I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is a pre-Code 1932 crime/drama film in which Paul Muni stars as a wrongfully convicted convict on a chain gang who escapes to Chicago. The film was written by Howard J. Green and Brown Holmes from Robert Elliott Burns's autobiography, I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang that was serialised in True Detective magazine. It was directed by Mervyn LeRoy.
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 has a hard time finding work. 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. 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.
Cast (in credits order)
Full article ▸