George Cukor, who directed this film, was offered the chance to direct its "partial remake," A Star Is Born (1937), but turned it down, claiming the two films were too similar. Interestingly, Cukor would later direct the 1954 Judy Garland/James Mason musical remake of that film, often cited as the best version of this material.
This film bears such a striking resemblance to A Star Is Born (1937) that it is often considered "the original version" of that often remade classic. In fact, David O. Selznick, who produced both this film and Star is Born, was threatened with a lawsuit by this film's writers, claiming plagiarism.
The mob scene outside Mary's wedding, in which a crowd of fans surround her and try to grab pieces of her outfit as souvenirs, was later re-enacted in real life when Elizabeth Taylor was similarly mobbed at the funeral of Mike Todd. A police escort was required to transport Taylor safely from the cemetery, and Taylor was said to suffer nightmares about the experience for years afterward.
David O. Selznick wanted Clara Bow for the role of Mary Evans, but she turned it down when she was offered more money from Fox.
The sequence in which Mary Evans' home is besieged by the press and her fans when Mary is caught up in a scandal is curiously similar to a real-life situation that occurred the same year this film was made: When sex symbol Jean Harlow's husband, M-G-M producer Paul Bern, committed suicide in their home during the summer of 1932, Harlow also found herself mercilessly hounded by fans and reporters. In fact, the Harlow/Bern scandal was such big news that only the November 1932 election of Franklin D. Roosevelt as America's 33rd President finally chased it off front pages nationwide.
This film was not a success at the box office, resulting in a loss of $50,000 ($890,000 in 2017) for RKO according to studio records.
Gregory Ratoff's portrayal of thick-accented studio head Julius Saxe was partially based on real-life independent producer Samuel Goldwyn, who was famous for such malapropisms as "Include me out!"
Although this film is remarkably similar to A Star Is Born (1937) (and its various later remakes) it is interesting to note that in this version, the character of the successful female star does not marry the male character surrendering to alcoholism, but does remain loyal to him and his legacy.
Max Carey was modeled after Lowell Sherman himself, who was known to be an alcoholic, as well as silent film director Marshall Neilan and actor John Barrymore (who was Sherman's brother-in-law at the time). The wedding satirized the 1927 nuptials of Vilma Bánky and Rod La Rocque.
The montage depicting Mary Evans' rise to stardom, using theatre marquees, fireworks, images of hands applauding wildly and other elements, may seem trite today, but it was ground-breaking at the time, and set a standard often imitated in the decades since.
Neil Hamilton, who plays Mary's persistent suitor Lonny here, had been a leading man in the silent movie era, and continued working until the end of his life. More than 30 years after this film, Hamilton was cast in the role for which he is best remembered: Police Commissioner Gordon in the Adam West TV version of Batman.
Several stars are referred to in this Hollywood story. Constance Bennett smooches with a magazine photo of Clark Gable and copies the make-up in a magazine photo of Marion Davies. She also impersonates Greta Garbo. The old flower lady mentions to Lowell Sherman that she could be a new Marie Dressler.
At the time this film's movie premiere sequence was filmed at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the tradition of movie stars putting their hand and footprints in cement at the Chinese was less than a decade old, yet had already made Grauman's world famous.
This pre-Code precursor to A Star is Born (1937) offers a more disturbing Depression-era view of Hollywood's underbelly, evidenced by the first restaurant scene, in which Constance Bennett rebukes an industry parasite on the make by accusing him of statutory rape, and Lowell Sherman admonishes the mannish clothing worn by an obviously lesbian customer.