Based on Richard Brooks' first novel, THE BRICK FOXHOLE (New York, 1945), written while he was still a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. One of the many subplots of the novel dealt with homophobia, but that was changed to anti-Semitism and became the focus of the story for the film. The decision was made by producer Adrian Scott, who had purchased the rights to the novel, knowing any depiction of homosexuality would not get past the Production Code Administration.
It has been suggested that one reason the film failed to win any Oscars was due to director Edward Dmytryk and producer Adrian Scott refusing to state when testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in late 1947 whether they were, or had been, communists. Dmytryk - a Canadian who had become an American citizen only a decade earlier - and Scott became the first two members of the infamous "Hollywood Ten," a group of producers, writers and directors who in April 1948 were tried and convicted for contempt of Congress and subsequently blacklisted and unable to work in Hollywood.
Thanks to cinematographer J. Roy Hunt, the film's atmospheric low-key lighting was accomplished quickly and efficiently. This explains why the film only took 24 days to shoot. It also resulted in one of the most visually impressive films noir ever made.
Because of the film's tight shooting schedule, it was able to beat the similarly-themed Gentleman's Agreement (1947) into theaters by 3-1/2 months and stole some of its thunder. However, that year's Oscar acclaim went to Gentleman's Agreement (1947), which won three out of its eight nominations, including Best Picture, whereas Crossfire (1947) was overlooked for all five of its nominations.
Gloria Grahame was borrowed from M-G-M. She earned her first of two Oscar nominations. She would later win an Oscar in M-G-M's The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), also in the Best Supporting Actress category.
The coffee maker in Ginny's room is a vacuum coffee maker, invented in Germany in the 1830s. Also known as a vacpot or siphon coffee maker, it brews coffee using two chambers where vapor pressure forces the hot water into the upper chamber. When it has steeped with the coffee grounds, the heat is removed thereby lowering the pressure in the lower chamber which then draws the hot mixture back down the siphon, through a filter, to produce the coffee. In the film it overflows because no one has stirred the coffee grounds and turned off the heat.
In Richard Brooks' novel, the character Montgomery kills Samuels not because he is Jewish, but because he is homosexual. Production Code Administration head Joseph I. Breen described the novel in a July 17, 1945 letter to RKO executive William Gordon, as "thoroughly and completely unacceptable, on a dozen or more counts." In February 1947, after screenwriter John Paxton had completely eliminated the homosexual plot line from the story, Breen endorsed the project, but cautioned that the final film should contain "no suggestion of a 'pansy' characterization about Samuels or his relationship with the soldiers."
A March 1947 New York Times article described Crossfire (1947) as one of the first Hollywood films of the 1940s to "face questions of racial and religious prejudice with more forthright courage than audiences have been accustomed to expect."
Executive producer Dore Schary's first film as the short-lived head of production at RKO. He resigned from RKO in July 1948 due to clashes with the studio's new owner, Howard Hughes, and soon accepted an offer to take over as head of production at M-G-M.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Despite receiving an Academy Award nomination, Robert Ryan rarely talked about his breakthrough role because he wasn't too happy about the negative aspects of his character - who was a murderous, anti-Semitic psychopath - that resulted in him being typecast in similarly villainous roles. In real life, Ryan was a committed liberal progressive who detested any form of bigotry.
Robert Ryan and Richard Brooks - the author of the novel, THE BRICK FOXHOLE, on which this film was based - both served in the U.S. Marine Corps during WW II. Ryan asked Brooks that if his book was ever accepted by Hollywood, would he consider Ryan for the unsympathetic role of Montgomery. Ryan met Brooks in the library at Camp Pendleton, the California Marine Corps base where they were both stationed, and told him he was was determined to play the movie role of the villain, because, he insisted, "I know that son of a bitch. No one knows him better than I do". Two years later, outside the theater where the film had just previewed, Ryan - who had indeed played the role he had once sought - asked Brooks, "What do you think?"