Shortly before filming began, Lionel Barrymore lost the use of his legs to crippling arthritis and a hip injury. To accommodate him, the script was altered so that his character had a sprained ankle, and Barrymore did the film on crutches.
Ann Miller was only 15 years old when this movie was filmed. Her character is called on to perform numerous (amateur) ballet positions, including the toe pointe, which was very painful for her. She hid this from the cast and crew but would cry (out of sight) off stage. James Stewart noticed her crying, though he didn't know why, and would have boxes of candy to make her feel better.
Frank Capra was President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1938 and was at the forefront of a union dispute amongst producers and directors that was threatening to disrupt that year's Oscar ceremony. Fortunately it was resolved in time for the President to walk off with 2 more Oscars to add to his collection.
The only difficulty Frank Capra had was with Edward Arnold, who had a bad habit of repeatedly blowing his lines, which frustrated Capra and everyone else to no end. "But," said Capra in his autobiography, "if you could put up with that-and I gladly did-Arnold was a powerhouse on the screen."
Frank Capra first became aware of the play when he caught a performance of it when he was in New York in 1937 for the premiere of Lost Horizon (1937). He tried to persuade Columbia boss Harry Cohn to buy the rights but Cohn refused, partly because he baulked at the prospect of shelling out what he considered to be the exorbitant sum of $200,000 for the rights, but mainly because he was still smarting from the lost battles he'd had with Capra over the final edit of Lost Horizon (1937). Capra too was out of sorts with Cohn as he objected strongly to the Columbia boss trying to market the Jean Arthur film If You Could Only Cook (1935) in Britain as one of his own. A court case ensued, only being resolved in November 1937, with the proviso that Columbia buy the rights to the play and assign the project to Capra.
The art director Stephen Goosson was kept very busy adding props to the living room set. Naturally, there are a few jokes found in the collection. Some of the more interesting pieces in the Vanderhof living room are; Alabama pennants (2), Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, and Ann Miller photos (3 of each actor), Anton Pavlovich Chekhov photo on mantel, bust of Dan Peggotty from David Copperfield on the mantel (as played by Lionel Barrymore), Dub Taylor photo, figurine of Micawber from David Copperfield, various figurines from the movie "Lost Horizon", bust of Frank Morgan, a Midland "jump-spark" cigar table lighter (similar to the model used in It's a Wonderful Life), and a wooden figurine sitting in front of the typewriter that is probably of significant relevance.
In the French-dubbed version made in 1938, the names of some of the characters were changed: "Anthony P. Kirby" (played by Edward Arnold) became "Alexandre P. Kirby"; "Essie Carmichael" (played by Ann Miller) was rechristened "Sylvie Carmichael". Similarly "Penny Sycamore" (played by Spring Byington) became "Jenny Sycomore"; "Ed Carmichael" (portrayed by Dub Taylor) became "Ned Carmichael" and finally Lillian Yarbo's character named "Rheba" in the original version was renamed "Rebeccah".