Val Lewton reportedly sought Simone Simon for this film after seeing her performance in All That Money Can Buy.
Because of the incredibly tight budget, sets from Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons were re-used.
Filmed in 18 days.
Original trade reviews appeared Friday the 13 November 1942.
R.K.O. gave Val Lewton only $150,000 to make the film, resulting in "creative" producing. This forced many of the scenes requiring special effects to be done in shadows which many believe increased the suspense of the film. When studio execs insisted that more footage of the panther be included in the movie, Lewton was able to maintain the budget and the suspense of the film by limiting how many scenes the panther could be visibly seen and told the cinematographer to "keep the panther in the shadows." Thus the panther was only visible in the office and zoo cage.
Several actors in studio records and casting call lists did not appear in the movie. These were (with their character names) George Ford (Whistling cop), Leda Nicova (Patient), and Bud Geary (Mounted policeman).
Supervisor Lou L. Ostrow was so dissatisfied with the style of the movie he wanted to replace director Jacques Tourneur after four days of filming. Producer Val Lewton got studio head Charles Koerner to reinstate Tourneur, and when Ostrow insisted on the panther appearing in the drafting room sequence, Lewton had Tourneur use low lighting putting the panther in the shadows.
The film was in theaters for so long that critics who had originally bashed the film were able to see it again and many rewrote their reviews with a more positive spin.
The film was such a hit at the box office, the releases of the next two Lewton films (I Walked with a Zombie and The Leopard Man) were delayed.
The horror movie technique of slowly building tension to a jarring shock which turns out to be something completely harmless and benign became known as a "Lewton bus" after a famous scene in this movie created by producer Val Lewton.
When "The Cat Woman" (played, uncredited, by Elizabeth Russell) speaks to Irina in Serbian and calls her "my sister", Russell's dialog is dubbed by Simone Simon,