I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932 poster).jpg

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is a 1932 American pre-Code crime-drama film directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Paul Muni as a wrongfully convicted convict on a chain gang who escapes to Chicago. It was released on November 10, 1932. The film received positive reviews and three Academy Award nominations.

The film was written by Howard J. Green and Brown Holmes from Robert Elliott Burns's autobiography of a similar name I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang! originally serialized in the True Detective magazine.

Why It Rocks

  1. Paul Muni does an amazing performance as James Allen (Robert Burns under a different name due to censorship). His performance also distinguishes this Warner Bros. "social conscious" picture from most others of the era the film was released in.
  2. James Allen is a very sympathetic lead character (and nicer than his real-life counterpart Robert Burns since Allen was forced to steal the money against his will) considering he's was a WWI veteran who couldn’t find work, famed for taking part in a diner robbery, and escaped from a chain gang.
  3. The director pulls absolutely no punches in showing the brutality and corruption of prison farms. It's gritty, uncompromising, critical, and combative. In a way, it reflected the dire effects of the Great Depression on the common man in its story. It's also cleverly used to garner sympathy for imprisoned convicts without divulging the actual crimes of the convicts.
  4. While it's definitely not the first prison film, this film is definitely one of -- if not the -- most notable of the era, and a lot of the film's story and technique would influence later prison movies.
  5. The film is remarkably faithful to the incredible true-life, autobiographical misfortunes and experiences of Robert Elliott Burns, even with some of the details being excluding
  6. Both of the prison escapes are very thrilling and exciting to watch -- especially the second one.


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