Chill Wills' aggressive campaign to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar was generally thought to bring about a backlash, most people regarding his Variety ad in which the film's cast were praying harder for Wills to win the Oscar than the defenders of the Alamo themselves prayed on the night before the battle as a display of poor judgment. Wayne himself was appalled by the tastelessness of the ad and was forced to take out an ad himself, countering it.
Sonny Tufts was at one point considered for the role of Jim Bowie, and Clark Gable for the role of William Travis.
Charlton Heston was among the actors who were sent the script and John Wayne wanted him to play Jim Bowie. Heston later said there seemed good reasons for him not to do the film and, when pressed further, stated having John Wayne as director to be one of them.
Charlton Heston, then a moderate Democrat, turned down the role of Jim Bowie because he feared the critical response to the movie. However, later in life Heston turned around and wholeheartedly embraced right-wing Republican politics, also changing his mind about not accepting the part and saying that it was "a huge mistake".
John Wayne and Richard Widmark famously did not get along during filming. Since Widmark was a liberal Democrat who opposed blacklisting and supported the civil-rights movement and gun control - positions diametrically opposed to Wayne's - it was long rumored that politics had been the cause of the problem. However, Widmark later cited Wayne's lack of directing skills as the reason for the feud. This was something Ken Curtis agreed with, since he remarked that Wayne had no ability to motivate an actor for a scene.
John Wayne formed a close friendship with Laurence Harvey during filming. He later said Harvey should have received an Oscar nomination instead of Chill Wills.
John Wayne intended this film to be an allegory for America's Cold War with the Soviet Union.
John Wayne originally intended that Richard Widmark should play Davy Crockett, while Wayne himself would have taken the small role of Sam Houston so he could focus his energy on directing the picture. However, Wayne was only able to get financial backing if he played one of the main parts, so he decided to play Crockett and cast Widmark as Jim Bowie.
John Wayne partially financed this film himself. During shooting, the film was delayed due to various production problems. Wayne was under so much pressure, he smoked cigarettes almost non-stop when not acting.
John Wayne was a fan of The Kingston Trio's recording of "Remember the Alamo", composed by Jane Bowers, and wanted to use the song in the film. When, for various reasons, the rights to the song couldn't be obtained, Dimitri Tiomkin, who scored the film, and Paul Francis Webster wrote their own song for the film, "The Green Leaves of Summer".
John Wayne, in good fellowship, would reportedly refer to Richard Widmark by the nickname "Dick" when filming began, to which Widmark icily replied "It's Richard." After this, Wayne constantly and sarcastically emphasized Widmark's formal first name on the set, as in "Oh, RICHARD, are you ready for the next take, RICHARD?"
Richard Boone showed up on the first day of filming, sporting a full beard. It was then pointed out his character General Houston didn't actually have a beard.
Clark Gable was offered the role of Davy Crockett but turned it down. Though Gable was a Republican who shared Wayne's anti-communist views, he did not want to commit to an expensive project with a first-time director.
Sammy Davis Jr. managed to obtain a copy of the script and asked John Wayne if he could play the straight role of a Negro slave. Wayne considered him but eventually declined Davis' offer. Davis recalled, "There were a lot of influential Texans investing in the film and they didn't like the idea that I was seeing his future wife May Britt at the time. They disapproved of a man of color going out with a girl who was white, though Duke Wayne was upfront with me about it and I respected him for it".
Dimitri Tiomkin's soundtrack for the film has been in continuous print for nearly 50 years.
LeJean Eldridge was murdered during filming by her boyfriend.
At the start of production on location just a few miles from the historic battlesite, Wayne had a clergyman say a prayer for the movie in front of the assembled cast and crew of 342, asking God to bless their work and help them produce a fitting testament to the brave men who died for the cause.
Banned in Mexico.
Both Clark Gable and Charlton Heston, the two actors John Wayne wanted most to do the film, both expressed regret at not taking the parts they were offered. Heston declined the role of 'Bowie' out of political ideology (a political view he later later vehemently rejected), and Gable passed due to to the age difference between himself and William Travis. Gable's family later said that he wanted to do the film as a way to do "a macho film" to escape the typecasting of Gone with the Wind as a romantic lead.
Despite being a top-ten money maker for 1960, and its popularity in Europe and Japan, the film could not recoup its massive budget in its initial release. John Wayne assumed huge personal debt to get the film finished after United Artists refused to pay for cost overruns during production. It wasn't until the television rights sale in 1971 that Wayne's personal debts were finally paid off. It premiered on the U.S. network NBC in September 1971.