Ernest Hemingway hated this interpretation of his novel, as he felt it was overly romantic. That didn't stop him, however, from becoming lifelong friends with Gary Cooper, whom he met several years later. In fact, it was Hemingway who would insist that Cooper be cast in the lead of the adaptation of his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) 11 years later. However, the two made a point of never discussing this film.
Censorship problems arose from early versions of the script, which included phases of Catherine's actual childbirth and references to labor pains, gas, her groaning and hemorrhaging. After these were removed, the MPPDA approved the script, and even issued a certificate for re-release in 1938 when the censorship rules were more strictly enforced. Still, the film was rejected in British Columbia and in Australia, where Hemingway's book was also banned.
To the modern discerning eye, the use of miniatures is apparent in some scenes. If one looks very closely at the first scene, ambulance trucks driving up a winding mountain road will be noted to be well crafted miniatures.
The Production Code was in place when the film was re-released in 1938. Consequently, 12 minutes of footage had to be excised for it to meet code standards. Luckily, producer David O. Selznick had acquired an original negative, as he was so keen to buy the remake rights, so the original cut has been preserved (Selznick finally acquired the rights in 1955, making his own version two years later with Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones).
The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duplicated from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Theater managers were offered the film with two endings, one happy and one sad. When Ernest Hemingway got wind of this tactic he was furious, so theaters in the larger cities, where the mainly pro-Hemingway critics were based, were provided only with the downbeat ending, in accordance with the way the novel ended.
Cinematically, 1932 was a very traumatic year for Helen Hayes. Not only did she die at the end of this film but she met a similarly tragic fate in Arrowsmith (1931) as well. Both films were nominated for the Best Film Academy Award.
Theater-owners were given the choice, as to whether to screen the film with its originally intended sad conclusion, or to show it with the alternative happy ending. Ernest Hemingway was particularly critical of this move, as it completely undermined the inherent tragic nature of his story. (European cinemas were not offered the happier alternative.)