The film was meant to star Marlon Brando. He wanted a study of Edwin's tragic life (a career ruined by the assassination), not clips of classical plays. Brando later said, "When Fox couldn't get a top-rate actor like Olivier or me, they settled for ... a third -rate performer with even worse skin."
Anti-slavery activist John Brown figures in this film and is seen in silhouette in a jail cell in one scene. Raymond Massey, who plays Junius Brutus Booth, played John Brown in Seven Angry Men (1955), which was made in the same year as this film. He'd also played John Brown in Santa Fe Trail (1940) in 1940, the same year he played Abraham Lincoln in Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940). (In real life, John Wilkes Booth was a witness at the 1859 hanging of John Brown.)
After watching the movie on TV in 1971, Richard Burton wrote in his diary, "I remember the high hopes I had of that film and my disappointment at its indifferent reception. The original script by Moss Hart was very good when I agreed to do it but a year later when I actually did it had been murdered by Zanuck and his hacks. Some of it was salvageable however which accounts for what little success we had. It seems to me that I was outrageously pretty in those days and much prefer my present hard and ravaged countenance." (Hart is the only credited writer.)