Alice Brady won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in this film. Brady wasn't present at the award ceremony, but a man walked up and accepted the award on her behalf. After the show, he and the Oscar were never seen again.
A lantern manufacturer wrote to the studio insisting that the fire must have been started by a lamp, not a lantern. They claimed a lantern would extinguish itself if tipped over, but that claim was found to be false by an actual experiment performed by two assistants at Twentieth Century-Fox. Soon after the fire started, the barn where the fire was supposed to have originated was thoroughly investigated, and no evidence of a lamp or lantern was found.
This was the first of 5 pictures in which Don Ameche and Alice Faye would star together. The others were "You Can't Have Everything" (1937), "Alexander's Ragtime Band" (1938), "Lillian Russell" (1940) and "That Night in Rio" (1941).
An early story outline was written by Richard Collins and based on the book "Barriers Burned Away" by Edward Payson Roe, which was the story of the Chicago fire. However, legal records state that none of Roe's novel was used in the final screenplay.
According to the DVD which includes the roadshow version (information given in the accompanying leaflet) Western Costumes didn't have enough costumes on hand to dress all the extras in the fire scenes and had to borrow proper period costumes from other costumiers across the country.
This film is quite reminiscent of the prior year's San Francisco (1936). Indeed, perhaps a response to the MGM's successful disaster film, this is made in the same vein, where the much awaited earthquake doesn't happen until the last few minutes, equally, the Chicago fire here doesn't until the very last few minutes of the film. Both films also deal with romance betrayal and a cabaret singing female lead.
Publicity ads stated that Niven Busch's story was entitled "We, the O'Leary's," but legal records indicate there was never such a story title. The fabrication was developed by someone at Twentieth Century-Fox well after the story and screenplay was completely written, thinking it would give the story a more catchy title.
This was Twentieth Century Fox's biggest, and most expensive, production of the year. In its initial release, it was booked as a "roadshow" attraction in which it was booked as an exclusive engagement in the best theaters with higher ticket prices. Approximately 15 minutes was cut from the film for a later general release version.