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Psychologist Donald Powell Wilson's non-fiction book, My Six Convicts, was purportedly a record of his personal experiences at Fort Leavenworth penitentiary in Kansas. A Daily Variety news item indicates that Stanley Kramer purchased the book shortly after its publication and assigned former RKO unit producer Val Lewton as the film's producer. Lewton died of a heart attack one month after taking up his duties and the film was reassigned to the husband and wife associate production team of Edna and Edward Anhalt.
According to a Daily Variety news item, Kramer discovered that Wilson's book had been partially ghostwritten by screenwriter Eve O'Dell and several incidents in it were fabricated, forcing him to drop a planned authentic documentary tone for the film. According to Hollywood Reporter, Helmut Dantine turned down a part in the film. Hollywood Reporter also notes that one week of location shooting took place in northern California at San Quentin prison. Kramer's autobiography indicates that San Quentin guards were used as extras, but no inmates were allowed to participate in the production. The film deliberately leaves the exact location of the prison unspecified. Millard Mitchell recreated his role as "Connie," Dana Andrews portrayed "Doc" and Sheldon Leonard was "Punch" on the Lux Radio Theatre October 20, 1952 broadcast version of My Six Convicts. According to a November 5, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, a Broadway adaptation of the story was in preparation and was to star Carleton Carpenter, but that production did not come to fruition.