IMDb > I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) More at IMDbPro »

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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang -- Paul Muni is a World War I vet who is wrongly convicted of armed robbery and is sentenced to hard labor where he endures gross humiliation and torture at the hands of a sadistic warden.
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang -- Trailer for this classic action drama

Overview

User Rating:
8.1/10   8,597 votes »
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Up 26% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Director:
Writers:
Robert E. Burns (by)
Howard J. Green (screen play) ...
(more)
Contact:
View company contact information for I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
19 November 1932 (USA) See more »
Genre:
Tagline:
Six sticks of dynamite that blasted his way to freedom... and awoke America's conscience!
Plot:
Wrongly convicted James Allen serves in the intolerable conditions of a southern chain gang, which later comes back to haunt him. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Awards:
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins See more »
User Reviews:
"How Do You Live?" See more (329 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Paul Muni ... James Allen
Glenda Farrell ... Marie
Helen Vinson ... Helen
Noel Francis ... Linda
Preston Foster ... Pete

Allen Jenkins ... Barney Sykes
Berton Churchill ... The Judge
Edward Ellis ... Bomber Wells
David Landau ... The Warden
Hale Hamilton ... Rev. Allen

Sally Blane ... Alice
Louise Carter ... Mother
Willard Robertson ... Prison Board Chairman
Robert McWade ... Attorney
Robert Warwick ... Fuller
William Le Maire ... A Texan (as William LeMaire)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Erville Alderson ... Police Chief (uncredited)
Irving Bacon ... Bill (uncredited)
Reginald Barlow ... Parker (uncredited)
James Bell ... Red (uncredited)
Everett Brown ... Sebastian T. Yale (uncredited)
Frederick Burton ... Southern Prison Official (uncredited)
A.S. 'Pop' Byron ... Cop in Barbershop (uncredited)
Eddy Chandler ... Job Foreman (uncredited)
Wallis Clark ... Chicago Lawyer (uncredited)

G. Pat Collins ... Wilson (uncredited)
George Cooper ... Vaudevillian (uncredited)
Jack Curtis ... Prison Guard (uncredited)

Douglass Dumbrille ... District Attorney (uncredited)
J. Frank Glendon ... Arresting Officer (uncredited)
Lew Kelly ... Diner Cook (uncredited)
Jack La Rue ... Ackerman (uncredited)
Edward LeSaint ... Chamber of Commerce Chairman (uncredited)
Walter Long ... Blacksmith (uncredited)
Jack Low ... Big Prisoner (uncredited)
John Marston ... Prison Commissioner (uncredited)
Charles McAvoy ... Cop (uncredited)
Edward McNamara ... 2nd Warden (uncredited)

Charles Middleton ... Train Conductor (uncredited)
Dennis O'Keefe ... Café Chateau Dancer (uncredited)
William Pawley ... Doggy (uncredited)
Charles Sellon ... Hot-Dog Stand Owner (uncredited)
Allen D. Sewall ... Train Station Guard (uncredited)
Lee Shumway ... Arresting Officer (uncredited)
William H. Strauss ... Pawnbroker (uncredited)
Sheila Terry ... Allen's Secretary (uncredited)
Fred 'Snowflake' Toones ... Marine on Ship (uncredited)
Jack Wise ... Tailor (uncredited)
Harry Woods ... Prison Guard (uncredited)

John Wray ... Nordine (uncredited)

Directed by
Mervyn LeRoy 
 
Writing credits
Robert E. Burns (by)

Howard J. Green (screen play) &
Brown Holmes (screen play)

Sheridan Gibney  screen play (uncredited)

Produced by
Hal B. Wallis .... executive producer (uncredited)
 
Original Music by
Bernhard Kaun (uncredited)
 
Cinematography by
Sol Polito (photography)
 
Film Editing by
William Holmes (edited by)
 
Art Direction by
Jack Okey 
 
Costume Design by
Orry-Kelly (gowns)
 
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Al Alleborn .... assistant director (uncredited)
 
Camera and Electrical Department
Robert H. Wagner .... camera operator (uncredited)
 
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Eugene Joseff .... costume jeweller (uncredited)
 
Music Department
Leo F. Forbstein .... conductor: Vitaphone Orchestra
 
Other crew
S.H. Sullivan .... technical director
Robert E. Burns .... consultant (uncredited)
S. Charles Einfeld .... general press agent (uncredited)
Jack Miller .... technical director (uncredited)
 
Crew verified as complete


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Additional Details

Also Known As:
Runtime:
92 min (Turner library print)
Country:
Language:
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (original release)
Certification:
Argentina:13 | Australia:PG | Finland:K-16 (1946) | Finland:(Banned) (1933) | Norway:16 (1933) | Sweden:15 (cut) | USA:Not Rated | USA:Approved (certificate number not assigned at release) | USA:Approved (re-release: PCA #2647-R, 3 September 1936) | West Germany:16

Did You Know?

Trivia:
The film caused a lot of controversy, actually leading to the pardon of its main character, Robert Elliot Burns, who was still on the lam when the film first hit theaters.See more »
Goofs:
Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): 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:
James Allen:Do you mind if we stay here awhile, or must you go home?
Helen:There are no musts in my life. I'm free, white and twenty-one.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in Paksunahka (1958)See more »
Soundtrack:
The Darktown Strutters' BallSee more »

FAQ

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
40 out of 44 people found the following review useful.
"How Do You Live?", 23 December 2001
Author: jhclues from Salem, Oregon

In a society known for freedom and justice, how is that justice truly measured and meted out? When an individual's very life hinges on a verdict of innocent or guilty, is there such a thing as an objective call? Or is a person's life subject to mere perception; a subjective evaluation of `facts' assimilated through a filter of bloated egos and personal agenda? All questions that many, perhaps, would prefer not to have answered, nor indeed, even asked at all. Those who are so secure in the absolutism of our justice system that they will willingly defer to the establishment in all matters, and with a clear conscience. The `system,' after all, is infallible; or at least good enough, isn't it? Good enough, that is, when it's being tested on `someone else.' But what if that glitch in the system becomes personal? What if `you' are the one who falls victim to a miscarriage of justice, and your voice becomes impotent, grinding your pleas into so much pulp beneath the wheels of a machine to which you are nothing more than another insignificant cog? It's a situation examined in the absorbing drama, `I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang,' directed by Mervyn LeRoy, and starring Paul Muni.

James Allen (Muni) returns home from WWI to find his old job in a shoe factory awaiting him. But James is a changed man, with aspirations of doing something meaningful with his life; and he wants to put the experience he received in the Army-- in the Engineering Corps-- to use. He wants to build things-- bridges, roads-- useful things. And toward that end he sets out and scours the East Coast from north to south looking for work, but jobs are scarce. Finally, having taken to `walking the ties,' the rail leads him into St. Louis, just another out-of-work bum in the eyes of society. There he meets up with a guy named Pete (Preston Foster), who tells James he knows where they can get a hamburger as a hand-out. The trusting and somewhat naive James goes along, only to find himself on the wrong end of a stick-up gone bad.

From that point, the justice system moves swiftly, and James Allen finds himself sentenced to ten years at hard labor on a chain gang. His offense? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong guy.

Based on the autobiographical story by Robert E. Burns, and written for the screen by Sheridan Gibney and Brown Holmes, LeRoy's riveting film is an inditement of the justice system-- specifically the brutality of the chain gangs-- but also of a society too smug and filled with self-righteousness to realize how fragile and tentative the freedoms we enjoy really are. America is the greatest country in the world-- a veritable bastion of freedom-- but those who would throw out their chests while holding up the Constitution, citing whichever amendment it is that suits their personal agenda, should be made to walk a mile in the shoes of Robert Burns/James Allen. Or for a start, be required to watch this film.

Released in 1932, this film is devoid of the melodrama common to many films of this era, and instead presents the story in very realistic terms, the meaning of which is indisputable. Like Hitchcock's unnerving 1957 film, `The Wrong Man' (also based on a true story), this film is not only disconcerting, but down-right scary when you stop to consider the implications of it. It also evokes a sense of Kafka's `The Trial' (also made into a movie in 1963 by Orson Welles), but without the abstractedness; unlike `The Trial's' Joseph K., James Allen knows exactly what's happened to him and how. What he can't understand is `Why.' Nor would any rational man, betrayed by the very society in which he placed his implicit trust, understand.

Paul Muni gives a dynamic, stirring performance as James Allen, capturing all of the confusion, exasperation, pain and anguish of his inexplicable situation, all of which you can see in his expression, in his eyes and in his body language and demeanor. You feel the darkness into which he is forced to descend, and with him you share that sense of hope fading away more with each passing day. From the tension of the moment when he first attempts to `Hang it on the limb,' to what is one of the most haunting endings ever filmed, you're right there, living it with him. It's a powerful, truly memorable performance by Muni.

The supporting cast includes Helen Vinson (Helen), Noel Francis (Linda), Allen Jenkins (Barney), Berton Churchill (Judge), Edward Ellis (Bomber Wells), David Landau (Warden), Hale Hamilton (Rev. Robert Allen), Sally Blane (Alice), Louise Carter (Allen's Mother), James Bell (Red), William Le Maire (Texan), Edward Arnold (Lawyer) and Willard Robertson (Prison Commissioner). In no way does this film exaggerate the situation it depicts; it doesn't have to. In the end, `I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang' is a wake-up call of sorts, a warning to those who take personal freedom for granted or place too much trust in a flawed system mired in bureaucracy. That a film made in 1932 can still have such an impact today says more than enough about how good it is. And once you've seen it, you'll never forget that final, haunting scene, and James Allen's final words. I rate this one 10/10.

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