The term "shanghai'd" dates back to the 1840s. Skippers of the China Clipper ships had trouble getting sailors to man the ships because most preferred to join the gold rush. Crooked bartenders would, for a price, slip a likely man a "Mickey Finn" (chloral hydrate) in his drink to knock him out. The man would wake up later "shanghai'd" and on his way to China as a deckhand.
John Ford didn't like James Grant's screenplay so had Frank Nugent re-write it. John Wayne himself said he preferred the original script because the re-write lost a lot of good stuff that involved Lee Marvin.
Because of the age difference, John Wayne felt very uncomfortable with the romantic scenes with Elizabeth Allen, and asked John Ford to cast Maureen O'Hara opposite him instead. Ford refused and replied "Are you going to be the one who tells her she's perfect because she's old?". After this movie, Wayne made the decision to confine his romantic interests to mature women.
During the scene where Amelia is wishing to "charter the Araner", Donovan states that he owns the Araner and a boat named the Inisfree. Inisfree is the name of the village in Ireland in which The Quiet Man (1952), another John Wayne / John Ford film, takes place. Araner is the name of John Ford's personal yacht, which is the actual ship used in this film.
In the beginning, Gilhooley tells the captain who "shanghai'd" him that they were supposed to be at the island "on the 7th". Taking into account the time-line of the movie, ending on Christmas, that would make Donovan and Gilhooley's birthday as December 7th, the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
A few years later John Wayne suggested Lee Marvin should make another film with him. However Marvin had become a major star after Cat Ballou (1965) and told Wayne that he was no longer interested in playing supporting roles. Wayne could never really believe that Marvin was being paid $1 million per film in the late 1960s.
John Wayne's character's full name is Michael Patrick Donovan. However, he is rarely referred to by his given name. He is called either "Guns" or, occasionally, "Donovan" by most people throughout the movie. His full name is used only once, by Amelia when reading from the monument. He is called "Mike" several times, including the Captain of the Araner, LaFleur and Andre. As "Michael" by Sister Angelique (in French), Sister Mary Margaret, Andre and by Amelia on several occasions. Most notably Amelia, during their last scene, where she addresses him as "Michael" three times and "Michael Donovan" once.