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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

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Title: I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang  
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Subject: 6th Academy Awards, Paul Muni, Social problem film, Everett Brown, Laughter in Hell
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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

This article is about the 1932 movie. For the book, see I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang!
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
Film poster
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Written by Robert E. Burns
Screenplay by Howard J. Green
Brown Holmes
Sheridan Gibney
Based on I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang!
Starring Paul Muni
Glenda Farrell
Helen Vinson
Noel Francis
Music by Bernhard Kaun
Leo F. Forbstein
Cinematography Sol Polito
Edited by William Holmes
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Associated Artists Productions (1956 re-release)
Release dates November 10, 1932 (1932-11-10)[1]
Running time 93 minutes
Country United States
Language English

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) is a True Detective magazine.[2] It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy.

The true life story of Robert Elliot Burns, on which I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang is based, was later recreated in the television movie, The Man Who Broke a 1,000 Chains (1987), starring Val Kilmer.[3]

In 1991, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


Sergeant James Allen (Paul Muni) returns to civilian life after World War I but his war experience makes him restless. His family feels he should be grateful for a tedious job as an office clerk, and when he announces that he wants to become an engineer, they react with outrage. He leaves home to find work on any sort of project, but unskilled labor is plentiful and it's hard for him to find a job. Wandering and sinking into poverty, he accidentally becomes caught up in a robbery and is sentenced to ten years on a brutal Southern chain gang.

He escapes and makes his way to Chicago, where he becomes a success in the construction business. He becomes involved with the proprietor of his boardinghouse, Marie Woods (Glenda Farrell), who discovers his secret and blackmails him into an unhappy marriage. He then meets and falls in love with Helen (Helen Vinson). When he asks his wife for a divorce, she betrays him to the authorities. He is offered a pardon if he will turn himself in; Allen accepts, only to find that it was just a ruse. He escapes once again.

In the end, Allen visits Helen in the shadows on the street and tells her he is leaving forever. She asks, "Can't you tell me where you're going? Will you write? Do you need any money?" James repeatedly shakes his head in answer as he backs away. Finally Helen says, "But you must, Jim. How do you live?" In the film's final line and shot, James, unseen in the darkness, replies, "I steal." The line is among the most famous closing lines in American film.[4]:25 LeRoy later claimed that the idea for James' retreat into darkness came to him when a fuse blew on the set, but in fact it was written into the script.[4]:36


Impact on American society

in a scene from the trailer for the film

Audiences in the United States who saw the film began to question the legitimacy of the United States legal system,[5] and in January 1933 the film's protagonist, Robert Elliot Burns, who was still imprisoned in New Jersey, and a number of other chain gang prisoners nationwide in the United States were able to appeal and were released.[6] In January 1933, Georgia chain gang warden J. Harold Hardy, who was also made into a character in the film, sued the studio for displaying "vicious, brutal and false attacks" against him in the film.[7]

Awards and nominations

Academy Award Nominations:[8]

National Board Review Award:

Other Wins:


  1. ^ "Screen Notes". New York Times. 10 November 1932. 
  2. ^ Marr, John. "True Detective, R.I.P.". 
  3. ^ McGee, Scott (2014). "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang". Turner Classic Movies. Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. Retrieved August 10, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b O'Connor, John E. "Introduction: Warners Finds Its Social Conscience." I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang. Ed. John E. O'Connor University of Wisconsin Press, 2005
  5. ^ "States & Cities: Fugitive". Time. Dec 26, 1932. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  6. ^ "States & Cities: Fugitive Free". Time. Jan 2, 1933. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  7. ^ "Milestones, Jan. 16, 1933". Time. 1933-01-16. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  8. ^ "The 6th Academy Awards (1934) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2011-08-07. 

Further reading

  • Burns, Robert E. (1932). I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang!. University of Georgia Press.  

External links

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