During "I Won't Dance", Ginger Rogers sings to Fred Astaire: "But when you dance you're charming and you're gentle/ Especially when you do the Continental," referring to the dance in their previous film, The Gay Divorcee (1934). The two then strike a pose from that number while the band plays a riff.
The original lyrics to "Let's Begin" include the lines "We have necked / Till we're wrecked", but the censors demanded that this be changed. The censors also forced RKO to delete the line "Love's no sin."
RKO producer Pandro S. Berman insisted that the studio pay whatever it took to buy the rights to Roberta, a huge success on Broadway. The gamble paid off, netting the studio $770,000 and helped RKO post its first annual profit since 1930.
This is one of only two Astaire/Rogers films - along with The Gay Divorcee (1934) - which is based on a Broadway musical. The Broadway stage version of The Gay Divorcee - titled Gay Divorce - starred Fred Astaire in the same role he played on film, while the stage version of Roberta starred neither Astaire nor Ginger Rogers.
The songs "I Won't Dance" and "Lovely to Look At" were not in the original stage production of Roberta. "I Won't Dance", from the flop Jerome Kern musical Three Sisters, was inserted into the 1935 film version of Roberta to give Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers an extra dance number, and "Lovely to Look At" was specially written for the film to give Irene Dunne a new song to sing. Both songs became so popular, however, that most later revivals of Roberta, including the remake Lovely to Look At (1952), have included them in the score.
RKO sold the rights to Roberta to MGM, who remade the film as Lovely to Look At (1952). MGM kept their film of Roberta out of distribution for many years, as it did not want any competition between the two films.
The original Broadway production, based on the book Gowns by Roberta, was produced by Max Gordon, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Otto A. Harbach. The play opened on November 18, 1933 at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York, and ran for 295 performances.
Lucille Ball, who appears uncredited in this film as a fashion model, would later buy RKO, the studio that made this film. At the height of their success during I Love Lucy (1951), she and Desi Arnaz purchased it and renamed it Desilu Studios.
Lucille Ball, who had briefly worked as a Goldwyn Girl at Samuel Goldwyn Studios, decided to try out for this film when she heard RKO was looking for girls who had worked as models at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City. She had not actually been employed by Bergdorf, but had participated in a fashion show a promoter had put on there, so she applied and got the job.