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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  19 November 1932 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 8,736 users  
Reviews: 342 user | 39 critic

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



(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 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
Louise Carter ...
James Allen's Mother
Willard Robertson ...
Prison Board Chairman
Robert McWade ...
F.E. Ramsey
Robert Warwick ...


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


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


Crime | Drama | Film-Noir


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

19 November 1932 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

I Am a Fugitive  »

Box Office


$195,845 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(original release)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


At the time of filming, America had essentially turned its back on its First World War veterans who came back to a country that could offer them no jobs or homes due to the Depression. The film entered production just a month after President Herbert Hoover had ordered the army and police to move against 8000 veterans marching in protest in Washington, DC, at how they were being treated (the troops were led by future Gen. Douglas MacArthur). The resulting clashes left two police officers and two veterans dead. See more »


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 »


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


The Darktown Strutters' Ball
(1917) (uncredited)
Music by Shelton Brooks
Played when Jim meets up with Barney
See more »

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User Reviews

More Facts For Fans Of This Film
7 November 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

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.

37 of 42 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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