Gregory Peck was originally approached to play the role of Max Cady , but he said he did not want to play the villain and instead asked for (and received) the role of the hero, Sam Bowden.
When approached to play the villain, Mitchum declined the role. Thompson and Gregory Peck send him bourbon. Mitchum replied: "OK, I'll do it. I've drunk your bourbon. I'm drunk. I'll do it".
The scene where Mitchum attacks Polly Bergan's character on the houseboat was almost completely improvised. Before the scene was filmed, the director suddenly asked a crew member: "Bring me a dish of eggs!" Mitchum rubbing the eggs on Bergan was not scripted and Bergan's reactions were real. She also suffered back injuries from being knocked around so much. She felt the impact of the 'attack' for days.
Hayley Mills was originally considered to play the daughter, but she was on a contract with Disney and was unable to do so. Lori Martin was cast as Bowdon's daughter and reported having nightmares for weeks after filming the scenes where she is menaced by Cady at school, and when he confronts her in a cabin. The word 'rape' was entirely removed from the script.
The outdoor Savannah scenes were filmed first.
The indoor scenes and Cape Fear scenes were done at Universal studios. Robert Mitchum had a real-life aversion to Savannah, Georgia . As a teenager Mitchum worked in a chain-gang there before escaping.
The remake directed by Martin Scorcese was Gregory Peck's final appearance in a theatrical film release. The climactic scene in Cape Fear in the swamp was filmed in John U. Lloyd State Park, in the middle of a Fort Lauderdale mangrove swamp. A few blocks away, one could see the same scenery where they filmed both versions of "Where the Boys Are." A tropical depression set over the set for four days, so the film crew had to wait for the storm to stop, so that they could make their own rain.
A free screening will be held this Saturday afternoon 1PM at the Main Library 300 seat auditorium, located at 100 South andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, 33304.
A pass for 2 will be given away for the Floprida Supercon http://www.floridasupercon.com/ after the screening of the John D.MacDonald classic.