The machine producing the bubbles for the finale was responsible for one of the greatest filming fiascoes in movie history. On the first day of filming the finale, the gas produced by the bubbles caused Vincente Minnelli's cameraman to faint, on top of a forty foot lift. While Minnelli struggled to stop his cameraman from falling, the bubbles continued to pour from the machine to such an extent that the fire brigade was called to turn it off. Even with the machine under control, the gas from the bubbles was a constant hazard. James Melton filmed with a wet handkerchief in his mouth to protect himself!
A comic ditty written by George and Ira Gershwin, "The Babbitt and the Bromide", sung, spoken and danced by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, was originally performed in the 1927 Broadway musical 'Funny Face' by Fred and his sister Adele Astaire.
The original opening sequence to the film featured stop motion animation designed by Lou Bunin, in which Leo the Lion introduces himself and gives a brief history of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. and his Ziegfeld Follies. Leo then introduces Fred Astaire and the live action portion of the film begins.
Fanny Brice's material in this picture had originated on stage and radio. "The Sweepstakes Ticket" sketch, written by David Freedman, highlighted Miss Brice's final Broadway appearance in "Ziegfeld Follies of 1936." The stage show opened at the Winter Garden Theatre and ran from January 30 through May 9, 1936, plus a return engagement between September 14 and December 19, 1936. Fanny's other comedy scene in the picture, "Baby Snooks and the Burglar" (the footage deleted and now lost), had been performed on NBC's radio series "Good News of 1940." The on-air sketch, entitled "Bungling Burglars," had been broadcast on January 4, 1940, and featured Fanny as the precocious Snooks, with Hanley Stafford playing her exasperated Daddy. The pair would repeat their roles in the cut film sequence, which also featured B.S. Pully as the one burglar. The MGM revue marked Fanny's last film.
MGM gave this film a two-week roadshow test run at a famed legitimate showplace, the Colonial Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts, beginning August 13, 1945. A second test run began at the Nixon Theatre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 28, 1945. $2.40 was the top ticket price for these engagements, and the film did great business according to the Boxoffice Magazine issue of September 1, 1945, with the advance sale for the Nixon Theatre "setting a new high." A third test run was also done at the Loew's New Rochelle Theatre per The New York Times of September 2, 1945. Disappointed by the largely unenthusiastic audience reaction to the test screenings, studio executives decided against quickly showing the movie nationwide. Changing the running order of the segments, restoring discarded sequences and/or replacing "There's Beauty Everywhere" with a new finale were considered by the Arthur Freed Unit. Hedda Hopper and The New York Times both reported that Busby Berkeley was going to direct a new finale for the picture, but this wasn't done. Ultimately, the movie would receive its Manhattan opening at the Capitol Theatre on March 22, 1946 and its wide release on April 8.
Judy Garland's number, "A Great Lady Has an Interview" (music and lyrics by Roger Edens and Kay Thompson, choreography by Charles Walters), originally was offered to Greer Garson as spoof of her high-toned Mrs. Miniver/Madame Curie image. After the songwriters demonstrated this change-of-pace routine at the home of the actress, her mother opined, "Well, I don't think so." Garson's then-husband Richard Ney chimed in with "No, it's not for you, dear."
Many people have wondered why the "Limehouse Blues" sequence was done with a Chinese background. The British discovered that giving sailors lime juice prevented the disease scurvy, caused by a lack of vitamin C. To provide enough juice for the navy they built a large building on the northern bank of the River Thames in East London, England, and staffed it with hundreds of imported Chinese laborers to extract the juice from shiploads of limes. A "Chinatown" built up around the limehouse (as it was called) to provide housing for the workers. To this day the British are referred to as "Limeys" because of their use of the lime juice.
Lena Horne hated the ghetto setting for Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane's "Love" so much that she refused to make a commercial single, although she would use the song in her nightclub act several years later. Moreover, Miss Horne would supply her vocal intensity to a trio of renditions on LP: "Give the Lady What She Wants" (RCA Victor, 1958, reissued on a 2004 Japanese CD by BMG), sung to a samba rhythm arranged and conducted by her husband Lennie Hayton; "Lena Horne Sings Your Requests" (Charter/MGM Records, 1963, updated to CD in 1992 by the DRG label), this time the ditty propelled by a swinging tempo arranged and conducted by Marty Paich; then live as part of her legendary, Tony Award-winning performance in "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music," which played on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre between May 12, 1981 and June 30, 1982 (Qwest/Warner Bros. LP, 1981, Qwest/WEA CD, 1995, conducted by Linda Twine, produced by Quincy Jones).
From a December 13, 1944 recording session, Decca Records issued a disc of Fred Astaire singing and tapping to a spirited song which he had written for the picture, a number which wound up on the cutting-room floor - "If Swing Goes, I Go Too." On the flip side of the Decca 78, Mr. Astaire sang the romantic ballad which showcased him and Lucille Bremer in the movie, "This Heart of Mine" (music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Arthur Freed). Fred's two Decca sides, with an orchestra directed by Al Sack, have been brought back on a French CD box set entitled "Songs & Pictures 1928-1944," released by EPM Music.
Decca Records released a Judy Garland 78 containing two songs from the score not performed by her in the movie: "Love" (music and lyrics by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane), a fervent air which Judy sang on radio the twice in 1945, then occasionally in her 1951-52 concerts as an encore, and two times on her CBS-TV series, The Judy Garland Show (1963): a duet with Lena Horne from the October 13, 1963 broadcast, and a solo version telecast on March 22, 1964. The Decca flip side was the radiant ballad, "This Heart of Mine" (music by Harry Warren and Arthur Freed). Judy's two commercial cuts, arranged and conducted by Victor Young, recorded on January 26, 1945 and released on March 22, along with an alternate take of "This Heart of Mine," have been presented on her CD box set from MCA, "The Complete Decca Masters (Plus)."
James Melton's participation deleted from three pop-tune sequences ("A Cowboy's Life," "We Will Meet Again in Honolulu" and the finale, "There's Beauty Everywhere"), the Metropolitan Opera tenor, in his last screen appearance, was confined to the operatic, sharing with soprano Marion Bell "Libiamo ne'lieti calici" from Giuseppe Verdi's "La Traviata."
This film was first telecast in Los Angeles Friday 29 March 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11), in Philadelphia Sunday 4 January 1959 on WFIL (Channel 6), in New York City 22 March 1959 on WCBS (Channel 2), and in San Francisco 16 November 1959 on KGO (Channel 7. At this time, color broadcasting was in its infancy, limited to only a small number of high rated programs, primarily on NBC and NBC affiliated stations, so these film showings were all still in B&W. Viewers were not offered the opportunity to see these films in their original Technicolor until several years later.