The Imperial Prosecutor Vital Dutour (played by Vincent Price) who investigates Bernadette's visions, is portrayed in the movie as an atheist and anti-religious persecutor. In real life, however, Dutour was a devout Catholic who thought that Bernadette Soubirous's visions were hallucinations.
Using an actress to play "the lady" was controversial enough, and further controversy fulminated when Loretta Young was passed over in favour of sultry Linda Darnell. At that time, Darnell had an almost pornographic reputation. Franz Werfel, the author of the book on which the film was based, threatened to remove his name from the project. To make matters worse, Darnell was pregnant. Nothing would change Darryl F. Zanuck's mind, and Werfel was told that an unknown actress was chosen. Wearing a little more drapery than the simple dress and veil described by the historical Bernadette, Darnell played the role in bright light.
The movie's original score was partly composed by famous composer Igor Stravinsky but was subsequently rejected in favor of Alfred Newman's score, which includes elements from the score he wrote ten years earlier for 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'. When Stravinsky was invited to a screening so he could plot out his score, he replied that he'd already begun. Evincing an unwillingness to change what he'd already composed, he was released from his contract. The second movement of his Symphony in Three Movements evolved out of the unused score.
There is a scene in which Mayor Lacade dreams that Lourdes will one day be flooded with so many people that more hotels will be needed. Lourdes has more hotels per square kilometer than anywhere else in France except for Paris. It is also the third most important site of international Catholic pilgrimage after Rome and the Holy Land.
This was Jennifer Jones' comeback film, her first under her new screen name after previously acting as Phyllis Isley. She had taken several years off to get married and have children, later getting divorced.
Lee J. Cobb (Dr. Dozous) and Roman Bohnen (Bernadette's father) were both members of the famous Group Theater (1931-1940), the first ensemble in America to put Konstantin Stanislavski's acting theories into practice. They often performed together, most notably in the plays of Clifford Odets. Both actors were accused of being members of the Communist Party. Bohnen was blacklisted, but Cobb named names and was eventually exonerated by the House Un-American Activities Committee.
Henry King himself directed the screen tests, instructing his actresses to look beyond the camera at a shining light. Jennifer Jones was the immediate front runner, as - according to King - she didn't just look, she saw.
Jennifer Jones had made other films before this, but only under her real name, Phyllis Isley. In an effort to make the public believe that she was "discovered" for this film, her screen credit reads "and introducing Jennifer Jones as Bernadette."
The film was first telecast on the "ABC Sunday Night Movie", and as such, is the oldest film ever to be shown on it. Most of the "ABC Sunday Night Movie" offerings were of films made beginning in the late 1950's and upward. "The Song of Bernadette" was made in 1943.
Other than The Wizard of Oz (1939), "The Song of Bernadette" was one of the few pre-1950 major Hollywood films to be shown on American commercial network television before being sold to local stations. Others included the 1948 version of "Sorry Wrong Number", with Barbara Stanwyck, as well as some of David O. Selznick's releases from the 1940's such as "Portrait of Jennie" and "The Spiral Staircase". However, out of all these films, "The Wizard of Oz" is the only one that has never been sold to local stations; it is now shown on TV by Turner Broadcasting.
Fortunio Bonanova and Mona Maris were originally cast as Emporer Louis Napoleon and Empress Eugenie in "The Song of Bernadette," but the scenes were discarded, and the scenes were refilmed with Jerome Cowan and Patricia Morison.