I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang

I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang

Movie: I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Produced by: Warner Brothers
Released By: Warner Brothers
MPAA Rating:

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 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 Cool Hand Luke 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, learning about his past, forces Allen to marry her. When he falls in love with another girl 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.

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