The movie was adapted by Hugo Butler (uncredited), Anita Loos and Dorothy Yost (uncredited) from the story by Ralph Wheelwright. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy and produced by Irving Asher.
The story is a highly fictionalized telling of the story of Edna Gladney, an early advocate for the rights of illegitimate children in Texas.
Edna Kahly (Greer Garson) and her adopted sister, Charlotte (Marsha Hunt), are to be married. But, when Charlotte's mother-in-law-to-be discovers that Charlotte was a foundling, she declares the wedding must not occur, and Charlotte kills herself from shame. Meanwhile, Edna falls for a brash cashier, Sam Gladney, at the bank, and eventually marries him and moves with him to his home state of Texas.
Sam Gladney has a flour mill in Sherman, Texas, and at first the couple has an idyllic life, though after a difficult delivery Sam is told Edna must have no more children. Several years later, their son dies, and Sam's effort to ease the pain she still endures by trying to get her to adopt a foundling fails. But the little girl's story touches Edna's heart, and she starts a day care center for the children of working women.
Sam's business fails, and they must auction off all their possessions. The local women take over the day care center, and Sam and Edna move to Fort Worth, Texas, where he has a job in a mill. Edna starts a home for orphans and illegitimate children, and works hard to find them appropriate homes, matching parents to child by interests and inclinations. Sam becomes ill and dies. When a young woman comes to try to donate a large sum of money, Edna worms the young woman's story out of her, and discovers she is in a similar situation as poor Charlotte. After insisting the girl's fiancé won't care that she is illegitimate, she decides to campaign to have the word "illegitimate" removed from Texas birth certificates.
After succeeding in her quest, Edna faces one more trial—the little crippled boy she has raised from an infant and nursed back to health finds a new home at last. She is reluctant to let him go, but at last realizes it is for the best, and, as she tends to the two newest foundlings, brought to her door by a policeman, the music comes up and the End title card comes on the screen.
When the film premiered at Radio City Music Hall, Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "There is a shade too much of shining nobility in this film, too often tiny fingers tug deliberately on the heartstrings. And the dramatic continuity seems less spontaneous than contrived. The career of Mrs. Gladney is drawn out over a tedious stretch of time. But it is an affecting story and one which commands great respect ... As pure inspirational drama with a pleasant flavor of romance, 'Blossoms in the Dust' should reach a great many hearts."
Variety called the film "a worthy production on which much care has been showered by Mervyn LeRoy and others, but it is questionable as to draft. Though meritorious as to production value, cast and background, plus being in color, the picture fails to impress as being big." The review also called the film "a trifle over-done on occasion."
Film Daily wrote, "Mervyn LeRoy is at his directorial best here, and makes the most of the fine screenplay fashioned by Anita Loos ... Greer Garson's performance is rousing, and that of Walter Pidgeon, as her husband, as inspiring as will be found in any '40-'41 picture."
John Mosher of The New Yorker wrote, "The subject matter receives very conventional treatment of the inspirational order, with an occasional tear, and, of course, a sad smile here and there."
Blossoms in the Dust placed tenth on Film Daily's year-end poll of 548 critics naming the best films of 1941.Wins
Best Art Direction (Color): Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, Urie McCleary; Interior Decoration: Edwin B. Willis
Outstanding Motion Picture: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Best Actress: Greer Garson
Best Cinematography (Color): Karl Freund, W. Howard Greene
According to MGM records the film earned $1,272,000 in the US and Canada and $1,386,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $552,000.