Clark Gable was ill during filming, and his head violently shakes in several scenes. It is believed his shaking was caused by his chronic alcoholism and smoking four packs of cigarettes a day, although there were rumors he had Parkinson's disease.
Despite receiving generally favorable reviews, the film proved to be only a moderate hit at the box office. This may have been partly due to the fact that it was released at the same time as Teacher's Pet (1958), also starring Clark Gable.
Although at the time of its release the movie was hailed as a fairly realistic portrayal of a submarine in World War II, there was also some controversy since both Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster were much older than real US Navy captains and lieutenants in wartime.
This movie was filmed aboard the US Redfish. According to one sailor on the Redfish at the time, Clark Gable spent a lot of free time between shots with the enlisted men, whereas Burt Lancaster limited himself to the officers primarily and usually just sat in the officers mess.
Frank Gorshin was originally due to test for the role of Petty Officer Ruby but refused to fly to the testing. Instead, he drove and was involved in an accident, leaving him with a fractured skull. he spent four days in a hospital, and awoke to find that the role had been given to Don Rickles.
The ship Cmdr. Richardson (Clark Gable) is obsessed with finding, the Akikaze, was an actual Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer. She was commissioned on September 16, 1920, and was quite old for ship standards by the time World War II began. For that reason, she was used as a fast troop transport and convoy escort. On November 3, 1944, she was escorting the carrier Junyo and light cruiser Kiso toward Brunei in the Philippines. The US Navy submarine USS Pintado (SS-387) attacked the formation and fired torpedoes at the Junyo, but the Akikaze deliberately intercepted the torpedoes intended for the carrier, causing her to blow up and sink with her entire crew of 148 officers and men.
According to Don Rickles, Burt Lancaster took the technical aspects of the production very seriously, always inquiring what the various dials and gauges meant. Rickles humored the star by saying he did, too.
The comic character of Russo in this movie was played by Nick Cravat, a circus acrobat who was a close friend and former colleague of Burt Lancaster's from his old circus days. Cravat had played many smaller parts in Lancaster's films. This apparently marked a reconciliation between the two after a long period. It also marked the first time Cravat had a speaking part--his previous appearances were in Lancaster's "period" films, usually set in medieval Europe, and Cravat's pronounced Brooklyn accent would have been wildly out of place, so he usually played a mute.
The world premiere was held on April 1, 1958, on board the SS-313 USS Perch. The 'Los Angeles Times' reported that this movie was the first ever to have an underwater premiere. Attendees included a wardroom full of US Navy submarine officers and media. The Perch's location during the premiere was in the Pacific Ocean near Terminal Island, CA.
The older / younger dynamic (deskbound older commander taking the reins of what was to be the younger commander's first ship, yet keeping the younger officer on as the Exec) was featured prominently in another Robert Wise film some 20 years later: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).
Daily Variety reported in May 1955 that United Artists had acquired the rights to the novel "Run Silent Run Deep" by Cmdr. Edward L. Beach. This, apparently, was the first time that the UA actually acquired a property outright without a ready production schedule. The studio had been originally established as a financing/production organization that would make films in association with independent producers who already had properties they owned and wanted to produce.
Underwater shots were filmed with miniatures at the large inland Salton Sea in Southern California. (To see what the Salton Sea is like above water, including a U.S. Navy facility, see The Monster That Challenged the World (1957).)
Both the Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter announced in September 1955 that this film would star Cary Grant and be directed by Delmer Daves. The two had previously made Destination Tokyo (1943), As it turned out, neither ended up working on this picture.
The Bungo Straits (actual name is Bungo Channel) would indeed have been a very dangerous patrol area. The Bungo Strait is a narrow channel between three of the four main islands that make up the majority of Japan. The Islands are Kyushu, where the city of Nagasaki is located, Honshu (the largest island), where the city of Hiroshima is located, and Shikoku, where the city of Kochi is located. This would have been a hotly protected area by the Japanese.
'The Hollywood Reporter' announced on May 22, 1957, that Nigel Balchin was co-scriptwriter with John Gay, but Balchin is not included in the film's credits, so it's not known how much, if any, of the final script is his work.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster did not get along during filming, partly due to Lancaster making jokes about Gable's age. There was one major argument when Gable refused to allow the crucial plot development of Lancaster's character to take control of the submarine, because he felt this went against the image he had built up for more than twenty years at MGM. After refusing to work for two days, Gable eventually agreed to return to the studio when it was decided that his character would fall ill, necessitating Lancaster taking command.
The plot device of having the two submarines that were stalking each other come to a complete stop, and then hang motionless while waiting for the other to act, was copied in the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, when both starships stopped inside the nebula.