This was the first mainstream American movie to feature footage of Nazi concentration camps following World War II.
Though not as well remembered as some of Orson Welles' more original projects, this was the only film directed by Welles to show a profit in its original release.
Knowing Orson Welles' reputation for long exposition scenes, "International Pictures" gave editor Ernest J. Nims the freedom to cut any sequences from the film that he felt were unnecessary. To Welles' disgust, Nims ended up cutting almost 30 minutes of Welles' final version, including 19 minutes from the film's opening. The footage is believed lost, as even the original negatives have gone missing.
A "Carthaginian peace," as mentioned by the characters, is used to refer to any peace treaty demanding total subjugation of the defeated side. It is based on the defeat of Carthage by Rome and the total destruction of Carthage thereafter. In modern times, it is often used to describe a peace settlement in which the terms imposed by the victor are overly harsh and designed to keep the loser subjugated for a long time, if not forever.
By this time in her career, Loretta Young, like older contemporaries Claudette Colbert and Jean Arthur, was photographed almost exclusively from the left side, or left three-quarters; never was this more evident than in this film.
Orson Welles originally wanted Agnes Moorehead to play the FBI part. believing that it would be much more interesting to have a spinster lady at the heels of this Nazi but studio head,Goetz didn't like the idea said no and instead gave him Edward G. Robinson. Welles worked on the rewrites with original writer Anthony Veiller and an uncredited John Huston, who was in the army at the time, Welles wrote and shot scenes at the begining of the film which he described as ' a whole series of very wild dreamlike events'. These worried Goetz and producer Sam Spiegel , who at the time was using the pseudonym SP Eagel, so out they came.
Another early sequence that was cut by editor Ernest J. Nims was the first meeting of Charles Rankin and Mary Longstreet, in the woods near the town of Harper, Connecticut. Mary tells Rankin about the town's Gothic clock on top of the church, explaining that one of her ancestors brought it to America by sailing ship. They then walk through the church cemetery, as Mary points out the gravestones of her Longstreet ancestors who are buried there. A later scene in the movie recalls this scene, when Mary walks through the graveyard to confront Rankin, who is hiding out inside the church. Mary tells Rankin, "I came by our way, through the cemetery. No one saw me." Given the deletion of the earlier scene, this dialogue doesn't make much sense.
The vast New England town exterior sets, including the church with its 124-foot clock tower, were constructed in Hollywood on the back lot of the United Artists studio located on Santa Monica Blvd. In some production shots taken by LIFE Magazine, the circular metal scaffolding of a huge collapsible natural-gas storage tank can be seen behind some of the sets. The only such tank near a Hollywood studio was a block away from UA.
In an early scene in the movie, the war criminal, Konrad Meineke, is in a South American port, being followed by a female agent, played by Lillian Molieri. Her husband, an agent named Marvales, calls Edward G. Robinson to report, "My wife is following him." This is a leftover scene from the original opening of the movie, filmed by Orson Welles but later cut by editor Ernest J. Nims, featuring a husband-and-wife team of agents shadowing Meineke as he searched for Franz Kindler. The original sequence ended with the wife stumbling upon a Nazi hideout, and being killed by attack dogs.
The quote recited by Mr. Wilson (Edward G. Robinson) is from Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay titled Compensation. "The league between virtue and nature engages all things to assume a hostile front to vice. The beautiful laws and substances of the world persecute and whip the traitor. He finds that things are arranged for truth and benefit, but there is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue. Commit a crime, and the earth is made of glass. Commit a crime, and it seems as if a coat of snow fell on the ground, such as reveals in the woods the track of every partridge and fox and squirrel and mole. You cannot recall the spoken word, you cannot wipe out the foot-track, you cannot draw up the ladder, so as to leave no inlet or clew. Some damning circumstance always transpires. The laws and substances of nature - water, snow, wind, gravitation - become penalties to the thief."
The failure of the original copyright holder to renew the film's copyright resulted in it falling into public domain, meaning that virtually anyone could duplicate and sell a VHS/DVD copy of the film. Therefore, many of the versions of this film available on the market are either severely (and usually badly) edited and/or of extremely poor quality, having been duped from second- or third-generation (or more) copies of the film.
This is one of several films producer Sam Spiegel released under the pseudonym S.P. Eagle, so composer Bronislau Kaper always jokingly referred to this film as "The S. T. Ranger."
During the dinner conversation, a correspondent is mentioned, namely Standish of the London Times in Berlin. This could be a reference to Henry Standish, a war correspondent for the "News Chronicle," a UK daily paper that closed in 1960 after 30 years in existence. (Standish is quoted in 1945's "What Buchenwald Really Means" by Victor Gollancz.) Whether this reference is meant to be the same journalist, and whether the actual Standish wrote an article similar to the one discussed in the film, cannot be determined.
Rankin's meeting in the forest with Meinike is shot entirely in one take lasting four minutes and ten seconds.
Philip Merivale, who portrayed Mary's father in this film, died before the film's release.
In the scene where Meinike attempts to kill Mr. Wilson, Meinike escapes through a door in the gymnasium which has a sign posted on it. The sign reads "Use at your own risk" and is signed "Coach Roskie." In reality, there was a football coach that lived and coached at Todd School in Woodstock Illinois during the early 1930s when Orson Welles was a student there.
"The Hedda Hopper Show - This Is Hollywood" broadcast a 30-minute radio adaptation of the movie on December 7, 1946, with Edward G. Robinson reprising his film role.
Orson's freedom as a director had been diminishing ever since 'Citizen Kane' and his disagreements with studio head Goetz began at the casting stage with the character of the 'Wilson' role. Welles wanted Agnes Moorehead, believing that it would be much more interesting to have a spinster lady at the heels of the 'Nazi'. Goetz didn't like the idea and Robinson got the part. Welles worked on the rewrites with original writer Anthony Veiller and an uncredited John Huston, who was in the army at the time. He wrote and shot scenes at the begining of the film, which he described as a 'whole series of very wild dream like events. These 'wild events' worried both Goetz and producer Sam Spiegel, who at that time was using the pseudonym S.P. Eagle, so out they came. The final edit was not of Welles' choosing but despite everything it remains a uniquely Welles film.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die," edited by Steven Schneider.
In one scene Orson Welles's character buys a bottle of coke for a nickel. In 2019, that is the equivalent in buying power, due to inflation, to 66 cents. The Coke in the movie appears to be in the classic 6.5 ounce glass bottle. In 2019, the cost of a 8.5 ounce Coke in an aluminum can would cost you between $1.49 and $1.99. So, the cost of a nickel Coke in 1946 was a pretty good deal.
Richard Long was the youngest of the credited cast members. He was only 18 and just out of high school when this movie was filmed. This is only his second appearance on screen in his career. He would go on to become famous for his television roles. However, he died at the at the age of 47 from heart problems, five years younger than Edward G. Robinson was at the time this film was made.