Besides looking far too old for his character, Gary Cooper was actually quite ill during shooting, and participated in this film against the advice of his doctors. Towards the end of the film he was dragged 100 yards along the ground by a railroad handcar, something film critic Stanley Kauffmann complained about in an issue in the magazine New Republic.
In a 1960 interview John Wayne criticized this film and Montgomery Clift's Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), both of which treated homosexuality (in this film because of an implied homosexual relationship between the characters played by Gary Cooper and Tab Hunter), as "poison polluting Hollywood's moral bloodstream." The latter, he said, was "too disgusting even for discussion."
Dick York suffered a back injury during the filming of this movie and never fully recovered from it. Continuing back problems forced him off of the TV show Bewitched (1964) in 1969 and effectively ended his career. He spent his last years in poverty.
John Wayne said, "How they got Gary Cooper to do that one! To me, at least, it simply degrades the Medal of Honor. The whole story makes a mockery of America's highest award for valor. The whole premise of the story was wrong, illogical, because they don't pick the type of men the movie picked to win the award, and that can be proved by the very history of the award."
There were rumors that Gary Cooper had undergone surgery earlier that year, although officially he did not undergo surgery for cancer until April 1960. He had also had a full facelift in April 1958, but the procedure was largely unsuccessful.