This was the only time, after becoming a star in the 1930s, that James Cagney ever accepted second billing for a major role. He thought that Doris Day's character was more central to the film's plot, and so ceded top billing to her.
According to Doris Day, most of the scenes of violent confrontation between her and James Cagney (Marty Snyder) did not appear in the final film because the censors wouldn't approve them. After Etting is a triumph in the Ziegfeld Follies, Snyder comes to her hotel room to see her, and she tells him to get out of her life. As originally filmed, Cagney slammed her against a wall, savagely tore off her dress, and after a tempestuous struggle, he threw her onto a bed and raped her.
Doris Day wrote in her autobiography that she hesitated before accepting the lead in this film. Ruth Etting was a kept woman who clawed her way up from seamy Chicago nightclubs to the Ziegfeld Follies. It would require her to drink, wear scant, sexy costumes and to string along a man she didn't love in order to further her career. There was also a certain vulgarity about Ruth Etting that she didn't want to play. Producer Joe Pasternak convinced Day to accept the role because she would give the part some dignity that would play away from the vulgarity.
After this film was released, Doris Day was deluged with mail from fans attacking her, a Christian Scientist, for playing a lewd woman who smoked, drank, and wore scant costumes in the nightclub scenes. Day cared about everyone who was disturbed by her characterization, and she answered every piece of mail, explaining the necessity for realism, and that it was essential to separate actress Doris Day from character Ruth Etting. She felt that as a performer, she had the same responsibility to the public that a politician has to the electorate.
There was some discussion of starring Jane Powell in this movie, but the studio had a hard time seeing Powell as a nightclub performer and in a serious role. Before Ruth Etting died, she told an interviewer she wished Powell was given the role.
Doris Day had originally aspired to be a professional dancer, but that proved impossible after she was a passenger in a car that was hit by a train. Her injuries required a very long convalescence, at which point she took up singing.
A phenomenal success for Doris Day, the Columbia Records soundtrack album maintained the number-one spot among "Billboard"'s popular albums for an impressive 17 weeks. The CD released by Sony in 1993 presented the score in true stereo sound. The disc also contained previously unreleased versions (in mono) of the title song (music by Walter Donaldson, lyrics by Gus Kahn) and "Ten Cents a Dance" (music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart).
"The Oscar-nominated ballad, "I'll Never Stop Loving You" (music by Nicholas Brodszky, lyrics by Sammy Cahn), was sung delicately by Doris Day to just a piano accompaniment in the film. For release on a single, Columbia Records provided Doris with the backing of Percy Faith and His Orchestra. The disc peaked at number 15 among "Billboard"'s top-selling singles.