Hallelujah! was, for its time, an impressive achievement. Director King Vidor, anxious to make a "personal" project for the impersonal MGM studios, proposed to film a spiritual story set in the deep South with blacks as the main characters. The Texas-born Vidor was familiar with certain particulars of African-American life, having witnessed the mass baptisms and religious ceremonies of the employees of his father's lumber mills. MGM, concerned that it would lose the "bigot trade," balked until Vidor offered to direct Hallelujah without salary.