'Don Siegel (I)' called 'Bad Day at Black Rock' the best screenplay he had ever read (to that point) and lobbied unsuccessfully to direct it.
According to director John Sturges' commentary track on the Criterion Laserdisc, this film was also filmed simultaneously in a standard 4:3 ratio version (as well as Cinemascope), because MGM executives were unsure of the wide screen version. It was never released.
According to one biographer of Spencer Tracy, the script did not originally call for the lead character to be a one-armed man. The producers were keen to get Tracy but didn't think he'd be interested, so they gave the character this disability with the idea that no actor can resist playing a character with a physical impairment.
Average Shot Length (ASL) = 10 seconds
Exteriors for this film (particularly the trip to "Adobe Flat") were filmed in and around Lone Pine, California (a location often used by other films). The Japanese farmer central to the plot was (supposedly) sent to an (unnamed) internment camp after Pearl Harbor. Coincidentally, Lone Pine is just five miles from Manzanar, the best known internment camp. Present day visitors may inspect both the Alabama Hills and Manzanar.
Impressed with the job Richard Fleischer had done on Arena, the studio head offered the film to the director, but Walt Disney wouldn't release him from post-production duties on _20000 Leagues Under the Sea (1976)_.
In the original short story, MacReedy brandishes a Beretta and brags of his prowess with it, but in the movie, he uses judo - an idea meant to suggest that MacReedy is Japanese-American.
MGM's then president Nicholas Schenck was actively opposed to the film as he felt the storyline was subversive.
The opening shot with the train was added after preview audiences did not like the original version. The sequence was created by filming with a helicopter flying away from the train and running the film backwards. (Source - audio commentary by John Sturges on Criterion laserdisc.)
The projectionist's records have revealed that over the years this has become one of the most frequently shown films in the screening room of The White House.
The script called for Tracy's character to light matches one-handed. Tracy had difficulty with this and convinced the director to let him use a Zippo lighter, as every veteran he ever met had one.
The sign behind the hotel desk is a quote from English evangelist John Wesley:"Do all the good you can,By all the means you can,In all the ways you can,In all the places you can,At all the times you can,To all the people you can,As long as ever you can."
The suit that Tracy wears throughout the film was bought by him off the rack, at his insistence.