The plot of the stage "Maytime" is completely different from the one used in the film, and only one song from the stage production ("Will You Remember?") was retained for the film.
One of MGM mogul Irving Thalberg's personal projects, this originally began filming in Technicolor, with Paul Lukas as Nikolai Nazaroff and Frank Morgan as August Archipenko. When Thalberg died, production was halted. When it was able to resume, black and white was selected as a more economical format. Lukas and Morgan were no longer available, so John Barrymore and Herman Bing took over their roles.
When filming began in 1936 (in color), the original opera finale was also recorded, staged and shot. This was to have been Act II of Giacomo Puccini's "Tosca", one of the few operatic works with major roles for baritone (Scarpia) and soprano as equals (Tosca). It also allowed Jeanette MacDonald to sing the famous aria "Vissi D'arte". By the time shooting recommenced in black and white, this idea was scrapped and replaced with an elaborate fake Russian opera "Czaritza" created by Herbert Stothart to music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, presumably to allow for a big Duet (in "Tosca", she murders Scarpia by stabbing him through the heart!). The rewritten story of "Maytime" presumably demanded it. Sadly, the Technicolor "Tosca" sequence does not appear to have survived, which is a pity as it would have been fascinating to see MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in a major operatic sequence and in color.
The original operetta opened on Broadway in New York on 16 August 1917. It was so popular a second production was added to run simultaneously.
"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on September 4, 1944, with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy reprising their film roles.
The original release prints contained tinting for pink fruit tree blossoms in the prologue and epilogue, and also in the carnival scene in the body of the story.
The opera "Tsaritsa" (also spelled "Czaritza") is fictional. However the music is from "Symphony Number 5" by Tchaikovsky.
The original aborted plan to shoot this as a Technicolor movie would explain the lavish costumes and huge entire soundstage sets being used for the black and white version, even though much of the Production Design color palettes would be lost in grayscale with the re-boot.
This film's initial telecast took place in Chicago Saturday 18 May 1957 on WBBM (Channel 2), followed by Seattle 7 July 1957 on KING (Channel 5), by Portland OR 27 July 1957 on KGW (Channel 8), by Phoenix 10 August 1957 on KPHO (Channel 5), by Los Angeles 23 August 1957 on KTTV (Channel 11), by Cincinnati 4 November 1957 on WLW-T (Channel 5), by Norfolk VA 27 December 1957 on WTAR (Channel 3), by Philadelphia 6 February 1958 on WFIL (Channel 6), by Cleveland 16 February 1958 on KYW (Channel 3), by Pittsburgh 2 May 1958 on KDKA (Channel 2), and, finally, by New York City 28 March 1959 on WCBS (Channel 2), and, better late than never, by San Francisco 2 December 1960 on KGO (Channel 7).