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The working title of this film was The Raging Men. Although most contemporary sources list the film's running time as 110 minutes, the Daily Variety and Variety reviews list the running time as 104 minutes at a preview showing, and the Hollywood Reporter review gives a running time of 101 minutes. Several reviewers noted that the title was taken from an Irish proverb: "Those who shake hands with the devil often find they have trouble getting their hands back." The onscreen credits note that Michael Redgrave and Sybil Thorndike appear by "specail arrangement." According to an April 18, 1958 Los Angeles Times news item, Anthony Perkins was originally set to co-star in the film.
The picture was filmed at the Ardmore Studios in Bray, Ireland, and as stated in the credits, "on actual Irish locations," including the streets of Dublin. Although some contemporary sources state that Shake Hands with the Devil was the first American picture to be filmed entirely in Ireland, The Quiet Man was shot on location in Ireland in 1951. Shake Hands with the Devil was the first American film shot at Ardmore Studios, however, and was the first production of both Troy Films, which was Michael Anderson's production company, and Pennebaker, Inc., which was founded by Marlon Brando and his father, Marlon Brando, Sr., in 1955. Producers George Glass and Walter Seltzer, who were also partners in Pennebaker, were former press agents who made their producing debut with this picture.
As noted by studio publicity, the film marked the screen debut of actress Marianne Benet. Don Murray and Dana Wynter were borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production. A Hollywood Reporter casting note indicates that Maureen Halligan was to be appear in the film, but her appearance in the released picture has not been confirmed. According to a New York Times article, Lt. Col. William O'Kelly, the picture's special military adviser, was formerly a member of the Irish Republican Army.
The film depicts a period of the Irish "troubles," during which the "Black and Tans," consisting of former soldiers recruited by the British government, attempted to quell the Irish nationalist rebellion in 1920. Feared for their brutal methods, the Black and Tans were disbanded with the creation of the Irish Free State by the treaty of December 6, 1921. Although the film does not specify which part of Ireland was subject to the treaty, only the southern counties gained dominion status and became the country of Eire. Northern Ireland remains British territory. According to an July 8, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, Shake Hands with the Devil was banned from exhibition in Northern Ireland, where officials feared that the film would incite riots due to its subject matter. The ban was lifted in late August 1959, however, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item.