Playwright Arthur Miller is the tall suspect in the line-up. He was close to director Elia Kazan, who would two years later direct Miller's "Death of a Salesman" on Broadway. For the play, Kazan plucked this film's Lee J. Cobb to play Willy Loman, and for his son Biff, Arthur Kennedy.
Some of the people appearing were local townspeople, not professional actors, which certainly added to the authentic look and feel of the film. Reputedly their legal agreements caused a problematic rights situation when attempts were made to release the film on home video in later years (although televised broadcasts were not seemingly a problem). The film was scheduled for a VHS release in the 1990s but was abruptly canceled just before its scheduled release date. It was released for a very brief time on DVD in 2006, which resulted in an almost immediate recall. It was finally released on DVD with no further problems in 2008.
The following written prologue appears on screen after the opening credits: "The story you are about to witness is based on fact. In the interests of authenticity, all scenes, both interior and exterior, have been photographed in the original locale and as many actual characters as possible have been used."
Throughout the film the "take-out" coffee containers used looked like white soup containers. That's because, as hard as it is to believe, the ubiquitous NYC blue and white printed Amphora cups weren't created until 1963.
Producer Darryl F. Zanuck considered Lee J. Cobb for the part of Dave Woods, then later as Harris. John Hodiak and John Ireland were considered for the role of Chief Robinson, which went to Lee J. Cobb. Walter Huston, Fredric March and Joseph Cotten were considered to play Henry Harvey. Frank Latimore was considered to play John Waldron. John Payne and Margo Woode were considered for the leads.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
The film is based on a true incident, which took place on Feb. 4, 1924. Father Hubert Dahme, a popular Catholic priest, was shot to death at the intersection of High and Main Street in Bridgeport, CT. After an intense police search, homeless veteran Harold Israel was arrested. He was identified by witnesses and linked to the crime by other evidence, and eventually confessed to the murder but later recanted. At the arraignment, prosecutor Homer Stille Cummings dropped all charges and discredited the police case against Israel, insisting the evidence was largely circumstantial and that the confession was coerced from the mentally impaired Israel. Cummings told the court that "it is just as important for a state's attorney to use the great powers of his office to protect the innocent as it is to convict the guilty." Cummings was appointed Attorney General by President Franklin Roosevelt. The murder of Father Dahme was never solved.