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The working titles for this film were Cost of Living and Cost of Loving. Before the opening credits, Evelyn Keyes, as her character "Susan Gilvray," is seen being startled by someone watching her from outside her bathroom window. The voice of radio announcer "William Gilvray" is heard intermittently throughout the film. Although not listed in the credits, Dalton Trumbo co-wrote the film's screenplay with credited writer Hugo Butler. Trumbo was jailed in 1947 for refusing to testify before HUAC and his credit on the film was officially restored by the WGA in 2000. A modern biography of Trumbo reveals that director Joseph Losey recorded and used Trumbo's voice for the voice of radio announcer "William Gilvray." Art director Boris Leven's surname was misspelled as "Levin" in the onscreen credits.
According to a August 9, 1949 Daily Variety news item, the original story, "The Cost of Living," was bought for $50,000 by Sam Speigel and John Huston and was to be produced by Columbia. A September 21, 1949 Los Angeles Examiner article noted that Dorothy McGuire was interested in starring in the film. According to 1950 Hollywood Reporter news items, "Tiny" Jones had a bit role in the film, but his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. Portions of the film were shot on location in Calico Mines, CA, a ghost town near Barstow according to Hollywood Reporter news items.
Memos in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveal that PCA head Joseph I. Breen objected to the low moral tone of the film and insisted that details of the adulterous affair and the pregnancy be kept to a minimum in the script. On April 10, 1950, Breen accepted the script but was consulted throughout the production by assistant director Robert Aldrich on scenes in which moral tone was in question, including acceptable visible signs of the pregnancy.
According to a July 25, 1951 Variety news item, United Artists submitted ads to the PCA that included a picture of Evelyn Keyes draped in a towel. The ad was not approved by PCA, but the PCA did not have jurisdiction over independently owned theaters, and the Criterion Theatre in New York City used the ad. A June 4, 1951 Los Angeles Times news item, as well as other contemporary reviews, warned viewers of the adulterous material and noted that the film presented censorship problems since the woman who commits adultery is not punished in the end. Keyes was borrowed from Columbia for the production.
According to a BHC September 6, 1953 article, publicist Paul MacNamara contended that an improper contract existed between himself and Spiegel regarding "The Prowler," and MacNamara won $2,000 in a suit against Spiegel.