Gloria Grahame did not want to be in this movie; Howard Hughes admitted that he never saw her previous performance opposite Humphrey Bogart in the film In a Lonely Place (1950), which is today unanimously considered among her finest performances. When Grahame asked to be loaned out to make George Stevens's A Place in the Sun (1951), Hughes turned down her request and forced her to make this movie (she reportedly dryly told her then-husband and uncredited director Nicholas Ray, who she was in the process of divorcing, that she wouldn't ask for alimony if he could get her out of this movie). Grahame later stated that she intentionally over-acted out of hatred for Hughes.
Producer Howard Hughes fired director Josef von Sternberg about a third of the way through and shot the rest with Nicholas Ray. However, in the Spring 1972 edition of "Focus on Film: screenwriter Walter Newman said he and Nicholas Ray were asked by RKO production boss Jerry Wald to write and direct three scenes that "tied the story together a bit." Newman sad he did a love scene in a Chinese junk with Mitchum and Russell.
When Lawrence Trumble is getting himself a shave, he speaks to the Chinese salon lady in one of the Chinese languages. She replies to him asking about baseball - either Yankees or Dodgers. Macao was released in 1952 and in the same year New York Yankees defeated Brooklyn Dodgers 4-3 to take the Major League Baseball title.