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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 8,610 users  
Reviews: 330 user | 38 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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Writers:

(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 ...
Marie
Helen Vinson ...
Noel Francis ...
Preston Foster ...
...
Barney Sykes
...
The Judge
Edward Ellis ...
Bomber Wells
David Landau ...
The Warden
Hale Hamilton ...
Rev. Allen
...
Alice
Louise Carter ...
Mother
Willard Robertson ...
Prison Board Chairman
Robert McWade ...
Attorney
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

Mervyn LeRoy abandoned 42nd Street (1933) in order to direct this film. See more »

Goofs

Calendar pages flip several times in the film and it is always the same calendar even though the events of the story unfold over the course of many years. The first calendar flipping should be 1923 or 1924. The next is in 1929/30. The last flipping is likely intended to be 1930/31. In all cases, a 1932 (could be 1904, but due to the date of the film, 1932 is more likely) calendar is used. In two instances, the date flips from December to January and in both instances Jan 1 falls on the wrong day. Instead of using a 1933 calendar for January, they simply used the same 1932 calendar. See more »

Quotes

[last lines]
Helen: How do you live?
James Allen: I steal.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Backstory: Gentleman's Agreement (2001) 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

 
Absolutely powerhouse film, possibly the finest of the early sound era
12 April 2007 | by (Worcester, MA) – See all my reviews

"I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang" is possibly the finest film of the early sound era. Considering how filmmakers weren't adapt yet to the new medium, its impressive how this film seems to be devoid of much of the awkwardness that usually plagues films from this time. There isn't too much music, but it doesn't slow down the pace or distract the viewer. Also, Mervyn LeRoy's workman direction is quite adequate. Between "Little Caesar" and this, he seemed to become much more comfortable with the new sound medium.

While some of the supporting acting is a bit campy (I realize how many modern viewers don't enjoy pre-method acting), Paul Muni delivers a subdued and absolutely powerhouse performance. Its a shame he never became a bigger star, because as far as I'm concerned he's just as fine as Clark Gable or Gary Cooper. Also, the social message of this film was far ahead of its time in decrying what was a government institution. This was a very progressive film. In addition to the historical significance, the film is just as powerful as when it was initially released. In particular, the ending is a complete knockout (one of the finest closing lines ever for a film). Thankfully, this was made before the Hayes Code, so it includes some interesting (and realistic) depictions of sex. This deserves a ten the whole way, a rating I don't often hand out. (10/10)


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