In the funeral scene, the dog consistently refused to look into the grave. Finally, director George Stevens had the dog's trainer lie down in the bottom of the grave, and the dog played his part ably. The coffin (loaded with rocks for appropriate effect) was then lowered into the grave, but when the harmonica player began to play "Taps" spontaneously, the crew was so moved by the scene that they began shoveling dirt into the grave before remembering the dog's trainer was still there.
Jean Arthur, then over 50, came out of semi-retirement to play Marian Starrett, largely as a favor to her friend, director George Stevens. She would retire completely from the film business after this picture.
According to the commentary on the DVD, during the scene where Shane and Joe are fighting in the corral, the tied horses were supposed to panic. To instill hysteria in the horses, director George Stevens had two men dress in bear costumes to scare them.
During the filming Jack Palance had problems with his horse. In the scene at the Starrett ranch where Alan Ladd (Shane) and Palance (Jack Wilson) first look each other over. Palance was to dismount for a minute then remount his horse. He could not remount, so the director had Jack dismount his horse slowly, then ran the film in reverse for the remount.
The film cost so much to make that at one point Paramount considered selling it to another distributor, feeling that it would never earn back what it cost to make. It ended up making a significant profit.
Alan Ladd was only 5'6", and this had to be compensated for. When he is in scenes with Van Heflin the two are about the same height, although Heflin was far taller. When Ladd is shown with Jean Arthur he is perhaps a bit taller than she. When Heflin is shown with her, Heflin is far taller than she.
The first flat widescreen color Western. Although shot in 1.37:1 Academy ratio, the studio dictated that it be cropped in the movie projector to compete with the new CinemaScope format. The music was also recorded in stereo.
Meticulous care was taken at all levels of production. All the physical props were true to the period, the buildings were built to the specifications of the time and the clothing was completely authentic. Director George Stevens even had somewhat scrawny-looking cattle imported from other areas, as the local herds looked too well-fed and healthy.
One of the Ryker men in the fist fight with Shane, listed in the cast as Rex Moore, would be better known to viewers as Clayton Moore--The Lone Ranger. "Shane" was filmed while Moore was in a salary dispute with Jack Wrather, producer of The Lone Ranger (1949), and John Hart had replaced him on the show Moore eventually got his raise and resumed his legendary role.
Shane's fancy gun twirling in the climactic showdown was actually performed by Rodd Redwing. Earlier, when Shane demonstrates his prowess for Joey, and it is clearly Alan Ladd himself on camera, the actor had been given a different, easier-to-use revolver for the scene.
The background music played when Shane walks into the bar for the final confrontation with Ryker and Wilson is the exact same music played in The Glass Key (1942), also starring Alan Ladd. The music and rhythmic drum beating occur during two different scenes, one early on in the film when Ladd confronts several villains and then later on in the film, again during a confrontation with them.
In the face-off between Wilson (Jack Palance) and Torrey (Elisha Cook Jr.), Torrey tells Wilson that he is "a low-down, lyin' Yankee". Although director George Stevens kept directing Palance at this point to smile--an expression of amused contempt at Cook--Palance continued take after take to show too much menace and not enough of a smile mixed in. Finally Stevens took Cook aside and whispered something to him. During the next take, Cook read his line, and added "and a son of a bitch, too!" This time, Stevens got his take. When Shane faces Wilson, Shane says, "You're a low-down Yankee liar".
Jean Arthur, a committed animal lover, took it upon herself to personally inspect the conditions that the film's roster of livestock were being kept in. If they weren't up to her satisfaction, she would ensure that the matter was rectified.
The scenes of Joey chasing after Shane when he rides off to the final battle, and the classic subsequent "come back Shane!" scene happen in the dead of night in the film (in a day for night style), but in the accompanying trailer on current home video releases, the scenes are shown happening during broad daylight.
Although the movie is generally remembered for its blue sky vistas, the weather was actually cloudy or rainy for a great deal of the shoot. However, if you look beyond the mud in the town, you can see that the ground is dry. Obviously, part of the town had been watered down.
Van Heflin and Alan Ladd became firm friends during the making of the film. In later years, Heflin's wife said one of the very rare times she ever saw her husband cry was when he learned of Ladd's premature death.
The film was completed in 1951 but George Stevens' editing process was so rigorous that it wasn't released until 1953. This drove up the costs of what should have been a simple, straightforward Western; in fact, they spiraled so much that Paramount approached Howard Hughes about taking on the property, but he declined. He changed his mind when he saw a rough cut and offered to buy the film on the spot. This made Paramount rethink its strategy--originally it was going to release it as a "B" picture but then decided it should be one of the studio's flagship films of the year. This proved to be a good decision, as the film was a major success and easily recouped its inflated budget.
Having witnessed during his WW2 service the profound effects a bullet could have on a man, realism was important to George Stevens during the making of the film. This therefore is one of the first movies to use stunt wires to pull the actors or stuntmen backwards to simulate when they've been shot.
Prior to this film, Jack Palance was better known as a theater actor and had no experience with horses and guns. When he arrived on set, the film was subject to delays so Palance spent all his spare time practicing getting on and off horses and improving his ability with pistols. By the time filming resumed, he had become highly proficient at both.