At 5:55 PM PST on March 10, 1933, the Long Beach earthquake hit southern California, measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale. When the earthquake hit, Busby Berkeley was filming the "Shadow Waltz" dance sequence on a sound stage on the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank. The earthquake caused a blackout on the sound stage and short-circuited some of the neon-tubed violins. Berkeley was almost thrown from a camera boom, and dangled by one hand until he could pull himself back up. Since many of the chorus girls in the dance number were on a 30-foot-high scaffold, Berkeley yelled for them to sit down and wait until the stage hands and technicians could open the sound stage doors and let in some light.
According to Joan Blondell, Dick Powell hated singing and playing the juvenile leads over and over. In the movie, there is an in-joke related to that, when the stage production's lead protests that he has been a juvenile for 18 years.
According to "Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood" by Mark A. Vieira (Harry N. Abrams, 1999), this was one of the first American films made and distributed with alternate footage in order to circumvent censorship problems. Various state censorship boards had their own standards to impose on motion pictures, so studios began filming slightly different versions of problematic scenes, which were then inserted into prints that were labeled to indicate which version would be sent to which state (or country). This picture, with risqué numbers like "Pettin' in the Park," had to make various adjustments to accommodate censors in different areas.
In an early scene, producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) yells, "Cancel my contract with Warren and Dubin!" In fact, Harry Warren and Al Dubin were quickly becoming one of the most successful songwriting teams in Hollywood of the 1930s, and they penned all the tunes in this picture.
Was originally planned to end with the production number "Petting in the Park", but after seeing the complete numbers, the studio added the politically charged "My Forgotten Man" at the end, pointing out that while the cast is "in the money", many others in Depression-era America were not. Remains of the old order are visible; in the final backstage scene, Ruby Keeler and the chorus girls are all wearing costumes for the number "Petting in the Park".
Following his quip about Harry Warren and Al Dubin, Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) refers to "the Astaires" in pointing out theatrical excellence. Fred Astaire and his sister Adele Astaire had been the reigning brother/sister duo on Broadway until Adele's retirement the previous year. Ginger Rogers, soon to become Mr. Astaire's screen partner at RKO, is in this scene in which Fred and Adele are mentioned.
As with 42nd Street (1933), this film was shot with two separate units. Mervyn LeRoy's unit, which handled the non-musical parts of the story, worked on a 30-day schedule from February 16 through March 23, 1933. Busby Berkeley oversaw the shooting of the musical numbers between March 6 and April 13. Sol Polito was the cinematographer for both units, with Sidney Hickox filling in for any schedule conflicts.
According to cast member Dorothy Coonan Wellman, she and the other dancers in the Shadow Waltz number were constantly getting little electric shocks from the wiring that was used to illuminate their violins.
In the early "cattle call" scene, the girls are asked to raise their skirts for the producer to appraise their legs. Fay wise-cracks "Not a calf in a carload". This was a pun on the well-known "Not a cough in a carload" slogan of Old Gold cigarettes.
The hats Trixie orders for herself and Carol cost $75 each. In 2016 dollars, they would cost $1413.15 each. With the $5 "tip" included, Mr. Peabody pays the 2016 equivalent of $1507.35 for Trixie's hat.
The singer in the "Remember My Forgotten Man" number, who also appears on screen (uncredited) as a war widow, is Etta Moten, who had appeared in bits in earlier movies and dubbed the singing voices for other actresses.
Cut from the release print was Ginger Rogers' version of "I've Got to Sing a Torch Song" (music by Harry Warren, lyrics by Al Dubin), warbled atop a white piano in a nightclub, where she can be spotted briefly in a long shot of the orchestra. Ginger's prerecording still exists.
The play "The Gold Diggers" by Avery Hopwood opened at the Lyceum Theatre in New York on 30 September 1919 and closed in June 1920 after 282 performances. The opening night cast included Ina Claire and Lilyan Tashman.
According to the final shooting script, the film was supposed to end with a reprise of "The Gold Diggers' Song (We're in the Money)," preceded by "Shadow Waltz." "Petting in the Park" was paired with "Remember My Forgotten Man" much earlier in the film.
In production material, including the movie's press book, actresses Dorothy Coonan Wellman and Joan Barclay are mentioned as appearing, under the names they were known by in 1933, Dorothy Coonan, and Geraine Greear.