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In the onscreen credits, the film's title reads "Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." While most sources list the running time as 107 minutes, Variety and Filmfacts list it as 90 minutes. According to 1951 Hollywood Reporter news items, M-G-M originally planned this picture as a musical to be produced by Arthur Freed. A October 28, 1958 Daily Variety news item states that by 1953 Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane had written the score for the film, which was to star Gene Kelly and Danny Kaye, but the production was later shelved because of casting difficulties. According to a August 19, 1959 Hollywood Reporter news item, David Ladd was considered for the title role in the film, but was later replaced. 1959 Hollywood Reporter news items add Al Wyatt and Andy Buck to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
According to the pressbook materials contained in the film's production files at the AMPAS Library, the picture was shot on location on the Mississippi River and along the Sacramento River Delta. The boat that served as the Natchez Queen was the same boat used in the 1951 version of Showboat.
Archie Moore, a light heavyweight boxing champion, made his acting debut in the film. According to an October 1958 Daily Variety news item, although the rights to Twain's story had passed into the public domain, M-G-M claimed it owned the world copyright and sole international rights to the film under a deal the company made with the Twain estate in 1952, which was renewed in 1956. The fact that the property was in the public domain in the United States led several companies, including Warner Bros., to plan productions in 1958 based on Twain's story. One version was to be shot in Mexico using unknowns. Only M-G-M's version made it to the screen, however, released in 1960 on the fiftieth anniversary of Twain's death.
Twain's novel has been the basis of many films. Among the versions are a 1920 Famous Players-Lasky release, Huckleberry Finn, directed by William Desmond Taylor and starring Lewis Sergeant and Katherine Griffith (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20); a 1939 M-G-M version entitled The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, starring Mickey Rooney and Walter Connolly and directed by Richard Thorpe; a 1939 Paramount version titled Huckleberry Finn, starring Jackie Coogan and Junior Durkin and directed by Norman Taurog (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40); a 1974 United Artists release under the same title starring Jeff East and directed by F. Lee Thompson; and a 1995 Walt Disney Company release entitled Tom and Huck, directed by Peter Hewitt and starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Brad Renfro.