and Sins of America as Exposed by the Police Gazette (New York, 1931). According to internal documents, however, the studio had difficulty obtaining clearances from Fox's children, and was reluctant to publicize its work on the project until the clearances had been obtained. In order to postpone any publicity about the Police Gazette project, Twentieth Century-Fox announced that Van Every was working on the screenplay for Coney Island, another Betty Grable film that was in pre-production. It is unlikely, however, that Van Every directly contributed to Coney Island, or that his literary materials were used for that film. The legal files also indicate that only Van Every's unpublished story, and not his published books, were used as a basis for Sweet Rosie O'Grady.
In June 1942, after it became clear that the studio would not be able to obtain the necessary clearances from Fox's heirs, producer William Perlberg suggested that the story be changed, with the framing device of the newspaper being kept, but the main plot being adapted from the 1937 Twentieth Century-Fox picture Love Is News, which was based on a story by William R. Lipman and Frederick Stephani (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.2604). [Love Is News, which was directed by Tay Garnett and starred Tyrone Power and Loretta Young, was remade in 1948 as That Wonderful Urge.]
According to the script files, Morrie Ryskind, Valentine Davies and Dwight Taylor worked on different drafts of the screenplay for Sweet Rosie O'Grady. The extent of their contributions to the completed picture has not been determined, however. Memos in the studio files indicate that there were disputes concerning which writers would receive onscreen credit, and that one of the writers wanted to use the pseudonym "Allan House." The matter was sent to the Screen Writers' Guild for arbitration, and the Guild decided that Ken Englund should be awarded sole credit for the screenplay.
According to a June 23, 1942 Los Angeles Examiner news item, Victor Mature was sought to play the role of "Richard Fox" before the story was changed, and a November 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the studio was in negotiations with George Raft to star in the picture. Although a March 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item includes Mildred Harris, Maurice Costello, Henry Otto and Philo McCullough in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Another March 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that "The Bagpipers of Buckingham" was one of the songs composed by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the picture, although it was not in the finished film. Production on the picture, for which Robert Young was borrowed from M-G-M, was temporarily halted when Betty Grable suffered a knee injury and had to undergo surgery.
The film became the object of two lawsuits, the first of which was filed by Van Every, who claimed that the studio owed him $5,700 from the purchase of his literary materials. Twentieth Century-Fox asserted that the monies were contingent upon Van Every's ability to obtain the clearances from Richard Fox's children, however, and that he was not entitled to further payment because the clearances were not provided. The owners of the Police Gazette joined Van Every's claim, stating that their waiver for the use of the newspaper's title was reliant on the film being based on Van Every's books or unpublished story. Because the picture was largely based on the earlier film Love Is News, the Police Gazette's owners believed that their name had been improperly used. The claim was settled out of court in May 1946 for $11,500.
In April 1944, songwriter Maude Nugent, the composer of "Sweet Rosie O'Grady," filed a lawsuit against Twentieth Century-Fox, claiming that the studio had unlawfully used her song. The studio countered that it had properly acquired the rights, and the case was dismissed in July 1946. Nugent's appeal of the case was dismissed in February 1948.
On March 13, 1947, The Hallmark Playhouse presented a radio broadcast of Sweet Rosie O'Grady.