Johnny Ramirez rises from bouncer to partner in Charlie Roark's border town casino. Charlie's wife Marie loves Johnny, but Johnny loves society woman Dale. Marie kills her husband, making ... See full summary »
Joe Sullivan is itching to get out of prison. He's taken the rap for Rick, who owes him $50 Grand. Rick sets up an escape for Joe, knowing that Joe will be caught escaping and be shot or ... See full summary »
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
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 »
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 »
Do you mind if we stay here awhile, or must you go home?
There are no musts in my life. I'm free, white and twenty-one.
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Since the movie ends somewhat abruptly, I was interested in what happened to this character in real life, so I did some research. For those interested, read on:
The man, whose real name was Burns, lived quite awhile in New Jersey, wrote the book with this same title, even smuggled himself into Los Angeles for two weeks to help with the movie, using an assumed name and acting very skittish. He then went back to New Jersey. The state of Georgia, home of these chain gangs, tried to extradite him but New Jersey wouldn't give him up.
Regarding the film........
"Powerful" was a word describing this movie when it came out over 70 years ago, and it still holds true today. It was based on a true story and if injustice bothers you, this film will be disturbing. It certainly was to me, at least the first time I saw it.
I've seen it several times and am always mesmerized by Paul Muni's performance. Just the expressions on his face alone are fascinating. The other members of the cast are so-so, but it's Muni's movie anyway.
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