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I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang Details


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 Preston S. Foster (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. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

  • Release date:November 19, 1932


Awarded by
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nathan Levinson Best Sound 1932 Nominee
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Paul Muni Best Actor 1932 Nominee


Paul Muni
as James Allen
Glenda Farrell
as Marie Woods
Helen Vinson
as Helen
Noel Francis
as Linda
Allen Jenkins
as Barney Sykes
Sheila Terry
as Allen's Secretary
Sally Blane
as Alice
David Landau
as Warden
James Bell
as Red
Hale Hamilton
as Rev. Robert Clinton Allen
Robert Warwick
as Fuller
Louise Carter
as Mrs. Allen
Robert McWade
as Ramsey
Edward Arnold
as Lawyer
Lew Kelly
as Man
Harry Woods
as Guard
Dennis O'Keefe
as Dance Extra
Charles Sellon
as Hot Dog Stand Owner
Frederick Burton
as Georgia Prison Official
Wallis Clark
as Lawyer
Jack LaRue
as Ackerman
Berton Churchill
as Judge
Douglas Dumbrille
as District Attorney
Lee Shumway
as Arresting Officer
Erville Alderson
as Chief of Police
Reginald Barlow
as Parker
William Pawley
as Doggy
George Cooper
as Vaudevillian
Willard Robertson
as Prison Commissioner
Edward J. Le Saint
as Chairman, Chamber of Commerce
Edward Ellis
as Bomber Wells
Irving Bacon
as Barber Bill
Charles B. Middleton
as Train Conductor
Walter Long
as Blacksmith


Mervyn LeRoy
Hal B. Wallis
Brown Holmes
Sheridan Gibney
Sol Polito
Leo F. Forbstein
Musical Direction/Supervision
Bernhard Kaun
Composer (Music Score)
William Holmes
Jack Okey
Art Director
Costume Designer
Nathan Levinson
Sound/Sound Designer