James Arness reportedly regarded his role as so embarrassing, that he didn't attend the premiere.
Billy Curtis played the smaller version of "The Thing" during the creature's final scene.
When Scotty (Douglas Spencer) mentioned having attended the 1928 execution of Ruth Snyder and Judd Grey, another character asked him if he was able to get a picture of it. Scotty answers, "No, they didn't allow cameras, but one guy." He was interrupted by The Thing's approach before he can finish the sentence. Scotty was referring to Chicago Tribune photographer Tom Howard, who smuggled a miniature camera into the execution chamber strapped to his ankle and was able to take a famous photograph of Snyder's final moments in the electric chair.
This film was based on the short story "Who Goes There?" by Don A. Stuart. The credits on this film list the author by his real name, the science fiction editor and writer John W. Campbell, Jr.
When one character is asked if he knows how to use a Very pistol, his response was, "I saw Gary Cooper in Sergeant York (1941)". He then proceeds to lick his finger and run it along the gun sight like York did throughout the film. Sergeant York (1941) was also directed by Howard Hawks.
James Arness complained that his "Thing" costume made him look like a giant carrot.
The famous scene when the crew formed a ring around the flying saucer frozen in the ice, was actually filmed at the RKO Ranch in the San Fernando Valley in one hundred degree weather.
Originally, it was intended to make the creature a shapeshifter, as in the novel, but the limited budget forced the filmmakers to drop the idea. Early conceptual sketches depict a very plant-like looking creature, with one of its limbs seemingly undergoing a transformation into a human hand.
Veteran stuntman Tom Steele replaced James Arness in the fire scene. Steele wore an asbestos suit with a special fiberglass helmet with an oxygen supply underneath. He used a one hundred percent oxygen supply, which was highly combustible. It was pure luck he didn't burn his lungs while breathing in the mixture.
Directors Ridley Scott, John Frankenheimer, Tobe Hooper, and John Carpenter, who remade this movie, all cited the movie as a key influential film in their lives.
Partly filmed in Glacier National Park, and at a Los Angeles ice storage plant.
Close-ups of "The Thing" were removed. It was felt that the make-up could not hold up to close scrutiny. However, the lack of close-ups gave the creature a more mysterious quality.
When Producer and co-Director Howard Hawks attempted to get insurance for the creature, five insurance companies turned him down because "The Thing" was to be frozen in a block of ice, hacked by axes, attacked by dogs, lit on fire, and electrocuted.
According to Make-up Artist Lee Greenway, he took James Arness in his car to the house of Producer and co-Director Howard Hawks to show off the make up for The Thing. After months of frustration, Hawks told Greenway to put a Frankenstein (1931) type of headpiece on Arness.
Howard Hawks asked the U.S. Air Force for assistance in making the film. He was refused, because the top brass felt that such cooperation would compromise the U.S. government's official stance that U.F.O.s didn't exist.
It is generally believed that Howard Hawks took over direction during production, and it has always been acknowledged by Director Christian Nyby that Hawks was the guiding hand. However, in an interview, James Arness said that while Hawks spent a lot of time on the set, it was Nyby who actually directed the picture, not Hawks.
The film takes place from November 2 to November 3, 1950.
Cost of the "Thing": forty thousand dollars. That would be equivalent to three hundred seventy thousand dollars in 2015, after adjusting for inflation.
The skeleton crew at the South Pole Telescope station have a tradition every winter-over of watching this movie, and the other two adaptations on the very first night after the departure of the final plane of the season.
Scotty (Douglas Spencer) mentions being at the execution of Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray. This was a real case. The couple were tried for, and convicted of, the murder of Snyder's husband in 1927 and were executed in New York by the electric chair.
Charles Lederer's original script featured an inhuman-looking creature looking almost exactly like the novel's creature in its original form (blue-skinned, with three red eyes, a sucker mouth and stringy hair), but the budget resulted in a simpler-looking alien. Allegedly, test footage was shot featuring a creature with the earlier alien design, played by a one-legged man.
When Barnes is left to guard The Thing in the block of ice, he nervously whistles "Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie".
The opening credits are unusual for its time, in that they don't list a single member of the cast.
Although it has frequently been derided by science fiction purists for being an overly loose adaptation of the original John W. Campbell, Jr. novella, it actually hews quite closely to the first six chapters of the original story. Nearly all of the borrowings from the novella that recur in the movie, including the discovery of the flying saucer through the electromagnetic anomaly it makes, and its accidental destruction through the use of thermite charges, the thawing of the creature, the suggestion that it reads minds, and its death in the electrical trap, come from these first few chapters.
It took Make-up Artist Lee Greenway five months and eighteen sculptures of the creature before he came up with a design that satisfied Howard Hawks.
This was the first of only two films made by Howard Hawks' own production company, Winchester Pictures Corporation. Winchester was Hawks' middle name.
It is believed that Ben Hecht and William Faulkner, good friends of Howard Hawks, contributed to the script. However, long-standing rumors that Orson Welles contributed to the dialogue are believed to be untrue.
As opposed to that interview with James Arness, the film's star, Kenneth Tobey, has maintained in many interviews that it was indeed Hawks who directed the film. Tobey said that he had worked with Nyby after this film on many occasions, and he was a fine director, but Hawks did call the shots on most of the film.
(At about fifty-five minutes) There's a long shot of the camp with the nose of the C-47 in the foreground. You can see engine warmers attached by hoses, and emblazoned on the nose of the plane is a hula dancer and the name "Tropical Tilly", an irony for an Alaska-based aircraft.
In an interview on National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, when asked about the most scared they'd ever been at the movies, Ebert indicated that this film scared him to death, especially the scene where they incinerated the "Thing".
James Arness and John Dierkes were 6' 6" tall. But the handsome Arness was chosen to play the monster instead of the much more raw-boned, and cadaverous Dierkes.
This movie was Margaret Sheridan's film debut after Howard Hawks signed her to a five-year deal. However, her follow-on roles were less-than-stellar and Hawks often lent her out to friends exploring the new medium of television. She left Hollywood in 1955 to have a family, briefly returned in 1964 (resulting in two TV guest spots and an uncredited movie role) and finally retired from acting in 1965.
The difference of opinion between Kenneth Tobey and James Arness as to who actually directed the film is not a surprise. Directors very often had their assistants direct the "action" sequences so that they could focus their time on the speaking roles, where most of the "important" portions of the film were centered. Assistant directors generally were assigned to get multiple takes of action sequences which the directors would then be able to see with a more objective eye.
When they are all flying out to the crash site for the first time, they see where the craft has landed and discuss it. It touched down, skidded, and then came to stop and melted through the ice. They show a long shot of the skid and where it finally stopped. If you slow motion the film or stop it, it reveals the following: At the beginning of the skid, the touchdown point, there is what looks like a guy in a hat knelt down by a machine of some sort. That could be the ice cutting machine that made the entire etching for the scene.
Remade in 1982 as "The Thing" and again in 2011 as "The Thing"
Two months prior to principal photography, James Arness was brought in during the design and development of the make-up.
The Thing doesn't appear until one hour and ten minutes.
Dr. Carrington describes the Thing as a "stranger in a strange land". This may be a reference to Gershom in the Book of Exodus 2:22; it is also the title of a 1961 novel by Robert Heinlein, who would certainly have known the quote in the movie.
George Fenneman, the announcer on the TV program "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx, plays the crew member who suggests the use of high voltage to kill the Creature.
A potentially harmful myth was given new life in this film. When two men come in from the outside, one is complaining of a frostbitten hand. The other tells him "get some ice water on that hand". It's hard to imagine how this myth got started but it was a fairly wide spread beliefs from at least the 1940's to the 1960's that frost bite should be treated with more cold. This is absolutely false.
John Wayne was offered the lead in Gunsmoke (1955). He turned it down, but recommended James Arness. The first episode of the series featured an introduction by Wayne, who endorsed Arness. Ironically, Arness had been wounded while fighting in the U.S. Army during World War II, hit by machine gun fire during the landings at Anzio, and had a limp. He found it difficult to film long scenes in the saddle.
One of the crew says, "ask the Army". They are in the U.S. Air Force.
While complaining about the difficulty in getting a story approved, Scott wonders what Truman is going to say, and Eddie replies "Margaret". Harry Truman was the U.S. President at the time of the picture, and his wife Margaret (known as "Bess") was his personal confidant.
Although the picture begins with the usual RKO Radio tower and flashing electrical bolts, the familiar "dot-dash-dot" is replaced by the picture's opening theme, unusual for an RKO Production.
Scenes from this film were showed in John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) when characters, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), and Tommy Doyle (Brian Andrews) were watching this film on tv on Halloween night. Director of Halloween (1978) also helped remake 'The Thing From Another World' in 1982 as 'The Thing'.
When Bob is reading about I'd is he said the air force had stopped investigating if is. This was 1951. Project Blue Book didn't stop until 1969/0.
Although it is based on a short story titled "Who Goes There?" by John Campbell, the movie and original story have almost nothing in common except the saucer and its inhabitant crashing near the research station in a frozen wilderness. Screenwriter Charles Lederer, with assistance from Howard Hawks and Ben Hecht, came up with the rest. They added the no-nonsense military men in keeping with Hawks' men-of-action theme.
Finnish censorship certificate # 34699 delivered on 4-10-1951.
Both John Dierkes and Douglas Spencer would appear together again two years later, in the classic western, "Shane".
Although they are not credited, some well-known faces and voices appeared in the movie. John Dierkes played in several John Ford/John Wayne westerns, George Fenneman was Groucho Marx's announcer and foil for many years on television, and everyone's favorite "disembodied voice", Paul Frees, was one of the scientists (and makes it to the end of the movie).