During filming, high temperatures made life miserable for both cast and crew. The intense heat caused the film stock to warp, and it had to be packed in ice to remain intact. Lillian Gish claimed that she touched an outside door handle, and was so severely burned that a small part of her palm's flesh was scalded off.
While Lillian Gish claimed that a tragic ending was filmed and a happy ending was substituted at the insistence of MGM executives, the original shooting scripts reveal that the happy ending was intended from the beginning.
Lillian Gish stated that the film's happy ending was insisted upon by the studio after test audiences balked at the original ending, where the insane Letty wanders into the desert, certain to die. However, this is not borne out by the original shooting scripts, which contain only the happy ending.
The airplane propellers blowing hot air, sand and smoke were so dangerous that crew members were forced to wear long-sleeved clothing, eye goggles, bandannas around their necks and greasepaint on their faces whenever the machines were being run.
While it is popularly believed that the film was made in over 120-degree temperatures, this is not true. The average temperature for the location and season where the movie was filmed is between 90-105 and the record highs are around 115 degrees Fahrenheit.