Chain Gang DVD

I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang

Warner Brothers

Paul Muni - James Allen/Allen James
Glenda Farrell - Marie Woods
Helen Vinson - Helen
Preston Foster - Pete
Allen Jenkins - Barney Sykes
Edward Ellis - Bomber Wells
Mervyn LeRoy - Director
Hal B. Wallis - Producer
Howard J. Green - Screenwriter
Robert E. Burns - Original Story
Sol Polito - Cinematographer
Bernhard Kaun - Music Cues

Paul Muni I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang is the amazing true story of one man's search for meaning, fall from grace, and eventual victory over injustice. In 1921, Robert E. Burns was shackled to a chain gang for his part in a petty robbery. He soon made a daring escape, dodging shotgun blasts, racing through swamps, and eluding bloodhounds on his way north, where for seven years he lived as a free man until his jealous wife turned him in to the police. Arrested as a fugitive from justice, Burns was promised lenient treatment and a quick pardon, but was back on a chain gang within a month. Undaunted, he did the impossible and escaped a second time, and was still a hunted man living in hiding when this book was first published in 1932.

The book and its movie version, nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in 1933, shocked the world by exposing Georgia's brutal treatment of prisoners. I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang is a daring and heartbreaking book, an odyssey of misfortune, love, betrayal, adventure, and, above all, the unshakeable courage and inner strength of the fugitive himself.

--from the back cover of Brown Thrasher edition of,
I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang.

He was a hunted man, but he couldn't remain silent. In a series of magazine articles, Robert E. Burns wrote of the horrors he endured as an unjustly convicted man who twice escaped a chain gang. When Hollywood beckoned, Burns again demonstrated his firebrand courage. Traveling under a false name, he slipped into California to be technical adviser of the film that proclaimed his story to the world: I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932).

In a role based on Burns, Paul Muni headlines this milestone social-conscience melodrama. "I don't want to imitate you, I want to be you!" Muni told Burns. The remarkable star of Scarface (1932) succeeded. His deeply felt, lived-in performance jolted audiences, adding immeasurably to the film's power. The National Board of Review chose I Am a Fugitive as 1932's Best Picture. What's more, the film ignited protests that led to much-needed penal reforms. And, in 1945, Burns' sentence was commuted to time served. He would be a fugitive no more.

--from the Warner Bros. VHS video release of,
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang.

One of the best of the social-protest films--naive, heavy, artless, but a straightforward, unadorned story with moments that haunted a generation, such as the hungry hero (Paul Muni) trying to pawn his Croix de Guerre. And there is one of the great closing scenes in the history of film: the hero is asked how he lives and he answers, "I steal." Those involved in making the movie hoped it might help to ameliorate the condition of convicts, but it did more to ameliorate financial conditions at Warners and was a factor in making it the "socially conscious" studio. With Glenda Farrell, Helen Vinson, Preston Foster, Edward Ellis, Allen Jenkins, and Berton Churchill. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, from an autobiographical story by Robert E. Burns; produced by Hal B. Wallis.

5001 Nights At The Movies.

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