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The working title of this film was Galveston. Although the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, lists Steve Fisher as a collaborator on early drafts of Ladislas Fodor's screenplay, the extent of Fisher's contribution to the completed film has not been determined. According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the the AMPAS Library, the PCA rejected three early versions of the screenplay because of "sex suggestiveness." The PCA also criticized the portrayal of the two leading male characters as being "immoral." The PCA finally approved the July 17, 1943 version of the script.
According to Hollywood Reporter news items and studio press releases, Twentieth Century-Fox purchased Fodor's original screen story as a vehicle for Jean Gabin, with Gene Tierney scheduled to co-star. Robinson was set in the lead role after Gabin turned it down, and actress Amelita Ward was tested for the part of "Katherine Hall" when the pregnant Tierney temporarily retired from the screen. In August 1942, Hollywood Reporter announced that John M. Stahl would direct the picture, but in September 1942, Henry Hathaway was assigned to direct. The directing job eventually went to Lothar Mendes.
According to a August 10, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item, the studio wanted to make "a bid for the Latin-American patronage by stocking the film with talent well known below the Rio Grande." Among the performers signed to appear in the caf sequences, according to Hollywood Reporter, were Noel DeSelva, Gilbert Ysais, Jose Barrios, Gracia Granada and Yvonne Lopes. The appearance of these performers in the completed film has not been confirmed, however. The titles and composers of the Spanish songs heard briefly in the film also have not been determined. According to studio press releases, violinist DeSelva was to perform several instrumental numbers, while another instrumental number, "Danza de Gracia," composed and performed by Ysais, was to serve as background for dancer Grace Poggi. Other actors listed in the cast by press releases include Harvey Karels, Rudolf Myzet, Paul Cristo and Larry Arnold. The appearance of these actors in the finished film has not been confirmed, however.
A September 17, 1942 press release announced that producer Robert Bassler was trying to finalize arrangements for the film to be shot on location in Tampico, Mexico, as part of "Hollywood's search for locations to replace the expensive sets they are no longer allowed to build [due to war restrictions]." A October 12, 1942 Hollywood Reporter news item also noted that Hathaway, the director assigned to the picture at the time, had hoped to scout locations in Mexico, although his trip was "postponed." On August 5, 1943, Hollywood Reporter reported that the film company would go on a ten-day location trip aboard an oil tanker and shoot scenes as the ship sailed northward from San Diego or San Pedro, CA. Permission for the trip was granted by the Navy and the Maritime Commission, although it has not been confirmed that filming actually did take place on a tanker.