This film launched the rock 'n' roll era, especially in American movies, by using "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets as its theme. The song was chosen for the titles after it was heard among records owned by Peter Ford, son of the film's star, Glenn Ford (proving phony the original belief that the producer's daughter had discovered the song.) "Rock Around the Clock" had not been largely ignored until it was heard in the movie, after which it soon shot to No. 1 around the world, and eventually sold an estimated 25 million copies. In an embarrassing miscalculation, MGM could have owned the complete rights to the song, but it ignored writer/director Richard Brooks's advice to buy it outright; instead, being penny-wise and pound-foolish, for a few dollars less, the studio merely purchased the film-use rights to the mega-hit song.
The original novel was based on author Evan Hunter's own experiences as a teacher in New York City's tough South Bronx area. Hunter, who found fame as crime writer Ed McBain said, "I thought I was going to give these kids who want to be motor mechanics Shakespeare and they were going to appreciate it and they weren't buying it. I went home in tears night after night".
Clare Boothe Luce, then U.S. Ambassador to Italy, prevented the film from being shown at the Venice Film Festival. Also, a Senate committee had decided that the film would not have beneficial effects on contemporary youth. But both incidents only served to increase publicity and ticket sales for the controversial movie.
The film was initially rejected for a UK cinema certificate by the BBFC in March 1955. It was resubmitted again in August where it was then cut by around 6 minutes to remove uses of threatening dialogue and the entire climactic switchblade scene between Dadier and Artie. It would later be passed completely uncut for video and DVD with a 12 certificate.
Paul McCartney stated in The Beatles Anthology Book that when he was fifteen and George Harrison was fourteen they had a great desire to see the film because "Rock Around The Clock" was its theme. However, they needed to be sixteen to gain entrance. Because George looked so young, Paul took some dirt and rubbed it on George's upper lip to try and make a mustache. The rouse worked and they both were admitted, with Paul stating that the duo were rather disappointed and bored by the film because it was all acting and talking, and not anything salacious as they had hoped.
When having a drink in the bar with Dadier, Joshua Edwards refers to "Stan the man" who is big band leader Stan Kenton. The song they're listening to on the jukebox is "Invention for Guitar and Trumpet" featuring Sal Salvador and Maynard Ferguson from Kenton's 1953 album "New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm".