This story was conceived when Garson Kanin, trying to cheer up his wife Ruth Gordon, was driving by Columbus Circle. He told her he was going to put her name on "that billboard there" in the biggest letters. He didn't. He wrote a screenplay instead. Gordon suggested that the lead should be Judy Holliday. Kanin had originally considered a male lead, Danny Kaye. When he finished the screenplay, the lead had been written for Holliday.
In a 1972 interview, George Cukor told Gavin Lambert about the little natural moments that come out in performances -- as an example he described the shooting of the seduction scene in Adam's apartment. "It so happened we had a property man on the picture who'd worked with The Three Stooges. He said, 'I have an idea, may I help on this?' I said, 'Please do,' and he suggested, 'Let her take the earring off herself, so he can nuzzle her ear.' So we did, and it made a terribly funny moment. Later in the scene she had to pour champagne down Peter Lawford's neck. We only have four shirts for Peter Lawford, so we could only shoot four takes, and it was tricky for the camera. On the last take I said, 'Judy if you laugh, I'll just kill you, I'll kill you dead.' Well, she didn't laugh, but she giggled, and it was absolutely great. I asked if she'd done it deliberately, in spite of what I'd said, and she didn't really know. Sometimes you get these very human things on the set."
Jack Lemmon, who had previously only acted briefly in television, had a tendency to overact for the camera but George Cukor soon convinced him that "less is more." The actor later remarked, "I've learned my craft from that advice. It's the hardest thing in the world to be simple, and the easiest thing in the world to act your brains out and make an ass of yourself."
Garson Kanin originally wanted to direct his own script but could not get a commitment from studio chief Harry Cohn in writing guaranteeing him final cut. He ultimately sold the story outright to Cohn and went to Europe for three years.
George Cukor conveyed his approach to acting to Jack Lemmon during the restaurant scene, where Pete and Gladys argue. Cukor recalled, "They rehearsed it and did it very well, but I said, 'I don't believe it, I don't believe one damn thing. Jack, what do you do when you get angry?' He said, 'I get chills and cramps, I get sick to my stomach, but can't use that.' 'Oh,' I said, 'do that!' So in the height of fury he suddenly clutches his stomach, and it makes all the difference."
George Cukor saw the importance of the location filming, especially in regards to the real-life background characters: "We used Central Park as a character, as we did in The Marrying Kind (1952), and this time it was during a heat wave, which brings all the mad people out. You can see lots of mad people in the park and sitting on steps in front of houses."
The film features extensive location shooting in New York City, providing the level of realism that the story demands (especially given Pete's profession as a documentary filmmaker). Many dialogue scenes take place outdoors, and studio shooting against rear projection screens is apparent only in close-ups.
Director George Cukor dictated that the film's "It Should Happen to You" television broadcast studio sequence with Jack Lemmon (at the age of 28, b: 02/08/1925, in the film's role as Pete Sheppard) sitting in the TV studio audience, and Judy Holliday (at the age of 32, b:06/21/1921, in the role as Gladys Glover) being interviewed by a TV game show host, was to be filmed at an actual Hollywood TV studio/stage/theater, a valid location sight. The film's sequence is a factual example of what and how a 1950's live television broadcast was performed and conducted. Because the ABC TV satellite studio Hollywood Playhouse theater located at 1735 North Vine Street, Hollywood, was near and close to the Columbia Pictures' studio, located at the address: 1438 North Gower and Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California. The TV studio sequence was filmed at the Hollywood and Vine Street TV studio location sight for authenticity. The studio-stage's overhead lighting instruments, equipment, television cameras, "RCA" B&W electronic dolly-pedestal cameras and camera men, sound boom and boom operator and stage crew" were all actual ABC facility's employees and electronic equipment.
The ABC network television "Hollywood Palace" studio/theater was built in the Spanish Baroque architectural style in 1929 as a legitimate drama/comedy/vaudeville theater and originally was named "The El Capitan Theatre." The theater had a main box office lobby, a stage orchestra pit, an audience seating main floor, an audience seating balcony; the main stage area with a pin rail fly-system above the stage well-area. The fly-man's floor existed on stage right's 2nd floor side well-wall. Beneath the main principle stage was an orchestra room and performer's dressing rooms; above stage left were additional performer dressing rooms. During the late 1930's and early 1940's, the theater was used by various radio networks as a broadcast venue for an audience. Radio programs broadcast from the stage included the Jack Benny radio comedy show, Edgar Bergen's Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd radio comedy show. The theater's original name "The El Capitan Theatre" was re-christened "The Vine Street Theater" when the venue became a radio-audience theater. After the advent of television's B&W broadcasting, then the theater was converted to a television studio by covering over the orchestra pit for a television multiple-camera staging path area. Electrical rigging pipes for studio stage and audience lighting was added above and in front of the proscenium. House left, the audience seating area had been removed for a live orchestra area. The theater's 1940's-50's transition-name changed from "The Vine Street Theater." In 1963, the marquee changed to "The Jerry Lewis Theater" - then, to "The Hollywood Playhouse." In 1963, the Prospect and Talmadge ABC-Hollywood flagship network studio, having purchased the real-estate theater-studio satellite property, invested millions for property renovations and electronic upgrades for their September premiere host-variety program "The Jerry Lewis' Saturday Night Variety Show." The satellite TV/Studio-theater was renamed "The Jerry Lewis Theater" with the network completely renovating, upgrading electronics in the facility for a B&W television broadcasting studio, retaining the audience area. The orchestra pit was filled with concrete; a television camera concrete center aisle was added, connecting to the stage apron with a "T" back wall camera tracking path. "The Jerry Lewis' Saturday Night" hosted variety show began airing in September, 1963. Very poor viewer ratings sunk the "Jerry Lewis' Saturday Night" the first week of December. ABC replaced the Lewis program with the multiple Hollywood star host(s) (Bing Crosby) vaudeville, variety show format as an answer to CBS' Ed Sullivan Sunday night variety show. In 1966, the ABC studio's conversion from B&W to a network color "The Hollywood Palace" established ABC West Coast as the network's first color broadcasting studio. "The Lawrence Welk Show" was moved to the theater enabling ABC to have two live color broadcast (video taped) programs originating from the West Coast. After the main lot was completed for electronic color transmission renovation, Lawrence Welk's show was moved back to the main studio lot, returning to his renovated color Stage E. "The Hollywood Palace" variety show was canceled in the 1970-71 mid season, after seven years (January, 1964 to January, 1971). The studio facility was used into the 70's by the ABC network as a satellite TV stage/studio, where the "Lawrence Welk Show" was displaced from the main Talmadge and Prospect studio lot after becoming a syndicated television show. After Lawrence Welk's syndicated TV variety show moved to CBS-Fairfax, the real-estate was sold. Late 1970s/80's, the venue was converted into a night club and dance hot spot featuring touring band groups, with the lower audience chair-seating sloped area removed, floor leveled with the stage's television camera apron. The night club's house band was positioned 'on stage center' performing for the night club's dancing patrons. The lobby box office was retained. A new access balcony staircase was built inside, against the main theater's rear audience area, with the balcony apron extended for cocktail viewing table seating. The new Hollywood hot night-spot venue was renamed "The Avalon Hollywood".
"It Should Happen to You" was Jack Lemmon's first feature B&W film, with the premiere in New York City on January 15, 1954. The film was released nationally on March 4, 1954. Columbia Pictures' Harry Cohn paired Jack Lemmon and Judy Holliday in a second feature B&W film, "Pffft" which opened November 10th, 1954. During the the two consecutive feature's filming year in 1953, on September 12, 1953, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in Newport, Rhode Island.