This was the movie that bank robber John Dillinger had just seen before he was gunned down in front of Chicago's Biograph Theater on July 22, 1934. He had been set up by Anna Sage, the madam of a brothel, who knew Dillinger's girlfriend, Polly Hamilton. Sage was facing deportation and thought the tip might get her off. She told FBI agent Melvin Purvis that she would be wearing orange which appeared red, leading her to be dubbed "The Woman in Red". Dillinger was shot three times when he tried to escape, and Sage wound up being sent back to Romania.
This is probably the only major film to offer a fairly accurate re-creation of the General Slocum disaster. The popular excursion steamer caught fire in New York's East River on the morning of June 15, 1904, while transporting passengers to a picnic organized by St. Mark's Evangelical German Lutheran Church (Lower East Side, Manhattan). At an estimated 1,021 fatalities, mostly women and children, this was New York City's single worst tragedy, in terms of lives lost, before 9/11. An incompetent, inexperienced crew was held primarily to blame for the tragedy.
After John Dillinger was killed, William Randolph Hearst had the statement "A Cosmopolitan Production" removed from the credits of all prints; instead, Selznick's and Van Dyke's credits are repeated from the following card--thus their names appear twice in a row. The print in the Turner library is of this version.
Lorenz Hart was asked to write more commercially appealing lyrics to "The Bad in Every Man" after this movie was released. The result was "Blue Moon," which was copyrighted under that title in December 1934.