Spencer Tracy was originally cast as Dan Roman. He backed out of the film, however, after hearing several negative comments about how strict a disciplinarian director William A. Wellman was.
Joan Crawford, Ida Lupino, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers, and Dorothy McGuire all turned down roles in this film.
John Wayne's first film in CinemaScope.
John Wayne's role was first offered to Spencer Tracy. However, Tracy, a Democrat who opposed blacklisting, wanted nothing to do with Wayne's Batjac production company and turned the part down.
Jan Sterling reportedly shaved her eyebrows for her role in the film and they never grew back.
Average Shot Length (ASL) = 11 seconds
Producer John Wayne chose Robert Cummings as his co-star for the role of Captain Sullivan. Director William A. Wellman, however, overrode his producer and chose Robert Stack for the part.
The actual DC-4 aircraft used to film the passenger boarding and flying sequences was a former military surplus Douglas C-54A-10-DC built in 1944. When filmed, the aircraft (then registered as N4726V) was being operated by Transocean Airlines for whom the film's author, Ernest K. Gann, had flown these planes over the Hawaii-California routes. Known as the "The Argentine Queen," before being acquired by Transocean in 1953 it had been the personal aircraft of Argentine dictator Juan Domingo Perón. Ironically, a little more than a decade after appearing in the film this aircraft and the nine persons on board were lost on March 28, 1964, when the plane was forced to ditch in the Pacific Ocean about 700 miles west of San Francisco. The plane was about eight hours into a charter flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles when the pilot reported a serious fire in engine #2. The Coast Guard searched for the aircraft for five days but no trace of it was ever found.
The lyrics to the famed title song are only heard at the very end, are sung by a large choral group, and are different than the familiar lyrics heard in the popular-song record releases of the time.
Towards the end of the movie, when Robert Stack tells John Wayne to whistle something (because he works better with music), the tune that John Wayne whistles is, "I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech".