Bette Davis was the original choice for the female lead but as she was still involved with making Now, Voyager (1942), other actresses were approached. Irene Dunne expressed some interest but felt that the role was too small whilst Margaret Sullavan turned the part down flat. Edna Best, Rosemary DeCamp and Helen Hayes were also considered.
Bette Davis repeatedly clashed with director Herman Shumlin throughout production. A novice film director, he had no real experience on a film set and certainly none in dealing with a prima donna actress like Davis. Producer Hal B. Wallis was forced to lean hard on Shumlin when he saw how over the top Davis was in her performance.
Bette Davis gladly took on a supporting role as she wanted audiences to see what she considered to be a very important film and also because she admired Lillian Hellman's writing having recently worked on the film version of Hellman's The Little Foxes (1941).
This adaptation of Lillian Hellman's play was written by her longtime companion, Dashiell Hammett. Hellman was unable to write the adaptation herself as she was contracted to work on the screenplay for The North Star (1943). She recommended that Hammett be given the assignment as he was very familiar with the material. (Hammett also needed the money.) |