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The working title of this film was High Noon. In Arthur Laurents' play, the character played by James Edwards is Jewish, and the conflict revolves around antisemitism. The Variety review commented that the thematic switch was made because antisemitism had already been depicted in previous Hollywood films and was therefore in danger of being "overplayed." A March 20, 1949 New York Times news item noted that associate producer Robert Stillman "paid the entire cost of the picture with the help of his father without recourse to the banks, a startling departure from Hollywood custom." A March 23, 1949 Daily Variety news item reported that producer Stanley Kramer shot for two weeks on the picture before securing the legal rights to Laurents' play. According to a February 28, 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item, some scenes in the film were shot in Malibu and Baldwin Hills, CA and government footage of fighting in the Pacific was to be included. On March 21, 1949, Hollywood Reporter reported that background choral work would be performed by the Jester Hairston Choir, but their participation in the released film has not been confirmed. Hollywood Reporter also noted on March 30, 1949 that Screen Plays had received a request for a print of the film from President Truman.
Motion Picture Herald called the film "the first picture dealing with anti-Negro prejudice." Although initially banned in Southern Rhodesia by the South African government, the film was eventually approved for public screenings, excluding "children and natives." Despite early fears, the picture was not censored or protested in the South, although African Americans in Houston were allowed to attend only midnight screenings. Parents Magazine gave the picture a "special merit award," and Kramer was honored by the G. W. Carver Memorial Committee for his work on the film. Modern sources note that Kramer created a black press campaign and arranged for an opening of the film in Harlem, NY.