George Cukor told the Soviet studio head how honoured he was to be filming in the same studio where Sergei M. Eisenstein had filmed The Battleship Potemkin (1925). "Yes," said the studio head, "and with the very same equipment."
In an interview, director George Cukor recalled that during filming he received complaints from several English-speaking members of the Russian crew about star Jane Fonda. Their complaint was that instead of letting them do their jobs, she would follow them around quoting passages from Karl Marx and wanting to engage the technicians in discussions about them. They told Cukor they were already Communists, that Fonda didn't have to convert them, and if she persisted in her behavior the whole crew would go on strike. The producers spoke to Fonda and got her to stop.
Award-winning cinematographer Jonas Gricius was replaced by Freddie Young when it was discovered that he had never before shot a film in color and had no idea what he was doing.
According to actress Cicely Tyson, director George Cukor accused her of jinxing the film by using voodoo magic. Relations between Tyson and Cukor eventually deteriorated to the point where, when Tyson would arrive on set in the morning, she would ask - referring to Cukor - "Is he dead yet?"
James Coco, originally cast as Dog, couldn't eat Russian food; the only local fare he could stomach was bread and butter. He wound up gaining so much weight his costume no longer fit, he suffered a gall bladder attack and eventually had to be replaced by George Cole. Coco later said, "They tell us [the movie] will finish by August, but not by August of what year. I understand Elizabeth [Taylor] is having Christmas cards printed."
No bluebirds could be readily found, so several thousand pigeons were hand-dyed blue for the climactic scenes.
There were so many production problems, foul-ups and hard feelings during the shooting of the film in Russia that eventually director George Cukor and producer Edward Lewis spoke to each other only through their lawyers.
Columnist Rex Reed was a visitor to the trouble-plagued set. Upon greeting Elizabeth Taylor for the first time, Reed asked Taylor how she was holding up under pressure. "I've been through it all, baby," she told him. "I'm Mother Courage."
Valentina Ganibalova was featuring in the ballet "Don Quixote" at the Kirov Theater during filming and had to rush to the theater many evenings once the day's filming wrapped at Lenfilm. Co-star Elizabeth Taylor came to one of her performances.
The U.S. side of production originally promised the participation of Marlon Brando (in what role, it isn't known), but he backed out. This was resolved amicably when Elizabeth Taylor was brought in to play four parts.
There were a lot of communication problems onset and the onset translators were overwhelmed.
Both Katharine Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine dropped out of the production before shooting began.
Irwin Kostal, the composer for the American half of the production, clashed with the Soviet composer, Andrei Petrov. Petrov wanted jazz for the score; Kostal wanted "Volga boatmen music".
The original Broadway production of "The Blue Bird" or "L'Oiseau Bleu" by Maurice Maeterlinck opened at the New Theatre (followed by the Majestic Theater) on October 1, 1910 and closed on January 21, 1911. Revivals were produced in 1911 and 1924.
Valentina Ganibalova (Water) made one of the own costumes for the film, and can be seen wearing it in an outdoor sequence.
The American and Russian composers argued over the direction the score should take.
Elizabeth Taylor offered David Bowie a role, probably Fire. He backed out after reading the script.
Like it's predecessor, the 1940 Shirley Temple version of this same material, this film failed to take flight at the box office, making it less like a bird...and more like a turkey.