When Humphrey Bogart was told that director Nicholas Ray wanted to film the entire 'sentencing statement for the defense' sequence in a single take, Bogart was concerned because he had never delivered such a long speech without cuts and feared he couldn't do it. Ray calmed Bogart down, suggested several rehearsals, and much to Bogart's surprise, Ray rolled during the rehearsals filming most of what has become the famous and well-played sentencing sequence.
The book by Willard Motley was a best seller. It was serialized in the William Randolph Hearst newspapers and abridged versions appeared in Look Magazine and Omnibook (a Reader's Digest-type of magazine of the day).
Humphrey Bogart offered Marlon Brando the role of Nick Romano, even visiting him backstage at a production of "A Streetcar Named Desire". Brando lost interest but loved Nick's coda: "Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse."
Producer Mark Hellinger had owned the rights to the novel and was planning to film it when he opened his own production company in late 1947. Humphrey Bogart was to be a partner in Mark Hellinger Productions. However, Hellinger died in December 1947. It is probable that Bogart purchased the rights from Hellinger's estate some time in 1948, and this film was the first production of Bogart's independent company, Santana.