Producer Jack L. Warner was strongly opposed to the casting of James Stewart, which he believed caused the film to flop on its release in 1957. Warner felt a young and less well-known actor was needed to play Lindbergh.
James Stewart was given the role of Charles A. Lindbergh after John Kerr had turned it down, owing to his disapproval of Lindbergh's pro-Nazi sympathies and his racist and anti-Semitic views. This was despite the fears of the producers that Stewart was too old for the part.
One of the replicas of "The Spirit of St. Louis" built for this film is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan while another is at the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The nonworking ground replica used at the Paris Airport is hanging from the ceiling of Terminal One at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, formerly the Lindbergh Terminal.
Early in the film Lindbergh is disturbed in his hotel room bed by the song "Rio Rita" playing loudly on a radio or record player. Lindbergh was on the way to see the Broadway show "Rio Rita" when he learned that the weather might be good enough the next day for his flight to Paris. He took off the next morning.
After the film received bad notices from preview audiences, it was extensively re-edited with some new footage shot. Composer Franz Waxman was no longer available so veteran film composer Roy Webb was hired along with Warner Brothers Music Director Ray Heindorf to come up with new cues based on Waxman's original material. The Main Title was altered to add "La Marseillaise" to the tail end. Other cues were rewritten, especially the entire buildup to and including the landing at Le Bourget. This sequence had been more straight forward with Lindbergh landing his plane. In the revised version, he became disoriented and at one point asked for God's help. The Heindorf/Webb replacement cue utilized Waxman's themes interwoven into a stunning cue which was expertly conducted by Heindorf. The cue ends as Lindbergh shuts off the engine. All-in-all, about fifteen minutes of new music was mixed into the final film.
There was a scale model (approx. 1/5 the size) of the Spirit in the old Air Museum in San Diego's Balboa Park before the museum burned down in 1976. The museum hired an elderly lady to talk to the visitors who looked at the model. She claimed that her husband was in the group photo of the team who built the original Spirit. She also said that she had some of the scrap fabric left over from the construction. She told a story about each of the team members, including the secretary. Lindbergh is on one end and wearing a crumpled hat. She explained that the hat belonged to a man on the other end of the picture, and Lindbergh grabbed it as a joke and ran around to the other end of the group just before the picture was taken. The taking of this picture is in the movie, but Lindbergh is out of place, and he's not wearing a hat. Sadly, the model was lost in the fire.
Charles A. Lindbergh became a highly controversial figure during World War II due to his extreme opposition to helping Britain against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. He made remarks which were condemned as anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi.
In Charles Lindberghs first view of Ireland, he flies over 'Skellig Island', this is the same island featured in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), when Rey (Daisy Ridley) meets Luke (Mark Hamill) for the first time.
While discussing the wing-walking stunts of the barnstorming section of the film with producer Leland Hayward, director Billy Wilder said that he bet he could wing-walk. Hayward bet him $50 that he wouldn't. Hayward lost. An Associated Press wirephoto was published in newspapers 29 March 1956 showing Wilder on the top wing of a Curtiss JN-4 Jenny biplane over Costa Mesa, California. Wilder donated the bet to the Damon Runyon Cancer fund.
The first flight of "The Spirit of St. Louis" was at Ryan Aircraft's Dutch Flats airfield, then a salt-flats area in San Diego located just north of the present-day Marine Corps Recruit Depot not far from Lindbergh Field at San Diego International Airport. The location site used in the film is a desert salt-flats area with mountains in the background and no water in sight. In San Diego, Dutch Flats was long ago drained and today is the site of small businesses in what is now-called the Midway district sandwiched between the airport and Mission Bay.
A most accurate replica of the Spirit of St. Louis took first public flight in 2016 on the 89th anniversary of Lindy's amazing accomplishment. The plane was built, test flown and made its first public flight from the field where built and hangared in Rhinebeck, NY. The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is the location. See great video of the event on YouTube. Visit the Aerodrome to see the Spirit and an amazing collection of early airplanes and museum.
When Frank shows a newspaper to Lindbergh at the plane building facility, telling of the death of Wooster and Davis, the paper's headline reads,"Order Levee Cut to Save New Orleans." This recalls the order to blow up the Mississippi River levee to avoid flooding the city, immortalized in the Randy Newman ballad,"Louisiana 1927," the same year the historic flight was made.