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Jules Furthman's credit reads: "Written and produced by Jules Furthman." According to a September 13, 1948 Hollywood Reporter article, Paul Short bought the original story for Jet Pilot, written by Robert Hardy Andrews, and planned to produce the film with a cast including Audie Murphy, Rory Calhoun and Rhonda Fleming. On September 23, 1948, however, Daily Variety reported that producer and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes had purchased the story, which the article erroneously stated was written by Short.
Tight security and multiple personnel changes marked the film's complicated production history, which, according to various sources, lasted more than eighteen months. According to late 1949 Hollywood Reporter news items, Hughes considered George Marshall as a director. Modern sources indicate that Hughes briefly hired director Peter Godfrey, then replaced him with Josef von Sternberg, who worked on the film until February 1950. According to a June 1949 Hollywood Reporter item, Robert Stevenson was also considered to direct, and Robert Sparks to produce. Hollywood Reporter news items and modern sources note that several directors shot background and 2d unit footage for the picture, including Jules Furthman, Byron Haskin and Don Siegel.
Hollywood Reporter news items recount several delays in production due to last-minute script changes, retakes and budget cutting. According to a November 21, 1949 Hollywood Reporter article, the Air Force cooperated with the production, which required tight security measures. Hughes hired experienced fliers to pilot the military jets, including, according a modern source, world-famous pilot Chuck Yeager, who had broken the sound barrier in 1947. Information found in Hollywood Reporter items and the RKO production files contained at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library list various locations for the filming, including such Air Forces bases as March Field, Hamilton Field and Edwards in California, Lowry Field in Colorado, Kelly Field in Texas, and Eglin Field in Florida; Metro Airport in Los Angeles, San Antonio, TX, North Dakota, Reno and Las Vegas, NV and others. Jet Pilot marked the last released film of actor Richard Rober. The actor died in May 1952. Modern sources add the following photographers to the crew: William Clothier, Thomas Turwiler, Hans Koenecamp, Harold Willman and Kenneth Peach.
Although release dates for Jet Pilot were announced in Hollywood Reporter news items in 1951, 1953 and 1955, in February 1957, it was included in a package of completed films that RKO sold to Universal-International, when that studio took over the U. S. and Canadian distribution and sales of all RKO films. Before this deal, Hughes had loaned RKO $8,000,000, using The Conqueror and Jet Pilot as collateral toward the loans. (For more information on the transaction, please consult the note for The Conqueror, above.) Jet Pilot marked the earliest RKO production eventually to be released by Universal. The film received universally poor reviews, with the New York Times reviewer referring to it as "silly and sorry" and concluding "It is a dud."