This movie was released in the same year as the similarly titled Funny Lady (1975). Lucky Lady (1975) was premiered in the USA on 25 December 1975 whilst Funny Lady (1975) came out there earlier, on 15 March 1975.
In his autobiography Burt Reynolds says that director Stanley Donen made a complete mess of this film during the editing process. He maintains that Liza Minnelli's work should have won her another Oscar, until it was all but ruined by Donen.
Despite the fact that his last hit film was in 1967, Stanley Donen kept getting hired as director of a long string on flops in the 1970s and 80s. Liza Minnelli, Burt Reynolds, and Gene Hackman were all critical of Donen's directing, editing, and general misunderstanding of the film, an uneasy mix of comedy and violence. Indeed, three separate endings had to be filmed because Donen couldn't figure out what tone was needed.
The legendary Bessie Smith can be heard singing '"Empty Bed Blues" and "A Hot Time in the Old Town." Liza Minnelli sings "'Lucky Lady" and "While the Getting Is Good," both of which were written for the film.
Co-scriptwriter of this picture Gloria Katz once said of the film's 1930s rum running subject: "We [Katz and co-screenwriter Willard Huyck] were fascinated. The folklore and mythology were as colorful as anything I'd ever encountered. Yet it had never been filmed."
Reportedly, Gene Hackman's salary for this picture has been estimated at being between US $1.25 and US $1.50 million. According to Mark Litwak's 1986 book, 'Reel Power: The Struggle for Influence and Success in the New Hollywood', talent agent Sue Mengers said that "it was almost obscene for him not to do the film" with the amount of money he was being offered to do the picture.
The 'Lucky Lady' boat was a 63 foot racing cutter yacht requiring a crew of eight to sail it. The vessel was originally named 'Orient' and was built in Hong Kong in the mid 1930s, about forty years prior to this picture being made. Apparently, the 'Lucky Lady' was the "star" of a 97 ship rum running armada that operated between Mexico and California, USA.
Burt Reynolds and Liza Minnelli star in this 1975 movie. In one of the four pictures that Reynolds made in 1975, Hustle (1975), he played a cop starring opposite Catherine Deneuve, who played a call-girl. About twelve years after this movie was made, Reynolds would play a cop and Minelli a call-girl, in Rent-a-Cop (1987).
Liza Minnelli sings in this movie. The one song she sings, at the Aquarium Club speakeasy, is called "Get While the Gettin's Good". This song was written by Cabaret (1972) composers John Kander and Fred Ebb who also composed this picture's "Lucky Lady" theme.
George Segal and Burt Reynolds would have worked together in this film had Segal not sustained a leg injury and have to pull-out of the project. Gene Hackman then replaced Segal. However, about a decade later, Segal and Reynolds eventually got to work together in a theatrical movie when they both appeared in the movie Stick (1985).
The meaning and relevance of this movie's title Lucky Lady (1975) is that it is the name of the boat that the lead characters use for running rum during the prohibition era 1930s. It does not refer to Liza Minnelli's character, Claire.
This movie was germinated when co-screenwriter Gloria Katz saw an article on 1930s rum running in a magazine around the time the finished screenplay for American Graffiti (1973) was been assessed three years before this movie was made, in 1972.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The original ending had Kibby Womack and Walker Ellis gunned down by government agents with Claire watching, and was followed by scenes ten years later of Claire, now married to her wealthy but dull boyfriend and with a son, reminiscing about her romantic youth. Director Stanley Donen felt the finished film was too comedic in tone for such a downbeat ending so Donen, Hackman and Reynolds went to Rome where Minnelli was shooting A Matter of Time (1976) and filmed a new ending. The trio were shown with "old age" make-up still together in bed at age 70. This ending wasn't satisfactory to the actors involved, so footage shot earlier of the threesome young and happy was substituted instead. Some of the unused ending footage ended up on the syndicated Fox TV show That's Hollywood (1976).
Re-shoots were required when American test audiences did not like the characters played by Burt Reynolds and Gene Hackman getting killed off in this movie's ending. A happy ending was then filmed requiring the two and Liza Minnelli to come back.