powered by AFI
According to several news items in Hollywood Reporter, Tay Garnett had planned to make this film as early as 1936. It was reported at one point that he intended to make the picture for Columbia with Cary Grant, based on a script by Gene Towne and Graham Baker. At another point it was reported that he went to England to produce the film there but abandoned the idea. Reviews, Garnett's autobiography and other modern sources discuss the use of some process footage in the film which was made by Garnett on an Asian tour prior to his writing the original story. As James B. Shacklelford is credited onscreen with "foreign exterior photography, and Ray Binger is credited in reviews with process photography, it is unclear how much of Garnett's personal film was used in the picture. At the time of the film's release reviews noted that it used more process photography than any previous non-documentary feature. An article in International Photographer noted that Trade Winds was the first production in which rear projection was an "integral part of the production program," and the New York Times reviewer referred to the production as "the process shot heard 'round the world." The article also mentioned that the picture cost close to $750,000 to make.
A January 5, 1939 news item in Hollywood Reporter noted that Garnett was planning to write another original story entitled World Cruise, the original title of Trade Winds, so that he could incorporate background footage of Europe and North Africa not incorporated in the 1938 picture. Such a film was never made. The Motion Picture Herald "in the Cutting Room" review includes Alan Baxter and Armand Cortez in the cast, but they were not seen in the viewed print and their roles May have been cut prior to the film's release. The Motion Picture Herald "Showmen's Review" lists Robert Emmett O'Connor in the role "Chief of detectives." Some other sources list Thomas Mitchell's character as "Chief of detectives," although onscreen the character's name is "Police commissioner." O'Connor is not listed in any other source, and his inclusion in Motion Picture Herald is probably an error. Joan Bennett, who was a blonde prior to Trade Winds, remained a brunette for the rest of her life. Modern sources frequently attribute her motion picture successes of the 1940s to her new look and to the career guidance given to her by producer Walter Wanger, her husband from 1940 to the early 1960s.