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 -- Trailer for this classic action drama

Overview

User Rating:
8.0/10   8,071 votes »
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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:
Brilliant and ahead of its time See more (294 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:
At the time of filming, America had essentially turned its back on its First World War veterans who came back to a country who could offer them no jobs or homes due to the Depression. The film entered production just a month after President Herbert Hoover had ordered an attack on 8000 veterans marching in protest at how they were being treated. The result left two police officers and two veterans dead.See more »
Goofs:
Continuity: When James Allen is getting a shave he asks the barber for a hot towel and when he does this the left side of his face is covered in shaving cream. When the barber returns with the towel the left side of his face has no shaving cream on it.See more »
Quotes:
[last lines]
Helen:How do you live?
James Allen:I steal.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Spoofed in Super 8½ (1994)See more »
Soundtrack:
Someone to Care ForSee more »

FAQ

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.
34 out of 43 people found the following review useful.
Brilliant and ahead of its time, 9 July 2005
Author: Brandt Sponseller from New York City

I have an interesting point of view for you--I'm actually in favor of bringing back prison chain gangs/work camps (while at the same time being in favor of legalizing all consensual "crimes"), yet I think that I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is a simply brilliant film. I mention my unusual view on corrections/institutional punishment to stress that one need not completely agree with the film's surface ideology to think that the film is a masterpiece. And that's as it should be. Films should be appreciated or not as artworks, not adopted or rejected as symbols of political or other views, as if films are campaigning for office and you are wearing a button.

Still, this is a "social conscience" film and important as such. The story was adapted from the autobiography of Robert E. Burns, who ended up on a chain gang in Georgia after he stole less than $6 so that he could eat. Burns has been changed to James Allen (Paul Muni) and the chain gang was relocated in Louisiana (interestingly, Georgia officials still became incensed at Warner Brothers and issued what amounted to threats against studio executives and the artists behind this film).

The film begins with James on a ship, in the military, on his way home from World War I. He returns as a war hero, decorated with a medal. Prior to joining the military, he had been working at a factory in his New Jersey hometown--a job he doesn't at all look forward to resuming. But when he arrives home, he discovers that his Reverend brother and his mother are expecting him to go back to the factory and not make waves. He obliges at first, but he really wants to become an engineer. Exasperated, he leaves home again, looking for work. Times are tough (remember that I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang was made during the Great Depression in the U.S.) and James quickly moves from state to state trying to find and retain work.

Things do not go so well. James ends up traveling along rail lines and staying in homeless shelters. At one, he hooks up with a man who says that he can mooch a couple of hamburgers for them from the owner of a diner. The mooching works, but the man suddenly pulls out a gun and initiates an armed robbery. James is forced into participating and gets caught, bringing him to prison. The first section of the film focuses on existence in the chain gang. Later, as one could surmise from the title, James becomes a fugitive, and the story becomes entrancingly complex as he tries to begin a new life. But difficulties keep arising.

As he often did, director Mervyn LeRoy achieves a style that seems remarkably modern. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is extremely serious, but never approaches melodrama. Instead, it has a wonderfully gritty atmosphere that tends to be underplayed instead--there are similarities to more recent films that it probably influenced such as Don Siegel's Escape from Alcatraz (1979) and Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law (1986), both excellent in their own right.

The plot is a bit sprawling in terms of the number of events, the number of years and the number of geographic locations covered, yet the screenplay, by Howard J. Green, Brown Holmes and Sheridan Gibney, is extremely tight and logical. Nothing is superfluous. The pacing is always right on target. LeRoy knows exactly when to dwell on a scene versus when to let months fly by with changing calendar pages. The cinematography is also very attractive. LeRoy includes a lot of subtly clever artistic touches such as symbolic continuity in his edits--for example, from a judge's gavel to a swinging sledgehammer on the chain gang.

Muni is simply incredible. He's a perfect fit for the character. His performance makes the film extremely believable, even when the character makes some ill-advised choices. He seems as skilled at action as he is at drama (there are a few action sequences here in the modern sense of that genre term). I haven't seen many of Muni's films yet, but after seeing this one, I'm anxious to check them out. The rest of the cast is fine, but Muni receives 90-something percent of the screen time.

In addition to the "indictment" of the chain gang system, LeRoy and his writers make the film a tragic parable of freedom versus regimentation. James is a freethinking individualist, almost in an Ayn Rand sense, who is constantly trapped in various conformist systems. The military is the first symbol of this, and so is the factory that James dreads going back to. His brother is a symbol of conservative systematization via religion. And of course, the chain gang is the most negative system in which James becomes entrapped. When James is the freest--when he's wandering from state to state--he's also the most disadvantaged in terms of societal norms. His eventual vocation in the film can be seen as a gradual climb towards existential authenticity, and his work is symbolic--he's not just literally building bridges, roads and such. Ironically, he was engaged in the same kind of work on the chain gang, and ultimately, James is not able to achieve the freedom/authenticity that he desires. It's as if the film is making the argument that extreme uniqueness entails marginalization as a fringe element in a way that's often actively negative. Of course, there are many other interpretations possible, but it's difficult to deny some of these messages.

But, however analytical you want to get, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is a must-see for any cinephile. The film is enjoyable on many different levels, and is far ahead of its time.

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