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According to the onscreen credits, the novel on which this film is based was a "prize-winning novel of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's First Annual [novel-of-the-year] Contest." The contest was discontinued in 1948, and only one other prize-winning novel, Raintree County, was made into a film. In May 1945, a Hollywood Reporter news item noted that production was set to start in the summer of that year with Gregory Peck and Laraine Day in the starring roles. A 1945 M-G-M News news item contained in the film's production file in the AMPAS Library, noted that Katharine Hepburn was slated for a starring role in the film. An August 1946 New York Times article notes that Reverend John J. Devlin, the Hollywood representative of the National Catholic Legion of Decency, who consulted with M-G-M on matters concerning religion in the film, successfully urged the studio to alter the story so that it did not imply that "Marguerite Patourel" turned to religion solely as a result of having been spurned by the man she loved. The article also listed June Allyson in the role that was eventually played by Donna Reed.
In a January 1986 Hollywood Reporter article, Reed, who initially did not want to play the role of "Marguerite" because she thought that Lana Turner was prettier and that audiences would not believe that "William" would chose her over Lana, is quoted as saying, "Lana's gorgeous. If I play that part, it'll ruin the picture." According to a 1947 article in Look magazine, which referred to this picture as a "$3,000,000 film," $500,000 was spent on the earthquake scene alone. The article also noted that although much of the earthquake special effects were achieved through the use of miniatures, some of it was shot using "agitated mirrors" at Klamath Lake in Oregon. Modern sources note that M-G-M deleted an elaborate special effects sequence in which a ship that the studio had constructed for the film was destroyed. Green Dolphin Street received an Academy Award for Best Special Effects, and was nominated for Best Sound Recording. Lana Turner and Van Heflin reprised their roles in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast on September 19, 1949.