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The working titles of this film were The Power and the Glory and The Labyrinthine Ways, the latter of which was the American publication title of Graham Greene's novel. In a spoken prologue, the filmmakers acknowledge that "this picture was entirely made in our neighboring republic Mexico, at the kind invitation of the Mexican government and of the Mexican motion picture industry." The prologue describes the picture as "true," having first been told "in the Bible," and notes that the fictional locale is a small "state one thousand miles north or south of the equator."
The Fugitive was the first collaboration between RKO and Argosy Pictures, a company in which director John Ford and producer Merian C. Cooper were major stockholders. According to Hollywood Reporter, Argosy first considered United Artists as its distributor. Modern sources add the following information about the film's inception: Ford and Cooper entered into a deal with RKO whereby Argosy would produce three pictures for RKO to distribute and would share the costs and the net profits fifty-fifty while retaining creative control of the output. A provision of the deal was that if the initial film was successful, RKO would finance The Quiet Man, an Irish story Ford wanted to direct since purchasing it in 1936. Ford first got the idea to make The Fugitive after reading Greene's novel in 1940, but at that time, was unable to sell the story to any studio because of censorship problems. (In the book, the priest has an affair with the Indian woman.) When the RKO deal presented itself, Ford returned to the Greene novel, perhaps because producers Emilio Fernndez and William Donovan, a Ford collaborator, had already set up financing for a picture to be made in Mexico. Ford and writer Dudley Nichols then excised the controversial sex from the story. The Fugitive failed in the U.S., and RKO did not finance The Quiet Man, which was produced in 1952 by Argosy and Republic Pictures. According to an April 1948 Hollywood Reporter news item, funds for The Quiet Man were acquired from frozen British assets generated by the distribution of The Fugitive and Ford's next picture Fort Apache .
Contemporary news items and feature articles add the following information about the production: In addition to RKO's Churubusco Studios located outside Mexico City, scenes were filmed in Cuernavaca, Taxco, Acapulco, Cholula, Perote, Puebla, Vera Cruz and Tepoztlan, Mexico. Except for an editor, two assistant directors and a production manager, the entire crew of The Fugitive was Mexican. In news items, Ford attested to the professionalism of his Mexican crew, which he said ran "neck and neck with the best...in Hollywood." Although Hollywood Reporter announced that the picture was to be shot in both Spanish and English, no evidence that a Spanish language version was made has been found. Melchor Ferrer, who is credited onscreen as directorial assistant and whom modern sources include in the cast, was to star with Dolores Del Rio and Fortunio Bonanova in the Spanish version. Argosy borrowed Ferrer from David O. Selznick's company, and Pedro Armendriz from Mary Pickford's company for the production. Mexican extra Elena Priesca was cast in a bit part, but her appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Thirty-seven horsemen, known as "Jack Pennick's Charros," were recruited for the production from all over Mexico. (Pennick, an actor and frequent Ford collaborator, is credited onscreen as executive assistant.) Journalist Frank S. Nugent, who accompanied Ford to Mexico, reported in New York Times in March 1947 that associate producer Emilio Fernndez, "Mexico's top director," was working as Ford's "first lieutenant" and also was the set interpreter. Nugent commented on the "outrageous crossing of jurisidictional lines" that occurred among the Mexican crew members. In contrast to a typical Hollywood crew, the Mexican team was allowed to perform a variety of tasks on the set. According to Nugent, local extras were paid $2.50, or twelve pesos, a day. Shortly after this film's release, Nugent went on to work for Ford on several other productions.
The New York Times review noted the similarity between this film and Ford's highly acclaimed 1935 picture The Informer, which also was written by Dudley Nichols and released by RKO. In November 1946, Twentieth Century-Fox claimed ownership of the title The Fugitives, and attempted to stop Argosy from using the title The Fugitive, but failed. In May 1947, Hollywood Reporter announced that Ford had agreed to make one more picture for RKO (Fort Apache) as part of a deal whereby he would attain rights to The Fugitive. (When Fort Apache was in production, however, United Artists was again announced as distributor.) In April 1948, Hollywood Reporter announced that Ford was to speak on the ABC radio network to address charges leveled by American and Mexican left-wingers that the picture reflected unfairly on the Mexican government and its people. The charges, which were accompanied by a threatened boycott of the picture by the Mexican community in Los Angeles, were made despite the foreword's disclaimer regarding the film's setting. The Fugitive was the last film on which Nichols and Ford collaborated. In July 1948, Hollywood Reporter announced that, because of the success of the picture overseas, Ford and Cooper were planning a sequel called The Sanctuary. The sequel, which was never made, was to have starred Dolores Del Rio and Pedro Armendriz and was to have been produced in Hollywood using a mostly Mexican crew. According to the same news item, The Fugitive won twelve national awards and twenty-six foreign awards. New York Times rated The Fugitive as one of the "best of 1947." Modern sources add Jos I. Torvay, Enriqueta Reza, Rodolfo Acosta and Columba Domnguez to the cast, and credit Manuel Topete as a sound man.
A televised version of Greene's novel was broadcast on October 21, 1959 on the WNTA television network. That version, called The Power and the Glory, starred James Donald and was directed by Carmen Capalbo. A second televised version, also titled The Power and the Glory, starring Laurence Olivier, George C. Scott and Patty Duke and directed by Marc Daniels, was broadcast on November 1, 1961 on the CBS network.