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The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: "The picture you are about to see is based on an actual event which occurred in a prison in the American southwest some time ago. Since that time, the treatment of prisoners and the choice, selection and training of prison guards and prison personnel has improved enormously through the more humane methods of modern scientific penology. The characters in the film, however, are fictitious and are not to be considered as typical of either the American penal system or the people who carry it out."
John Wexley's play was an early, critical success for actor Spencer Tracy, who starred as "Killer Mears" on Broadway. Clark Gable garnered attention from Hollywood film studios when he starred as Mears in the Los Angeles run of the play. In 1932 K. B. S. Film Co. produced a film version of the play, starring Preston Foster and directed by Sam Bischoff (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). An August 1955 Daily Variety item indicated that Richard Conte was offered the starring role in the production planned by R. S. Productions, Inc. The item incorrectly stated that Tracy starred in the 1932 film version. A September 1958 Hollywood Reporter item indicated that the film, which did not go into production until 1958, was shot on location in New York.
According to a March 1959 Daily Variety article, Wexley sued United Artists, Fox West Coast and R. S. Productions for $150,000 in damages for omitting his screen credit. Wexley's name did not appear in the print viewed and the outcome of the suit has not been determined.