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The working titles of the film were Don't Cry, Baby and The City Is Dark. According to a February 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, Warner Bros. originally assigned Rudi Fehr to produce the film. An October 1952 Daily Variety news item reported that Steve Cochran was cast in the Gene Nelson role. According to Warner Bros. production notes, portions of the film were shot in the Los Angeles Police Department's Homicide Division and its radio broadcasting room. Landmarks in Glendale, CA, and Los Angeles appear in the film, including a Bank of America, the Glendale Grand Central Air Terminal and the Bunker Hill neighborhood of Los Angeles. A May 1953 Los Angeles Daily News article reported that director Andre De Toth made use of Los Angeles smog to create mood in the picture. Crime Wave marked singer-dancer Gene Nelson's first non-musical role.