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In a written foreword, the film explains that the people who appear in the film are actual peasants, doctors and teachers, not actors, and observes that there is a conflict between the ancient ways and more modern approaches in the small mountain towns of Mexico. This film marked the first time that John Steinbeck wrote directly for the screen. A December 28, 1942 New York Herald Tribune article reported that director Herbert Kline and Steinbeck insisted on paying the amateur Mexican actors a high wage, thus angering their regular employers, the farm owners, who then tried to stop the filming until the richest owner gave his approval to the arrangement.
A study guide included in the file on the film at the AMPAS Library adds the following information about the production: The film was shot over a ten-month period in Mexico. The story was later published and illustrated with 136 photographs from the film. On November 23, 1941, New York Herald Tribune reported that New York censors had banned the film because of scenes in which a mother breast-feeds her child and another in which a midwife is shown aiding a woman in childbirth. After the film's sponsors protested the censors' decision, it was reversed by the State Board of Regents, according to an December 8, 1941 Time article. The Time article also notes that Silvestre Revueltas was Steinbeck's choice to compose the film's music, but died before the film was completed and was replaced by Hans Eisler. According to information in the MOMA files, a Spanish version of the film was also produced.