Actresses Cher, Karen Black, and Sandy Dennis reprized their roles from the stage play that played on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre in 1982. Director Robert Altman also directed this stage season.
Apart from a couple of 1960s outings, this was the first serious dramatic role in a prominent picture for singer and now actress Cher. It was this film and the next year's Silkwood (1983) that introduced Cher as a serious actress. Both roles were ensemble/supporting parts which were the precursor of much bigger 1980s lead roles with Mask (1985), Suspect (1987), Moonstruck (1987) and The Witches of Eastwick (1987).
Three of the film's cast have won Academy Awards for acting, Cher, Kathy Bates and Sandy Dennis. Karen Black has also been nominated for Best Supporting Actress without winning, as has Cher and Bates, who both won the major Best Actress Oscar after this movie.
An early press report which stated that this film was being made for cable television was inaccurate according to director Robert Altman. It had always Altman's ambition to shoot the film for the big screen.
The film's one set was actually one double-set with two-way mirrors which were utilized for the flashback sequences. The two-way mirrored double-set was operated by computerized lighting modules which caused their own unique problems for the production.
Playwright Ed Graczyk said of his source play for this film in the program for its premiere at the Players Theatre Columbus: "...Jimmy Dean can only be described as the result of my own observations and frustrations with progress that ignores a past; the lack of personalization and pride and the recurring need of people to build facades to conceal the truths of their lives. It is the facade that makes abnormal people seem normal and the sad people seem happy. A personal observation which I feel makes the people I write about, colorful, theatrical, but most of all, honest...The inspiration for Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean came many years ago during my five year association with the Midland Community Theatre in west Texas. While I was there I had the opportunity to visit Marfa, the site used by Warner Bros. in filming Giant. The only remaining evidence of the film was the facade of the mansion Reata used to film the on location scenes, now crumbling and supported by six telephone poles. It was the memory of that site, the pace of the people and the vivid recollection of the '50's idol James Dean on the youth of the period that resulted in the writing of this play".
The film's very long title is often shortened and abbreviated in spoken language and referred to by the informal short title of simply "Jimmy Dean" or the informal shortened title of "Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean" which doesn't have the repetition of James Dean's name.