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William P. McGivern's novel was serialized in Saturday Evening Post (Dec 1952-February 1953). A December 1952 Daily Variety news item notes that Jerry Wald, then executive producer of The Big Heat, hoped to cast either Paul Muni, George Raft or Edward G. Robinson in the lead role. The same item reveals that Columbia paid $40,000 for the story. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the original script for The Big Heat was rejected due to the story's "justification of revenge," "immoral relationship(s)," "corruption in a(n)...American city" and "an excessive amount of brutality and gruesomeness." While producer Robert Arthur, writer Sydney Boehm and director Fritz Lang toned down these themes and cut the relationship between detective "Dave Bannion" and moll "Debby Marsh," according to the PCA file, "rather spectacular brutality" remained. One of the film's most famous scenes, of "Vince Stone" throwing boiling coffee into Debby's face, reflects Lang's efforts to reduce the graphic nature of the violence by keeping actress Gloria Grahame off-screen. The Legion of Decency awarded the film a "B" rating.