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Working titles for the film were This Rebel Age and The Beat and Naked Generation. Louis Armstrong's opening onscreen credit reads: "Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars." According to Hollywood Reporter news items, writer Richard Matheson was to work from a treatment by Larry Roman. Roman's final contribution to the finished script, if any, has not been determined. Hollywood Reporter items indicate that John Drew Barrymore and Julie London were set to star in the film, and Kurt Neumann was being sought to direct. After Neumann's unexpected death, Charles Haas was signed as director. A month after signing on for the project, London withdrew, as did Barrymore. Barrymore indicted that he had outgrown teenage roles, but was also too young to play the role of detective "Dave Cullorah." Jeanne Crain was considered as a replacement for London. Hollywood Reporter casting lists add Vikki Dougan and Barbara Fredrickson to the production, but their appearance in the film has not been confirmed.
The "beat generation" refers to a group of young American writers, including Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, who gained prominence in the early 1950s. Their writings concentrated on alienation and anti-establishment themes. Kerouac is credited with coining the word "beat" in the late 1940's to signify the post-World War II generation's feeling of being "ruined" or "spent," and for the refusal to fit in with mainstream society and culture. In a 1952 New York Times article, entitled "This is the Beat Generation," Kerouac's friend John Clellon Holmes introduced the phrase to the public.