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Trivia / Bad Day at Black Rock

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  • Actor-Inspired Element:
    • The suit that Spencer Tracy wears throughout the film was bought by him off the rack, at his insistence.
    • The script called for Macreedy to light matches one-handed. Tracy had difficulty with this and convinced director John Sturges to let him use a Zippo lighter, as every veteran he ever met had one.
  • Completely Different Title: In Sweden, the film was called "En man steg av tåget", meaning "A Man Got Off the Train".
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  • Dawson Casting: The 54 year-old Spencer Tracy playing a WWII veteran when the film is set in 1945.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Ernest Borgnine (Coley) did the crash through the door himself, expecting it to swing open as he sailed through it into the street. But without the actor's knowledge, director John Sturges nailed the door shut. The momentum ripped it from its hinges, and it ended up hanging on the understandably shocked Borgnine like a picture frame which provided the desired natural reaction from the actor. "Borgnine has never forgiven me for that," Sturges recalled.
  • Hostility on the Set:
    • Spencer Tracy and Walter Brennan didn't get along at all due to political differences (Tracy being liberal, Brennan being conservative). Brennan criticized Katharine Hepburn's public outspokenness against the McCarthy hearings in Congress. The next day, during blocking of one scene, the two (playing allies in the picture) weren't speaking and relayed their brittle and sniping communications through John Sturges. Brennan later taunted Tracy by walking by holding up three fingers, an indication of his three Academy Awards (for Best Supporting Actor) versus Tracy's two Best Actor Oscars.
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    • Although he generally got along with most of the cast, Tracy could be moody and would give other actors the cold shoulder for days over some slight, real or imagined. One time, Anne Francis and Robert Ryan borrowed his car to get hamburgers. The next morning Tracy complained the car was parked crookedly. Francis also said she got the silent treatment because Tracy falsely suspected her of having an affair with Ryan. Francis got even during the shooting of the scene where she drives Tracy's character to Adobe Flats (home of the missing Japanese farmer). She gunned the car and took a big road bump at full speed, almost dumping her co-star in the road; despite this, he stayed firmly in character and never removed his unusable left hand from his pocket. She later said Tracy became friendly with her again after that incident.
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  • Wag the Director: According to Assistant Director Joel Freeman, Spencer Tracy was the only cast member who was not fully cooperative on set. He told John Sturges to avoid close-ups (probably because of his age) and hated to do additional takes. In the garage sequence between him and Robert Ryan, Sturges called for a second take. Tracy asked the crew if they had understood him in the scene. When they said yes, he refused to shoot it again.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Vincente Minnelli was offered the job of directing the movie, but he bowed out.
    • Initially, the aftermath of the ambush was to have Smith's body strapped to the front of Macreedy's car, a deliberate irony playing on the character's reputation as a hunter. However, John Sturges decided it was too self-conscious.
  • Working Title: Bad Day at Hondo. This was changed to avoid confusion with the John Wayne film Hondo.

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