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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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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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(by), (screen play) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... James Allen
... Marie Woods
... Helen
... Linda
... Pete
... Barney Sykes
... The Judge
... Bomber Wells
... The Warden
... Rev. Robert Allen
... Alice
... James Allen's Mother
... Prison Board Chairman
... F.E. Ramsey
... Fuller
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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  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$195,845 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

(original release)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

For his part in the making of the film, Jack L. Warner said the film's social message was "the first sermon I had ever put on film." See more »

Goofs

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

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

Connections

Version of The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (1987) 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

one of Warners' best problem pictures
8 May 2004 | by See all my reviews

Mervyn LeRoy's chain gang movie from 1932 starring Paul Muni ruffled feathers on its initial appearance, and still packs a considerable punch when viewed today.

James Allen is implicated in a robbery and is sentenced to hard labour - seeking justice and the ability to clear his name he escapes from the brutality of the prison regime and sets up a new life (as Allen James, not that much of a name change really). The new Allen is a man of influence and importance, who does good for his community. The State still wants revenge though and when he is betrayed, his life really goes pear-shaped.

A sharp and perceptive script is the greatest strength of this drama, plus Paul Muni's exceptional performance in the lead during the different situations faced by his character. Glenda Farrell also makes an impression, but it is probably the last sequence you'll remember the longest, as a desperate Muni fades into the shadows and a lifetime on the edge of society. A heavy verdict indeed on American justice of the 1930s.


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