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The working title of this film was Bend of the Snake. Hollywood Reporter news items add Frank Conlon to the cast, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to other Hollywood Reporter news items, the film was shot at locations in the Snake River country in Oregon, including the Sandy River, Mt. Hood, the Columbia River Gorge and Timberline. Although the CBCS and contemporary reviews list Arthur Kennedy's character name as "Cole Garrett," he is called "Emerson Cole" in the film. The Hollywood Reporter review mistakenly credits Jay C. Flippen in the role of "Captain Mello," but the part was played by Chubby Johnson.
The film marked the return to the screen of actor Stepin' Fetchit. Fetchit had appeared in only one other film since 1939, the 1948 picture Miracle in Harlem (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther commented that he was sorry to see the African-American actor playing another "clownish stereotype."
Universal-International production notes reveal the following information: Arthur Kennedy sprained his knee while filming the scene in which he beats Jay C. Flippen's character, and was confined to shooting riding scenes until his knee healed; the 8,000 foot shooting elevation required a variety of safety innovations, including the bulldozing of a path up the mountain and another path across the Sandy River; the planting of a steel cable to which covered wagons were attached to keep them from sliding down cliffs; and the use of slow-moving tractors to haul equipment up the mountainside.
Although a May 1967 Hollywood Reporter news item stated that a remake of the film was planned under producer Howard Christie, no remake appears to have been produced. According to modern sources, James Stewart considered Bend of the River to be the most physically demanding film he ever made. Modern sources add Denver Dixon to the cast.