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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

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Overview

Warner Bros.' hard-hitting chain-gang movie was a faithful adaptation of the similarly titled autobiography of Robert Elliot Burns. Paul Muni plays World War I veteran James Allen, whose plans of becoming a master architect evaporate in the cold light of economic realities. Flat broke, Allen is forced to pawn his war medals, which have become a glut on the market. When Allen is innocently involved in a restaurant holdup, the police don't buy his story that the robber Preston S. Foster had forced him to clean out ...
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Fast Shipping! 1998 MGM Edition; VHS; Ex-library copy; Original box not included; Tape plays well; Not remainder

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Overview

Warner Bros.' hard-hitting chain-gang movie was a faithful adaptation of the similarly titled autobiography of Robert Elliot Burns. Paul Muni plays World War I veteran James Allen, whose plans of becoming a master architect evaporate in the cold light of economic realities. Flat broke, Allen is forced to pawn his war medals, which have become a glut on the market. When Allen is innocently involved in a restaurant holdup, the police don't buy his story that the robber Preston S. Foster had forced him to clean out the cash register, and Allen is sentenced to ten years on a chain gang. The brutal scenes that follow make the later chain-gang movie Cool Hand Luke 1967 look like a picnic in the country. Unable to stand any more, Allen escapes and heads to Chicago. Using an alias, he builds a new life for himself and within five years is the respected president of a bridge-building firm. His landlady Glenda Farrell, learning about his past, forces Allen to marry her. When he falls in love with another girl Helen Vinson and asks for a divorce, his wife turns him over to the authorities. The real-life Robert Elliot Burns was still a fugitive when he wrote his exposé of the chain-gang system; the publication of Burns' book led to the abolishment of that system and an erasure of Burns' sentence.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Warner Bros was often thought of as the studio with a social conscience in the 1930s, and this film was one of the main reasons why. A movie as grim as I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang was hardly a sure bet at the box office, then or now: based on the memoirs of a man who was still a wanted fugitive from a Georgia work gang, it represented a brave and potentially dangerous attack on a corrupt penal system that created more criminals than it cured. Director Mervyn LeRoy made his work camps (conveniently located in an unnamed state) as dirty, back-breaking, and soul-destroying as the screen would permit in 1932, and many prison films made later under more lenient circumstances were not nearly as brutally effective. Just as significant, Le Roy and screenwriters Howard J. Green, Brown Holmes, and Sheridan Gibney indicted the shabby treatment of America's returning veterans after World War I and damned a society that would put an innocent man behind bars and turn him into a criminal. LeRoy had an ideal leading man in Paul Muni, who made James Allen decent but flawed, making clear that, but for fortune, this story could happen to anyone.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/19/1998
  • UPC: 027616251633
  • Original Release: 1932
  • Rating:

  • Source: Mgm (Video & Dvd)
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Paul Muni James Allen
Glenda Farrell Marie Woods
Helen Vinson Helen
Noel Francis Linda
Preston S. Foster Pete
Edward McNamara Second Warden
Allen Jenkins Barney Sykes
Sheila Terry Allen's Secretary
Sally Blane Alice
David Landau Warden
James Bell Red
John Wray Nordine
Hale Hamilton Rev. Robert Clinton Allen
Robert Warwick Fuller
Louise Carter Mrs. Allen
Robert McWade Ramsey
Everett Brown Sebastian T. Yale
William Le Maire Texas
Edward Arnold Lawyer
of Commerce
Berton Churchill Judge
Edward Ellis Bomber Wells
Harry Woods Guard
Willard Robertson Prison Commissioner
Edward J. Le Saint Chairman, Chamber of Commerce
Douglas Dumbrille District Attorney
Charles B. Middleton Train Conductor
Reginald Barlow Parker
Jack LaRue Ackerman
Charles Sellon Hot Dog Stand Owner
Erville Alderson Chief of Police
George Pat Collins Wilson
Lew Kelly Man
William Pawley Doggy
George Cooper Vaudevillian
Wallis Clark Lawyer
Walter Long Blacksmith
Frederick Burton Georgia Prison Official
Irving Bacon Barber Bill
Lee Shumway Arresting Officer
J. Frank Glendon Arresting Officer
Dennis O'Keefe Dance Extra
Technical Credits
Mervyn LeRoy Director
Leo F. Fobstein Score Composer
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
Sheridan Gibney Screenwriter
Howard J. Green Screenwriter
Brown Holmes Screenwriter
William Holmes Editor
Bernhard Kaun Score Composer
Nathan Levinson Sound/Sound Designer
Jack Okey Art Director
Orry-Kelly Costumes/Costume Designer
Sol Polito Cinematographer
Hal B. Wallis Producer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(2)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

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2 Star

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1 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Masterpiece!

    This is a movie of the highest order. The story, script, direction, acting and soundtrack are superb and perfectly in harmony. Rarely does a movie have such general overall excellence. The ending is spectacular. Bravo!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Brilliant character actor of his time

    Paul Munis' performance is consistent with the above stated reputation he earned over varied roles. The gleam in his eye as he watches a short order burger sizzle on the grill, his acting throughout, and his final words in the film...another gem from the era.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews