In May of 1937, with the film about 90% completed, Jean Harlow collapsed on the set and died about a week later, reportedly of uremic poisoning. Her remaining scenes were shot with double Mary Dees being filmed only from behind. Paula Winslowe supplied the voice.
MGM executives planned to shelve the movie or re-shoot Harlow's scenes, possibly with Virginia Bruce or Jean Arthur, but the reaction of the audience at a preview in late June and a barrage of fan mail urging release of Harlow's last film changed their minds.
Jean Harlow's death two-thirds of the way through production was only the first disaster to hit this film. The second, according to a biography of Lionel Barrymore (part of Hollis Alpert's book 'The Barrymores') came when Lionel tripped over a lighting cable and re-broke his hip just before filming wrapped. Barrymore was confined to a wheelchair for the next decade (in addition to the hip injuries, he suffered from arthritis of the knees) before he lost considerable weight and was able to walk with much difficulty for a few more pictures.
Although screenwriter Robert Hopkins originally intended the script to be a vehicle for Jean Harlow, the studio at first attempted to borrow Carole Lombard from Paramount Pictures, but could not do so because of contractual difficulties. After this, it was reported that Joan Crawford would play Harlow's role, but by 1937, Harlow was reported as the star.