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Onscreen credits include the following written acknowledgment: "We proudly present this motion picture as a tribute to the United States Navy and especially to the men of the Naval Air and Surface Forces of the Pacific Fleet whose cooperation made this picture possible." James Michener's novelette was first published in the July 6, 1953 issue of Life magazine. Paramount's $100,000 purchase of the book in July 1953 caused some controversy, as M-G-M had recently acquired an article by Michener titled "Forgotten Heroes of Korea," which was similar in theme to The Bridges at Toko-Ri. According to an August 1953 Variety item, M-G-M production head Edward J. Mannix and Paramount production head Don Hartman worked out an agreement whereby the plots of the two proposed pictures would not "look alike on the screen." M-G-M released Men of the Fighting Lady in 1954 . According to a September 1953 Army Archerd Daily Variety column, Paramount also agreed not to release The Bridges at Toko-Ri until a year after the M-G-M film's release.
According to modern sources, William Holden accepted his part in the film on condition that the tragic ending of Michener's book not be changed for the screen. As noted in a November 1953 Daily Variety news item, Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, Walter Abel, Walter Pidgeon and director William A. Wellman were considered for the role of "Rear Adm. George Tarrant," before Fredric March was cast. Paramount borrowed Grace Kelly from M-G-M for the production. When cast in early 1954, Kelly was still a relative unknown, but by the time the film was released in 1955, she had won a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in Paramount's The Country Girl, which also co-starred Holden , and was awarded billing above March and Mickey Rooney. Hollywood Reporter news items add Duke Fishman, George Champ, Mimi Gibson and Fred Revalala to the cast, and note that Jerry Sheldon, Dana Andrews' stand-in, had been given a role, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
Location and background filming took place in Korea and Japan, including Tokyo and Yokosuka Naval Base, according to news items. Despite pre-production predictions that the U.S. Navy and Dept. of Defense would not cooperate on the picture because of prior commitments to the M-G-M project, Paramount received permission to film at sea on an unnamed U.S. aircraft carrier. Rear Adm. John B. Pearson helped arrange the carrier-based filming, according to a January 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item. Modern sources note that onboard shooting took place in the Yellow Sea, 300 miles from Tokyo. The Bridges at Toko-Ri won an Academy Award for Best Special Effects.