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The working title of this film was Mister West Point. The film begins with the following written foreword: "The United States Military Academy at West Point is 153 years old. This is the true story of an enlisted man who was there for 50 of those years. His name is Marty Maher." The phrase "the long gray line" refers to the succession of officers who have been educated at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, many of them sons and grandsons of earlier graduates. It also refers to the line of cadets, who wear grey uniforms. In May 1947, Los Angeles Times reported that Robert Fellows was planning to produce a film set at West Point entitled The Long Gray Line for Paramount, but it has not been determined if that project is related to this film.
According to New York Times, producer Jerry Wald had originally wanted to produce a film adaptation of Maher's life story while under contract to RKO. The studio, however, refused to purchase the rights, and after his production company, Wald-Krasna, was dissolved, Wald took an executive producer position at Columbia. He then convinced that studio to purchase the book and assigned Robert Arthur to produce. After casting problems delayed the production, Arthur left Columbia for Universal-International. Later, when Tyrone Power was hired to star and John Ford to direct, Arthur was borrowed back from Universal-International to produce the film. Hollywood Reporter casting information adds Stewart Vannerson, Richard Bishop and Allen Norse to the film, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. According to Motion Picture Herald Prod Digest and Hollywood Reporter, portions of the film were shot at West Point. The film was the first CinemaScope picture to be directed by Ford and was his first film after a nearly one-year layoff due to eye surgery. The Long Gray Line was the last film of actor Robert Francis (1930-1955), who died on July 31, 1955 in a plane crash.