I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

76 or 90 mins | Drama | 19 November 1932

Director:

Mervyn LeRoy

Cinematographer:

Sol Polito

Editor:

William Holmes

Production Designer:

Jack Okey

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

Robert E. Burns's book was serialized in True Detective Mysteries (publication date undetermined). Both Paul Muni and the picture were nominated for Academy Awards. The National Board of Review named it the best picture of 1932. All contemporary reviews include Sheridan Gibney as one of the screenwriters, but his name does not appear on screen. According to FD , Wynne Gibson was considered for the female lead. MPH credits Morgan Wallace with the role of "Ramsey," Sam Baker with "Sebastian T. Yale" and Russell Simpson with the role of "Sheriff." Although many reviews refer to the film's locale as Georgia, the film itself leaves its southern location unnamed. Modern sources differ as to whether Burns was recaptured during a publicity appearance and subsequently was put back into prison or whether he remained free until his death from cancer in 1955. According to modern sources, a replica of the prison camp was built on the Warner Ranch in Calabasas, CA. The rock breaking scene was shot in an actual quarry in Chatsworth, CA. DV notes that there was a possibility that the Soviet government would release the film as one of three American pictures permitted circulation in the USSR. Cabin in the Cotton had already been shown because "it exploited oppression of poor whites in the South." DV reports that two wardens sued Warner Bros. and Vitaphone for alleged attacks on them in the film. HR identifies one of the wardens as L. C. Perkins, who was in charge of the Campbell County prison camp from which Burns escaped. The ... More Less

Robert E. Burns's book was serialized in True Detective Mysteries (publication date undetermined). Both Paul Muni and the picture were nominated for Academy Awards. The National Board of Review named it the best picture of 1932. All contemporary reviews include Sheridan Gibney as one of the screenwriters, but his name does not appear on screen. According to FD , Wynne Gibson was considered for the female lead. MPH credits Morgan Wallace with the role of "Ramsey," Sam Baker with "Sebastian T. Yale" and Russell Simpson with the role of "Sheriff." Although many reviews refer to the film's locale as Georgia, the film itself leaves its southern location unnamed. Modern sources differ as to whether Burns was recaptured during a publicity appearance and subsequently was put back into prison or whether he remained free until his death from cancer in 1955. According to modern sources, a replica of the prison camp was built on the Warner Ranch in Calabasas, CA. The rock breaking scene was shot in an actual quarry in Chatsworth, CA. DV notes that there was a possibility that the Soviet government would release the film as one of three American pictures permitted circulation in the USSR. Cabin in the Cotton had already been shown because "it exploited oppression of poor whites in the South." DV reports that two wardens sued Warner Bros. and Vitaphone for alleged attacks on them in the film. HR identifies one of the wardens as L. C. Perkins, who was in charge of the Campbell County prison camp from which Burns escaped. The lawsuits were dismissed by the Fulton, GA Superior Court. Modern sources identify the wardens as J.H. Hardy and P. Philips. The chain gang system was not abolished until 1937. According to interviews with Mervyn LeRoy, the darkness at the end of the film was the result of a fortuitous accident. Just as Paul Muni finished his line, "I steal," the electricity in the studio failed. When the rushes were viewed, the sudden darkness was thought to be so effective, that he decided not to reshoot the end. Modern sources add the following credits: Exec prod, Hal B. Wallis; Tech dir, Jack Miller. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
8 Mar 34
p. 15.
Daily Variety
26 May 34
p. 5.
Film Daily
23 Jul 32
p. 4.
Film Daily
5 Oct 32
p. 8.
Film Daily
21 Oct 32
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
2 Aug 32
pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Aug 32
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Sep 32
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 32
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Oct 32
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Oct 32
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Nov 32
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 32
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Nov 33
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald
22 Oct 32
p. 31.
New York Times
11 Nov 32
p. 17.
Variety
15 Nov 32
P. 19.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
COSTUMES
Gowns
Silks by
MUSIC
Vitaphone Orch cond
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech dir
General press agent
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on Robert E. Burns's autobiographical book I Am a Fugitive From a Georgia Chain Gang! (New York, 1932).
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 November 1932
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 11 October 1932
Production Date:
29 July--7 September 1932
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc
Copyright Date:
1 November 1932
Copyright Number:
LP3386
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
76 or 90
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Returning from World War I, Sergeant James Allen decides to go into construction work to build something positive after the destruction of the war. There are not enough jobs, however, and soon he unsuccessfully tries to pawn his war medals. By accident, Jim gets involved in a robbery in which the actual thief is killed, and he gets sentenced to ten years on a southern chain gang. The brutal conditions drive him to escape. He slips off his shackles with the help of another prisoner and takes off, dogs baying at his heels. He manages to reach Chicago and, under the name Allen James, works his way up in the construction business. Marie, his landlady, discovers the truth about him, and now that he is successful, blackmails him into marrying her. Their marriage is a disaster. One night at a party, Jim meets Helen and they fall in love. He asks Marie for a divorce, but she refuses and out of revenge, turns him in. When Illinois will not extradite him, southern prison officials offer to pardon him after ninety days if he turns himself in. Anxious to clear his name before he marries Helen, Jim agrees, but when he arrives in the South, he discovers that they lied to him. After his pardon is refused twice, he escapes again, ironically blowing up a bridge during his getaway. This time he must live in hiding. One night he returns to tell Helen goodbye. Completely distraught, she asks him, "How do you live?" "I steal," he answers before he disappears into the ... +


Returning from World War I, Sergeant James Allen decides to go into construction work to build something positive after the destruction of the war. There are not enough jobs, however, and soon he unsuccessfully tries to pawn his war medals. By accident, Jim gets involved in a robbery in which the actual thief is killed, and he gets sentenced to ten years on a southern chain gang. The brutal conditions drive him to escape. He slips off his shackles with the help of another prisoner and takes off, dogs baying at his heels. He manages to reach Chicago and, under the name Allen James, works his way up in the construction business. Marie, his landlady, discovers the truth about him, and now that he is successful, blackmails him into marrying her. Their marriage is a disaster. One night at a party, Jim meets Helen and they fall in love. He asks Marie for a divorce, but she refuses and out of revenge, turns him in. When Illinois will not extradite him, southern prison officials offer to pardon him after ninety days if he turns himself in. Anxious to clear his name before he marries Helen, Jim agrees, but when he arrives in the South, he discovers that they lied to him. After his pardon is refused twice, he escapes again, ironically blowing up a bridge during his getaway. This time he must live in hiding. One night he returns to tell Helen goodbye. Completely distraught, she asks him, "How do you live?" "I steal," he answers before he disappears into the shadows. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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