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Sudden Fear marked the first film in which Jack Palance's first name is listed as "Jack" instead of "Walter Jack." Although two songs are listed in the onscreen credits, none were performed in the film. According to a November 1949 Daily Variety news item, producer Joseph Kaufman first intended to shoot the picture in Europe. In July 1951, Hollywood Reporter announced that the film would be "rolling in the East." Location filming actually took place in San Francisco, including Golden Gate Park. Although Ferris Taylor was announced as a cast member in a June 1951 Hollywood Reporter news item, and Esther Dale was announced as a cast member in a February 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, neither appeared in the final film.
According to a July 1952 Variety item, Joan Crawford and director David Miller worked on a participation basis. Modern sources note that Crawford, who had script and casting approval, chose to receive a forty percent interest in the $720,000 picture in lieu of a $200,000 salary. Crawford originally requested Clark Gable as her co-star, according to modern sources. Miller, who thought Gable too old and well-known for the role, screened the 1950 Twentieth Century-Fox film Panic in the Streets, in which Jack Palance had a small but pivotal part, three times for Crawford, and she eventually agreed to cast him. RKO exploited the film heavily, and the picture was a box office success, according to contemporary sources. Sudden Fear marked Palance's first major role and earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The film also received nominations for Best Actress (Crawford), Best Cinematography (b&w) and Best Costume Design (b&w).