The poster showing Marilyn Monroe in a purple dress was created much later, after she became a household name. Monroe was basically unknown when the film was made in 1950, and only has a very small role. She certainly wouldn't have been given top billing at the time. In fact, she wasn't named on the original posters at all.
Both actor/director John Huston and star Sterling Hayden were members of the Committee for the First Amendment, which stood against the blacklisting of alleged Communists working in the film industry during the Red Scare. Huston had never been a Communist, although Hayden at one point had been.
John Huston first met Sterling Hayden in Washington, DC, during a protest against the House Un-American Activities Committee investigation of "subversives" in the film industry. When the pair met to discuss the project, Huston said to Hayden, "I've admired you for a long time, Sterling. They don't know what to make of a guy like you in this business." Huston was honest with Hayden about his chance for the lead role. Hayden recounts in his autobiography Huston's pitch: "Now, Sterling, I want you to do this part. The studio does not. They want a top name star. They say you mean nothing when it comes to box-office draw--I told them there aren't five names in this town [that] mean a damn thing at the box office. Fortunately, they're not making this picture. I am. Now let me tell you about Dix Handley . . . Dix is you and me and every other man who can't fit into the groove." Rumored to be fighting severe alcohol and psychiatric problems, Hayden landed the role of Handley, his first major starring role, over the objection of MGM chief Dore Schary. Hayden's gritty performance proved many Hollywood naysayers flat wrong. For instance, Hayden himself was nervous about the climactic scene in the picture, when Dix breaks down in tears in front of Jean Hagen. According to the director, though, Hayden did not have anything to worry about. After the actor delivered the scene beautifully, Huston took Hayden aside and said, "The next time somebody says you can't act, tell them to call Huston."
During the production, Walter Huston came to Hollywood for his son John Huston's 44th birthday party. Two days later, with John at his side, the legendary actor of stage and screen died of heart failure at age 66.
At least two versions exist as to how Marilyn Monroe came to be cast in the film. One has an employee of MGM's talent department suggesting that John Huston try out Monroe, with Huston immediately recognizing her as perfect for the role after her sensual audition. Another version, as supported by MGM archives, has Monroe as a "dark horse" contender for the role. Huston had reportedly already chosen blond actress Lola Albright for the role. When a very nervous Monroe auditioned for the part, Huston was not impressed. However, Albright had recently found success with a supporting role in Champion (1949), so it was unlikely she would accept a small role in a crime melodrama. Huston tested eight other starlets, but Monroe stayed in the running, mainly because of the persistence of MGM talent director Lucille Ryman Carroll. Huston remained adamant that Monroe wouldn't fit the bill, until Carroll prevailed by taking advantage of an ironic coincidence.
First feature film role for Brad Dexter in which he was actually credited as Brad Dexter. In his previous credited roles he was credited as Barry Mitchell, but for this film, director John Huston convinced him to change his professional name to Brad Dexter. Dexter decided to keep the name.
When the film was being prepared for a British bow, the producers hesitated because it was so full of American slang. At the time, films heavy with slang were usually re-dubbed for English audiences. Gerard Fairlie, the British author of the "Bulldog Drummond" adventure stories, was called upon as a consultant, and he advised against re-dubbing, even though some words would go right over the heads of British viewers. The film was not re-dubbed and earned good box-office returns in England.
John Huston, an avid horseman, had a team of Irish stallions boarded and trained at MGM talent executive Lucille Ryman Carroll's ranch, and he happened to be $18,000 in arrears for payments to the ranch. On a Sunday afternoon in September, Carroll and her husband invited Huston out to the ranch and made him an offer he couldn't refuse, to borrow a line from another movie. Carroll informed Huston that if he did not allow Marilyn Monroe another shot at the role, the ranch would sell his stallions and collect the money due. Huston did not refuse the terms, and Monroe got another screen test, only this time she had the support of Louis B. Mayer and MGM chief hair stylist Sydney Guilaroff. When Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck saw the film, he again assumed her contract.
All of the dialogue spoken by Alberto Morin, who played Eddie Donato, was dubbed in by another actor--probably because Morin, who was born in Puerto Rico, had a pronounced Puerto Rican accent and Eddie Donato was supposed to be Italian.
The film was colorized by Turner Entertainment Co. in the late 1980s. In July 1989 John Huston's heirs made an unsuccessful attempt to prevent a colorized version of the film from being broadcast on French television, but they lost their case in French court. The case pitted the country's longstanding legal protection of authors' rights against the legal standing of contracts signed in the US between directors and studios. The colorized version was broadcast in 1989, but in 1994 the appeals court in Versailles reversed the 1989 ruling and fined Turner 400,000 francs (then about $74,000) for having broadcast the colorized version.
A February 1950 "Daily Variety" news item noted that John Maxwell, who plays a doctor in the picture, "made such a hit with preview audiences" that MGM re-shot a portion of the title credits to include his name.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The musical scoring (by Miklós Rózsa) is extremely scant, occurring only for the main titles, continuing through the opening sequence up to the point where Handley enters the café, and then returns some 107 minutes later when Handley and Doll return to his boyhood farm. Total scoring just under 6 minutes.
The censors had a conniption over Emmerich's suicide as written in the original script. In the rejected scene, he was to write a short, moving letter to his wife, then take a pistol out of his desk and do the deed. While suicide was a top no-no on the list of forbidden acts, what made the scene more objectionable to the censors was the fact that he was apparently in his right mind. They reasoned that no man in his right mind would commit suicide. According to John Huston, the rewritten suicide in the final film ironically made for a much better scene.