Edward Dmytryk, the film's editor, said that Charles Laughton became so emotional during the scene in the saloon where he recites the Gettysburg Address that it took director Leo McCarey 1-1/2 days to complete shooting it. According to Dmytryk, the preview audiences found Laughton's close-ups in the scene embarrassing and tittered through the speech. When substitute shots of Laughton from behind were inserted, the audience found the reaction shots of the other people reacting to him very moving, and the second preview was extremely successful.
Charles Laughton referred to his reading of the "Gettysburg Address" in the film as "one of the most moving things that ever happened to me" Laughton recited the address to the cast and crew of Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) on the last day of shooting on Catalina Island and again on the set of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).
Charles Laughton personally chose Leo McCarey to direct the film. He wanted his first comedic role to be in the hands of a master of comedy and, seeing as McCarey had directed the Marx Brothers success, Duck Soup (1933), he was eminently qualified.
According to the autobiography of Elsa Lanchester, Charles Laughton's wife, Paramount bought the story and appointed Leo McCarey as director at Laughton's request. Before the film began shooting, Lanchester states, Laughton worked with McCarey and the film's writers on the script, and hired an old friend, 'Arthur MacRae', who later became a playwright in England, to add the "necessary Englishness" of Ruggles.