After its release, President Heber J. Grant, who had offered the church's assistance in producing the film, said: "There is nothing in the picture that reflects in any way against our people. It is a very marvelous and wonderful thing. . . . This film will be a friendmaker."
Dean Jagger bears a remarkable physical resemblance to pictures of a young Brigham Young, and at the time, an 80-year-old gentleman who had known Brigham said there was also a marked resemblance in voice and mannerisms. This performance earned Jagger a seven-year contract with Fox, and he later received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in "Twelve O'clock High" (1949). In 1972, when he was 68, Jagger joined the LDS Church.
Darryl Zanuck authorized an expenditure of $2 million for the production of the film, quite a large budget in 1939.
More than a year of research, writing and planning took place before the cameras started rolling.
The script was written by Louis Bromfield and Lamar Trotti; it was directed by Henry Hathaway. The music was written by Alfred Newman, and the main theme, a march called "The Trek," was later used in two other Fox movies.
Some 90 percent of the production was filmed outdoors. Zanuck and a crew of 450 covered more than 2,400 miles. Six major locations in Nevada, Utah and California were used. The Nauvoo set was built on Fox's 250-acre lot near Beverly Hills. The Salt Lake City set, as it appeared in 1847, was constructed near Lone Pine, Calif.