Director of Photography Haskell Wexler was dissatisfied with some of the outdoor Whispering Glades scenes because they were being filmed at high noon and the trees were not casting significant shadows, which he felt was necessary to give the shot proper depth. To compensate, he had the crew paint tree "shadows" on the ground. This is plainly visible in some scenes, as the trees' "shadows" are entirely dissimilar from those of the actors standing next to them.
Evelyn Waugh disowned this film of his famous novella and tried unsuccessfully to get his name taken off the credits. Three days after the film's London opening, he died unexpectedly at his home in Somerset. It is thought that he had not seen it.
At the advance screening for studio execs, many were so offended that they walked out before the film ended. This pleased Tony Richardson to no end, as this was precisely the effect he was hoping to have on "old Hollywood" types.
After WWII, Evelyn Waugh came to Hollywood to work on a movie adaptation of his novel "Brideshead Revisited". While in Hollywood he went to a funeral at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Waugh was offended by the pretense of both the American film industry and the American funeral industry, and wove the two together into the novel on which this film was based.
When Dennis first arrives in the US, the immigration officer points out his "Beatles" haircut, to which Dennis responds that it's a normal British haircut. In fact, Robert Morse recalled being uncomfortable with having to grow his hair out for the part, as The Beatles were the only male celebrities well-known in the US whose hair was so long in the back.
Sir Francis Hinsley, played by John Gielgud, tells his nephew, "Ah, that's Sir Ambrose Abercrombie, one of our most ardent thespians . . . he usually plays prime ministers or butlers". Gielgud himself played prime ministers on the screen three times: Disraeli twice, in The Prime Minister (1941) and later in Edward the King (1975), as well as Salisbury in Murder by Decree (1979), and was perhaps best known to the general public for his role as Hobson the butler in Arthur (1981) and its sequel Arthur 2: On the Rocks (1988).
In his posthumous memoirs, Tony Richardson claimed to be a great admirer of Evelyn Waugh's, and that he had been upset by Waugh's antipathy towards this film, which he said was caused by a misunderstanding over which he had had no control. However, before filming began, Richardson was widely quoted as having called Waugh's novel "thin and dated", and some antipathy to it is surely indicated by his hiring Christopher Isherwood to work on the screenplay. Isherwood and Waugh had been literary rivals during the 1930s, and Isherwood was unlikely to have forgotten Waugh's savage criticisms of him, particularly after he and W.H. Auden left for America at the start of World War II. (Auden and Isherwood were transparently the models for the derided characters of "Parsnip" and "Pimpernel" in Waugh's wartime novel, "Put Out More Flags").
Screenwriter Terry Southern gave the name "Maxwell Kenton" to the Milton Berle character in the film, who does not appear in the original Evelyn Waugh novel. "Maxwell Kenton" was a pseudonym Southern had used in real life when his controversial and outrageous satirical novel "Candy" (co-written with Mason Hoffenberg) was first published in Paris in the 1950s - the book, which was long-banned elsewhere, was at that time published by the Olympia Press, a publishing house specializing in pornography.
Although Tony Richardson preferred to make his films entirely on location, this one used MGM's Culver City studio extensively - but as a location. No sound-stage was employed as a sound-stage, but several parts of the studio, notably the entrance and the commissary, were used to replicate parts of the fictitious "Megalopolitan Studios". The film went steeply over schedule and a million dollars over budget. It was a major box-office failure.
The car Aimiee drives is a 1956 Nash Metropolitan Series III 2-door convertible. It was made in the UK for export to the USA. MSRP was $1,551 ($13,580 in 2016). For some reason, it is missing its distinctive hood ornament and its wheel fender skirts, most noticeably on the right rear.