"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60-minute radio adaptation of the movie on May 1, 1939, with May Robson, Warren William, Jean Parker and Guy Kibbee reprising their film roles.
Frank Capra had been loaned to MGM to work on a film called "Soviet," in exchange for $50,000 and Robert Montgomery's participation in this picture; Capra also hoped to get Marie Dressler's services from MGM. After "Soviet" was cancelled as a project, Columbia was unable to get either James Cagney from Warner Bros. or William Powell from MGM for the role of Dave the Dude; they also tried to get W.C. Fields from Paramount to play Judge Blake, but again could not make a deal.
A number of beggars in downtown Los Angeles were cast in small roles, including the legless man, nicknamed Shorty, whom Capra had remembered as selling pencils when the director was a paperboy.
At this point Columbia Pictures was still a "Poverty Row" operation with studio chief Harry Cohn adamant against hiring actors under long-term contracts. The cast of this film was largely obtained on loan from Warner Brothers' pool of talented character actors. Warren William was at the peak of his career and being loaned out to lowly Columbia was meant to humble any thoughts of greater salary demands. Although his career would wane in the mid-'30s, this film was a big hit.
In the scenes where the Dude interacts with the police, Ned Sparks whistles 'The Prisoner's Song", a popular recording by Vernon Dalhart in the 1920s.
Radio City Music Hall booked the film's premiere without seeing it, because Frank Capra's The Bitter Tea of General Yen had been the theater's first film and they considered the director to be good luck.
When Frank Capra was nominated for his first Best Director Oscar in 1933 (for Lady for a Day), presenter Will Rogers merely opened the envelope and said "Come and get it, Frank!" Already halfway to the stage, Capra realized that Rogers wasn't referring to him, but to Frank Lloyd, who was getting the Oscar for Cavalcade.