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Although John O. Killens and Nelson Gidding were given screen credit for the screenplay when the picture was initially released, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) restored the credit of blacklisted writer Abraham Polonsky in 1996. WGA's press release stated that the writers' credits should read: "Screenplay by Abraham Polonsky and Nelson Gidding, Based on the novel by William P. McGivern." According to a modern source, Killens was a front for Polonsky. HarBel Productions, Inc. was Harry Belafonte's independent production company. According to a November 1958 Hollywood Reporter news item, Richard Widmark was in negotiations to co-star. Except for one sequence, the entire film was shot in New York City.
An October 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Gloria Grahame threatened a $100,000 lawsuit against United Artists, demanding that they refrain from using certain photos of her in publicity for the film on the grounds that they were candid and taken without her knowledge. The photographs were taken by co-star Robert Ryan. The outcome of Grahame's demand has not been determined.
Harry Belafonte performs vocals on one of the picture's songs, "My Baby's Not Around." According to modern sources, John Lewis' score was performed by a large orchestra that included Milt Jackson on vibes, Percy Heath on bass, Connie Kay on drums, Bill Evans on piano, and Jim Hall on guitar. The Variety reviewer commented on the presence of the word "ofay," a derogatory term for whites, in the film and also noted that the picture presented "a unique view (for films) of a normal, middle-class Negro home." The picture marked Wayne Rogers' film debut. Although not a crucial element in the plot, one of the characters, a henchman of the mobster "Bacco," is portrayed as a homosexual who flirts with Belafonte's character, "Johnny Ingram."