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The film includes the following written acknowledgment: "Grateful acknowledgment is made to the Mexican Government and to the National Museum of Mexico for their advice and cooperation in the reenactment of the historical sequences. All scenes associated with the Cortz Expedition were photographed in Mexico and wherever possible on the actual locations."
According to documents in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department and the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, in December 1944 the studio purchased Samuel Shellabarger's novel for $100,000. In February 1945, writer John Tucker Battle wrote a story outline of the novel and by late May, he finished a first draft continuity screenplay in collaboration with Samuel Engel. Between February and July 1945, Zanuck consulted Joseph L. Mankiewicz about the project. In a July 16, 1945 memo Mankiewicz wrote to Zanuck, "The background and very reason for the existence of the book is Cortz' Conquest of Mexico....Neither Cortz nor his conquest can be slighted or distorted without offending great numbers of greatly interested people. The Hays Office representatives stressed this very point during my discussion of the novel with them. Perhaps this May be one reason why this fantastically dramatic subject has been one of those often dreamed of, but never realized by our industry...To do this picture ambitiously will cost a great deal of money. It will require Technicolor, a huge cast, great numbers of people, elaborate sets, costumes, props, locations etc. The script will take a long time to write-thorough research will be necessary. Censorship problems should not be too difficult, once a satisfactory substitute for the Inquisition is established." Mankiewicz suggested Tyrone Power as "Pedro de Vargas", Linda Darnell as "Catana", Fredric March as "Cortz", Jos Ferrer as "Coatl", Alan Reed or William Bendix as "Juan Garcia" and Morris Carnovsky as "Montezuma". The extent of Mankiewicz's contribution to the completed film has not been determined. After Mankiewicz, the writing assignment then passed to Lamar Trotti who wrote all subsequent drafts of the screenplay and ultimately produced the film.
According to materials in the Fox legal files, also at UCLA, the studio's executive production manager, Ray Klune, spent several weeks in Mexico City in late summer 1946. Dr. Leopoldo Martnez Cosio of the Mexican National Museum was contracted as a consultant and technical advisor on the production, and Klune assigned Ralph De Lara as production coordinator. The studio's legal department sent Emilio C. De Lavigne, along with Marcella Napp, to Mexico and De Lavigne negotiated all the basic union agreements there. According to a November 19, 1946 Hollywood Reporter news item, a train carrying supplies, costumes and equipment, including refrigeration units to protect the sensitive Technicolor film stock, left Los Angeles for Mexico City in early November 1946. In Mexico City, everything had to be loaded onto a fleet of trucks for the journey to Morelia, 350 miles southwest of the capital. The production started filming in late November 1946 in Morelia, the site for Spanish sequences of the film, according to information contained in the Legal Files.
Although Joseph LaShelle and Arthur E. Arling are credited as directors of photography in the Hollywood Reporter production charts, LaShelle is not credited onscreen. In the onscreen credits, Charles G. Clarke and Arling are listed as directors of photography. Modern sources state that while LaShelle was an expert black and white cameraman, his experience with Technicolor and distant locations was minimal, while Clarke was experienced at both and enjoyed Zanuck's confidence. Modern sources have indicated that some of LaShelle's work, probably including a scene at the de Vargas home, remains in the released film. According to one modern source, Arling photographed the second unit material under director Robert D. Webb and Clarke shot all of the interiors done in Los Angeles. A March 1948 American Cinematographer article discusses some of the difficulties of shooting on location in Mexico. Shooting the interior of the temples presented special problems because of cramped lighting conditions and excessive heat.
According to American Cinematographer, the second major location was Uruapan, where the recently active volcano, Paricutin, doubled for Popocatapetl, which was active at the time of Cortz's invasion. Paricutin was especially active while the company was on location, emitting great clouds of smoke into the air, frequently blotting out the sun's rays and thus interfering with the filming. The last major location was near Acapulco and served as the landing sight and base of Cortz's expedition. The American Cinematographer article adds that more than 19,500 Mexican and Indian extras were used in the crowd scenes, with as many as 4,500 taking part in the sequence staged at the edge of Paricutin's lava beds. The company returned from Mexico in early March 1947 and studio filming was completed in early April 1947. The shooting schedule totaled 106 days including 83 in Mexico. The Variety review stated the total budget to be around $4,500,000, "visible in every inch of the footage."
The Variety review places John Burton in the cast as "Ignacio de Lora" but this character does not appear in the released film. According to a December 15, 1947 New York Times news item, the Rev. John J. Devlin, Hollywood's representative of the Catholic Church's Legion of Deceny and an advisor to the MPAA on religious matters, warned Fox at the time the novel was purchased that it was not acceptable to the church on the grounds that it depicted the Inquistion as "witch baiting." After discussions with the studio, Devlin deemed the third version of the script acceptable because it toned down the depiction of the Inquisition. The excision of the de Lora character May have been part of the compromise made between Fox and Devlin. In the novel, de Lora, a cruel and corrupt priest, is head of the tribunal that interrogates the de Vargas family and the person who sends Pedro's arrest order to Cuba. An examination of the final screenplay reveals that a brief scene involving de Lora was written and shot but deleted before the film was released. In the film, the character of "de Silva," a nobleman, serves as the chief Inquisitor. Another major difference between the novel and the film is that in the novel, "Pedro" and "Catano" return to Europe and are reunited with his parents before returning to the New World.
Alfred Newman's score for Captain from Castile was nominated for an Academy Award. Newman later recorded the score and donated his royalties to the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund. Newman gave the rights to the film's stirring march to the University of Southern California, to serve as the theme music for the football team. This was Jean Peter's first major role. A radio adaptation of the film was broadcast on Lux Radio Theatre on February 7, 1949 and starred Cornel Wilde and Jean Peters. Another adaptation, starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., was broadcast on the Screen Directors' Playhouse on May 3, 1951.