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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  19 November 1932 (USA)
8.1
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 8,661 users  
Reviews: 330 user | 39 critic

Wrongly convicted James Allen serves in the intolerable conditions of a southern chain gang, which later comes back to haunt him.

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(by), (screen play), 2 more credits »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Glenda Farrell ...
Helen Vinson ...
Noel Francis ...
...
...
Barney Sykes
...
The Judge
Edward Ellis ...
Bomber Wells
David Landau ...
The Warden
Hale Hamilton ...
Rev. Robert Allen
...
Alice
Louise Carter ...
James Allen's Mother
Willard Robertson ...
Prison Board Chairman
Robert McWade ...
F.E. Ramsey
Robert Warwick ...
Fuller
Edit

Storyline

Having returned from fighting in World War I, James Allen doesn't want to settle into a humdrum life and decides to set off to find his fortune. He travels the length and breadth of America, working as a skilled tradesman in the construction industry. When times get tough however, he finds himself living in a shelter where an acquaintance suggests they go out for a hamburger. What the friend really has in mind is to rob the diner and Allen soon finds himself working on a chain gang with a long jail sentence. Allen manages to escape however and heads to Chicago where over several years he slowly but surely works his way up the ladder to become one of the most respected construction engineers in the city. His past catches up with him and despite protestations from civic leaders and his many friends in Chicago, he finds himself again on the chain gang. Escaping for a second time, he accepts that to survive, he must lead a life of crime. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Six sticks of dynamite that blasted his way to freedom... and awoke America's conscience!

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

19 November 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

I Am a Fugitive  »

Box Office

Budget:

$195,845 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(original release)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was based on the true story of Robert E. Burns. It sticks basically to the facts except for two instances: Burns actually did steal the $5.29 in order to eat, and he finally succeeded in evading the Georgia legal system with the help of three New Jersey governors. Burns actually slipped into Hollywood and worked for a few weeks on the film, but ultimately the stress and risk were too much, and he fled back to the safety of New Jersey. The book and film helped bring about the collapse of the brutal chain gang system in Georgia. Warner Bros. took a big chance on the film, as social commentary was not normally done in Hollywood pictures. However, this film was a critical and financial success and helped establish Warners as the studio with a social conscience - it also helped save the financially ailing company. Even though Georgia was never specifically named in the film, numerous lawsuits were filed against the studio, the film was banned in Georgia, and the studio's head and the film's director were told that should they ever find themselves in Georgia they would be treated to a dose of the "social evil" they so roundly denounced. See more »

Goofs

After James Allen's second escape from the chain gang, the last newspaper article shown states that he escaped "A little more than a year ago...". In the (final) scene that follows, Helen says to him, "It's been almost a year since you escaped." See more »

Quotes

Pete: I'm hungry. What would you say to a hamburger?
James Allen: What would I say to a hamburger? Boy. I'd take Mr. Hamburger by the hand and say, "Pal, I haven't seen you for a long, long time."
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Paksunahka (1958) See more »

Soundtracks

St. Louis Blues
(1914) (uncredited)
Music by W.C. Handy
Played as background music at Barney's place
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Still powerful
30 July 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Paul Muni comes back from the war (WWI) a hero. He's offered his old job back but declines it--he wants to make it on his own. He inadvetantly gets involved in a stickup and is (unjustly) sent to a chain gang for 9 years. The prisoners there are treated horribly--beaten by sadistic guards and forced to eat wretched food. After a few months Muni has had it. He escapes, changes his name, makes a living for himself and is very successful. But his past begins to catch up on him...

A very early Warner Bros. social drama--and one of their best. It's pretty strong stuff. I remember originally seeing this on TV back in the 1970s and really being shocked by it. It's not graphic but what you hear is even worse then being shown it (the whippings in particular). It also shows a law system that doesn't give a damn about how they treat their prisoners. They should be treated like dirt--and are! The story moves quickly and Muni is just superb. This movie made him and you can see why. Also it has one of the most depressing endings I've ever seen in a motion picture. It hit me hard back in the 1970s and still works today. Muni's haunted face and the final line are harrowing. A true classic--a must-see.

Be warned--some non-cable TV prints cut out the final line!


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