Robert Aldrich rather cattily laid the blame for the film's box office failure at the door of Jack Palance, claiming that he didn't have leading man looks. This obviously didn't bother both parties too much as Palance worked with Aldrich several times later in his career, starting with Attack (1956) the following year.
The scandalous cover-up depicted in the film is supposedly based on a real-life incident involving a young John Huston. Louis B. Mayer apparently paid gossip columnist Louella Parsons a large sum of money not to disclose the incident in her column.
Stanley Shriner Hoff was an amalgam of various studio heads and not - as many believed - a direct parody of Columbia head Harry Cohn. (Hoff's penchant for crying was borrowed from one of Louis B. Mayer's more idiosyncratic traits.) Nevertheless, Harry Cohn took personal offense at the characterization.
Two years later, Robert Aldrich's career looked all but over when he was fired from a Columbia movie called The Garment Jungle (1957). Columbia head Harry Cohn happily handed him his marching papers when he realized halfway through filming that this was the same director who had made The Big Knife (1955). Although he was never officially blacklisted, Aldrich had real difficulty securing other work and had to go to Europe where he made the Hammer film Ten Seconds to Hell (1959) and the Biblical epic Sodom and Gomorrah (1962).
The original Broadway production of "The Big Knife" by Clifford Odets opened at the National Theater on February 24, 1949, ran for 109 performances and closed on May 28, 1949. Directed by Lee Strasberg, the play starred John Garfield as Charles Castle.