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The five principal actors in The Naked Spur, all of whose names appear above the title in the opening credits, are the only characters in the film, aside from non-speaking extras. The screenplay of The Naked Spur was later adapted as a novel by Allan Ullman (New York, 1953). According to a New York Times news item, Ullman believed that the $5,000 bounty on "Ben Vandergroat" was unrealistically high. His research indicated that the top bounty paid for killers in 1868 was about $800, so he reduced the reward to $1,500 in the novel. A February 1952 item in the "Rambling Reporter" column in Hollywood Reporter stated that M-G-M originally sought Richard Widmark for the role of Ben, and that Robert Horton had been cast in the part. Robert Ryan was borrowed from RKO for this production.
The film was shot on location in Durango, CO. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at AMPAS Library, The Naked Spur was banned in India. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Story and Screenplay. Many modern sources credit The Naked Spur (as well as Anthony Mann's other Westerns) with helping to redefine the genre, citing its dark psychological themes and dramatic use of open landscapes.