In interviews, Alfred Hitchcock said that an RKO executive ordered that all scenes in which Cary Grant appeared menacing be excised from the film. When the cutting was completed, the film ran only fifty-five minutes. The scenes were later restored, Hitchcock said, because he shot each piece of film so that there was only one way to edit them together properly.
Hitchcock originally wanted Johnnie to be guilty, but the studio insisted that the public wouldn't accept Cary Grant as a murderer. Hitchcock's original ending had Johnny convicting himself by mailing a letter that Lina had written.
Despite the indecision over its ending, the film was a tremendous success, and more importantly Alfred Hitchcock had enjoyed a measure of creative freedom which he knew that he would not get at Selznick International.
Film historian Ben Mankiewicz has noted that Cary Grant was so displeased with his experience with director Alfred Hitchcock during the making of this film that he publicly vowed never again to work with the director. The rift between actor and director was mended, however, and Grant and Hitchcock collaborated on three more films, Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959), each of which was generally well-received by audiences and critics.
The dog in the movie is a Sealyham Terrier named "Johnnie" and Alfred Hitchcock's own dog. The main male character is also named "Johnnie" and this name was Hitch's original idea for the movie title. Alfred Hitchcock kept Sealyhams for many years. In his movie The Birds (1963), Hitch walks out of the pet store with Sealyhams on a lead.
In one draft of the script, when Johnnie realizes what was in Lina's mind, he runs away until he can "find some way to pay" his debts (both financial and moral), and joins the air force under a false name. She find out where he's stationed and proudly watches as his plane, with his nickname for her painted on it, takes off.
Alfred Hitchcock quipped that this was his second completely British film (following Rebecca (1940)). He explained that both films featured predominantly British actors in key roles, were set in Britain, and their source materials were written by a British author.
According to film historian Felicia Feaster, Cary Grant's frustration with Alfred Hitchcock stemmed from the director's attentive behavior toward leading lady, Joan Fontaine. Grant felt that Hitchcock gave Fontaine preferential treatment to the detriment of his character. This behavior led to a lifelong bitter relationship between Grant and Fontaine, exacerbated by Fontaine's Academy Award success and Grant's perceived snub for this film.
There are many differences between the movie and the novel. Johnnie Aysgarth's infidelity is not featured in the film: Lina's best friend with whom Johnnie has an affair does not appear at all and the maid Ethel does not have an illegitimate son by Johnnie.
David O. Selznick was dissatisfied with Miklós Rózsa's scoring for the ski sequence in "Spellbound" and replaced it with a cue written by Franz Waxman for the final scene (Fast car driving scene) in this film.
In the 1940s, it was common for films to be adapted into radio plays. This film was adapted six times from 1942 to 1949, starring the original actors and others: once on "Academy Award Theater", twice on "Lux Radio Theater" and three times on "Screen Guild Theater".
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Alfred Hitchcock originally wanted Johnnie to be guilty, but the studio insisted that the public wouldn't accept Cary Grant as a murderer. Hitchcock's original ending had Johnnie killing Lina by poisoning her milk, but then convicting himself by mailing a letter that Lina had written. Joan Fontaine said, Cary Grant "did kill me in the original cut, but at a preview, the audience simply refused to accept him as the murderer."
Alfred Hitchcock wanted an ending similar to the climax of the novel, but the studio, more concerned with Cary Grant's "heroic" image, insisted that it be changed. Writer Donald Spoto, in his biography of Hitchcock, "The Dark Side Of Genius", disputes Hitchcock's claim to have been overruled on the film's ending. Spoto claims that the first RKO treatment and memos between Hitchcock and the studio show that Hitchcock emphatically desired to make a film about a woman's fantasy life.
In an interview with Dick Cavett, Alfred Hitchcock explained how he managed to call attention to the glass of milk containing the fatal dose of poison. He wanted it stand out so he had a glass made that contained a small battery operated light so the glass would show up in the long down the hallway shot.
In one draft of the script, when Johnnie realizes what was in Lina's mind, he runs away until he can "find some way to pay" his debts (both financial and moral), and joins the air force under a false name. She finds out where he's stationed and proudly watches as his plane, with his nickname for her painted on it, takes off.
Unlike the novel "Before the fact", the film focuses much more on the psychology of Lina. For example, the Anagram scene in the film isn't in the novel. Another example is where the atmosphere becomes very dark when Lina reaches the house after visiting the land Johnnie and Beaky decided for their corporation. When Lina finds out that Beaky is alive, the atmosphere becomes a bright and joyful atmosphere while Vienna Blood waltz is playing in the background. Unlike the book, the film also focuses on the inner conflict of Lina. For Example, the scene where Lina talks to her father's portrait - "He didn't go to Paris. He didn't go to Paris I tell you." Unlike the novel, the film's focus on the psychological side of Lina makes it more ambiguous about Johnnie being a murderer.
In Iles' novel, Johnnie serves his sick wife a drink which she knows to be poisoned, and she voluntarily gulps it down. In the film, the drink is not poisoned and can be seen untouched the following morning.
Alfred Hitchcock later stated that he thought the ending of the film in which Johnnie is sent to jail instead of committing suicide "a complete mistake because of making that story with Cary Grant. Unless you have a cynical ending, it makes the story too simple."