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The following acknowledgment appears onscreen after the opening credits: "Grateful acknowledgment is made to The National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior for their assistance in photographing the natural beauty of Grand Teton National Park." According to contemporary news items, the film rights to the A. B. Guthrie, Jr. novel on which this picture is based were purchased by Howard Hawks in March 1950 for approximately $40,000. A New York Times article noted that Guthrie retained the film rights to the unused portions of his novel for a possible sequel. Guthrie's novel The Big Sky was the first of a trilogy. The second book, The Way West, won a Pulitzer Prize and was filmed by United Artists in 1967 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). The third book, These Thousand Hills, was filmed by Twentieth Century-Fox in 1959 and was directed by Richard Fliescher and starred Don Murray and Richard Egan (see below).
According to information contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in August 1950 the PCA raised objections to "three major items" in the script. In addition to scenes depicting what the PCA believed to be gratuitous "brutality and gruesomeness," it criticized the excessive drinking in the script and "the suggestion that one of the principals, Boone, sleeps with the Indian girl, Teal Eye, only to wake up the next morning and find that he has married her." The PCA called this sequence "unacceptable under the [Production] Code," and demanded that the script be re-written to have Boone married to Teal Eye in a way that "does not involve his having pre-marital experience with her."
Hollywood Reporter news items note that production on the picture was set to begin in August 1950 in Jackson Hole, WY, but because of excessive snowfall in the area, shooting was delayed for a year. According to a November 13, 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, The Big Sky marked the first time in Hollywood history that a "$2,000,000 outdoor drama has been completed without using a single frame of process photography." The news item also noted that nine weeks of shooting by the first unit was followed by twelve weeks of second unit shooting at Jackson Hole, WY, and eight weeks of interior shooting at the RKO Pathe lot. Second unit footage also included a Crow Indian buffalo kill, shot in Big Horn, MT, according to an October 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item. Although the film's preview running time was 140 minutes, the picture was cut to 122 minutes before its general release. The Big Sky was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and Arthur Hunnicutt was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Modern sources add Cactus Mack to the cast.