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The working title of this film was Out of This Earth. According to information found in the Charles K. Feldman papers at the AFI Louis B. Mayer Library, this project initially began when Lou Breslow and Owen Francis were hired by producer/agent Feldman to write a screenplay called Out of This Earth, based on an original story by Francis. In an October 1940 agreement, Feldman agreed to pay Breslow $337 per week and Francis $175 per week for their work on this project. This agreement also stated that Breslow would be paid approximately $2,000 and Francis $2,500 upon the sale of the script, and that the proceeds from the sale of the script would be split in the following manner: Feldman 50%, Breslow and Francis 25% each.
In July 1941, Feldman then hired George Owen to rewrite the Breslow/Francis script. In February 1942, Feldman transferred the rights to this material to The Feldman-Blum Corp. as compensation for work done by that corporation on this project, as well as other private projects of Feldman. Feldman-Blum then hired writers Robert Fellows, Tom Reed and George Owen to rewrite the script, work which was completed on April 21, 1942. On May 4, 1942, Feldman purchased the rights to the property from Feldman-Blum for $10,526.22, then sold the script to Universal on June 29, 1942. According to the agreement between Feldman and Universal, Feldman was paid $13,500 for this property, as well as 12.5% of the film's first $240,000 in gross receipts, and 25% of the film's net profits. The film was to include billing for "A Chas. K. Feldman Production," rather than "A Chas. K. Feldman Group Production," the title used for Feldman-Blum Corp. productions.
The Feldman papers further indicate that, while the film was in production, writers Kenneth Gamet, John Twist and Winston Miller were brought in to do re-writes, but, according to an October 1942 agreement between Feldman and Universal, the studio was responsible for only $6,500 in writing costs for the project, the remainder being the personal responsibility of Feldman. An undated Universal memo states the writers on the project were paid the following: Kenneth Gamet $4,750; John Twist $3,400; Winston Miller $2,366; and Tom Reed $2,500. In 1943, Owen Francis, terminally ill with heart disease, threatened to sue Feldman for the producer's failure to live up to their October 1940 agreement. In an August 1943 letter to Francis' attorney, Morris Cohn, Feldman argued that no portion of the screenplay written by Francis and Lou Breslow was used in the released film Pittsburgh, and that six other writers (George Owen, Tom Reed, Robert Fellows, Winston Miller, Kenneth Gamet and John Twist) had worked on the project. According to the Feldman papers, rather than giving Francis the $2,500 stated in their contract, Feldman paid the dying writer $250.
According to information in the file on the film in the MPPA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the film ran into some censorship problems concerning the relationship between the characters "Josie Winters" and "Pittsburgh Markham." In early drafts of the script, it was inferred that Josie had become the mistress of Pittsburgh after his marriage to "Shannon Prentiss." In later drafts and in the finished film, while Pittsburgh makes advances toward Josie, she refuses his propositions. The Feldman papers state that Arthur Lubin was originally slated to direct Pittsburgh, but he left the project on July 15, 1942, prior to Feldman's production deal with Universal. Hollywood Reporter news items report that Universal attempted to borrow Walter Brennan from Sam Goldwyn for the film, but the actor did not appear in the film. Hollywood Reporter news items also state that writer John Twist was borrowed from RKO by Universal for his work on the film.
According to the Feldman papers, the Dow Chemical Company was asked by Universal to act as technical advisor on this film. In a July 1942 letter, Dow Chemical agreed to send A. C. White to act as technical advisor on Pittsburgh, but in a November 12, 1942 letter to Dow Chemical, Feldman states that Leland T. Doan was the man actually sent by the company to act in that position. The Feldman papers also state that Pittsburgh used some stock footage provided by the U.S. Navy's Office of Public Relations, and May have used additional footage from the short film The Big Change-Over, which was then being distributed by the OWI.
Hollywood Reporter production charts include Edgar Barrier in the cast, but his participation in the released film has not been confirmed. According to the film's press book, actor Allan Jones, while performing in the Universal film When Johnny Comes Marching Home , acted as a technical advisor for Pittsburgh's coal mine scenes, having worked in similar mines as a youth. This was the second Universal film of 1942 to star John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich and Randolph Scott, the other being The Spoilers . Wayne and Dietrich had co-starred previously in the 1940 Universal pictuure Seven Sinners (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.3975). According to a Universal accounting statement of December 1966, the negative cost of Pittsburgh was $630,782.87. The film, at that time, had generated a domestic gross of $929,140.27 and worldwide gross revenues of approximately $1,930,000. The Feldman papers report that, as of October 30, 1954, Charles K. Feldman had received $147,843.98 for his work on this film.