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Many aspects of the story were changed for the screen version of Clifford Odets' play, which starred Tallulah Bankhead and Lee J. Cobb on Broadway. In the play, the action takes place in Depression-ravaged Staten Island, NY, and the characters are Polish American. At the end of the play, the cuckolded husband kills his wife's lover. Robert Ryan, who plays "Earl Pfeiffer" in the film, appeared in the Broadway production as "Joe Doyle."
In December 1950, Hollywood Reporter announced that RKO was borrowing Joan Crawford from Warner Bros. for the production. According to modern sources, Jeff Chandler and Mala Powers were first considered for the roles of "Earl" and "Peggy." Modern sources note that director Fritz Lang spent one week rehearsing the three main actors before principal photography. Although Keith Andes' onscreen credit includes the statement "and introducing," he had previously appeared in the 1947 RKO film The Farmer's Daughter and the 1949 Film Classics' release Project X (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50). RKO borrowed Marilyn Monroe from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production. Although not her first "above-title" film, Clash by Night was Monroe's first significant dramatic role and garnered her much praise. The Hollywood Reporter reviewer commented, "Marilyn Monroe proves she deserves starring status with her excellent interpretation," while the Daily Variety reviewer noted that, "Miss Monroe...has an ease of delivery which makes her a cinch for popularity, given the right roles."
According to Hollywood Reporter news items, background footage and exterior scenes were shot in Monterey, CA. The film opens with a series of shots depicting life in and around the Monterey shore. In a modern interview, Lang described how he and cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca spent several days photographing Monterey's marine life, fishing boats and sardine canneries to create the documentary-like opening. Lang also shot footage of the annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremonies in San Pedro, CA, but that scene was not included in the final film. A June 1952 Daily Variety item stated that William H. Mooring, film critic for the Los Angeles Catholic newspaper The Tidings, prevailed upon producers Jerry Wald and Harriet Parsons to delete two scenes from the script. Both scenes, which Mooring felt ridiculed religion and belittled the Church, had to do with the Blessing of the Fleet ceremony.
Barbara Stanwyck won the Motion Picture Exhibitor's "Laurel" award for her performance in the picture. After the film's release, the song "I Hear a Rhapsody" became a hit for Tony Martin. Modern sources add Bob Ewing (Makeup artist), Tony Lombardo (Prop master) and Marjorie Plecher (Supv of Monroe's ward) to the crew. On June 13, 1957, the CBS television network broadcast an adaptation of Odets' play on its Playhouse 90 program. John Frankenheimer directed Kim Stanley, E. G. Marshall and Lloyd Bridges in the production. The BBC network broadcast another version on July 14, 1959, starring Sam Wanamaker and Patricia Neal.