I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

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Paul Muni as James Allen and Helen Vinson as Helen.
The state's promise didn't mean anything. It was all lies! They just wanted to get me back so they can have their revenge, to keep me here nine more years. Why, their crimes are worse than mine, worse than anybody's here. They're the ones that should be in chains, not we!

I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang is a 1932 film about a wrongfully convicted convict on a chain gang who escapes to Chicago.

Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Written by Howard J. Green, Brown Holmes, and Sheridan Gibney, based on Robert Elliott Burns's autobiography, I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang!.
Six sticks of dynamite that blasted his way to freedom... and awoke America's conscience!

James Allen[edit]

  • It's not the kind of work I want to do...It's too monotonous...No one seems to realize that I've changed, that I'm different now. I've been through hell. Folks here are concerned with my uniform, how I dance. I'm out of step with everybody. I was hoping to come home and start a new life - to be free, and again, I find myself under orders, a drab routine, cramped, mechanically even worse than the Army. And you, all of you, trying your darndest to map out my future, to harness me and lead me around to do what you think is best for me. Doesn't it occur to you that I've grown? That I've learned that life is more important than a medal on my chest or a stupid, insignificant job.
  • What would I say to a hamburger? Oh, boy. I'd shake Mr. Hamburger by the hand and say, 'Pal, I haven't seen you in a long, long time.'
  • The state's promise didn't mean anything. It was all lies! They just wanted to get me back so they can have their revenge, to keep me here nine more years. Why, their crimes are worse than mine, worse than anybody's here. They're the ones that should be in chains, not we!

Bomber Wells[edit]

  • [about the convicts' food] Grease, fried dough, pig fat, and sorghum. And you'd better get to like it, 'cause you're gonna get the same thing every morning, every year.
  • You gotta ask their permission to wipe the sweat off...And in the first place, you got to get their permission to sweat.
  • Well, there's just two ways to get outta here. Work out and die out.

Other[edit]

  • Marie Woods: I told you I was satisfied with the way things are...I'm happy. I'm taking no chances of letting you go. Hey, listen. You're gonna be a big-shot some day with plenty of sugar, and I'm gonna ride right along. Get that? I'm no fool. I'd be a sucker to let you go now.
  • Newspaper Editorial: Shall we stand by while a man who has become a respected citizen of the community has the shadow of medieval torture again creeping over him? Must James Allen be sent back again to a living Hell? This is the question that Chicago officials must decide within the next few days.
  • Rev. Allen: ...the story of James Allen as a human being - a man of essential fineness and integrity of character. A man who was decorated for bravery in the world war. A man who committed a crime, but only when forced to at the point of a gun. His first and only offense. A man who showed his true character by rising from less than nothing to become a prominent and honored citizen.
  • Prison Board Chairman: The life of a convict in a chain gang is one of hard labor. The discipline is strict but there is no brutality. The purpose of prison is not only to punish crime but to discourage it. And there is less crime in this state in proportion to her population than into 40 other states in this Union. Finally, as evidence of the chain gang's value as a character builder, I have but to present to you the very case that has been presented to us today, the case of James Allen, who entered the chain gang as a worthless tramp, and who left it to become one of a great city's most worthy and respected citizens.

Dialogue[edit]

Jim: The Army changes a fellow. It kinda makes you think different. I don't want to be spending the rest of my life answering a factory whistle instead of a bugle call. I'll be cooped up in a shipping room all day. I want to do something worthwhile.
Rev. Allen: After a good night's sleep, you'll be ready to take up where you left off at the factory. A soldier of peace instead of a soldier of war.
Jim: I don't want to be a soldier of anything. You see, Mom. I want to get out, away from routine. I had enough of that in the Army...I've been doing engineering work in the Army and that's the kind of work I want to do now. A man's job where he can accomplish things, where he can build, construct, create, do things.
Rev. Allen: That sounds very nice, but after all, a job in the hand's worth two in the bush.

Prisoner: There's too many breaks against ya. You gotta beat the chains, bloodhounds, and a bunch of guards who'd just as soon bring ya back dead.
Bomber: It's been done, but you gotta figure out some perfect scheme. You gotta watch, you gotta wait, maybe one year, maybe two. Then, hang it on the limb.

Linda: You've got plenty of what it takes to pull an escape from that place.
Jim: I'm not safe yet. Not until I'm out of the state.
Linda: If there's anything I can do to help you, just say the word.
Jim: Thanks, but there's nothing you can do.
Linda: How about a drink?
Jim: Nope.
Linda: You don't mind if I take one, do you?
Jim: No, go right ahead.
Linda: Here's to you. A guy with your nerve's got the breaks comin' to him. I know what you're thinking. I understand. You're among friends.

Marie: I don't think you like me anymore.
Jim: Of course I do. We can't always be playing around. I mean, what's that got to do with it?
Marie: Oh, I don't know, but you don't act like you used to. Now, I don't seem good enough for you.
Jim: You're imagining things.
Marie: No, I'm not. When you were first here, you weren't this way. You've grown tired of me. I was silly enough to believe you when you said you loved me.
Jim: I said 'I loved you'? Now, Marie, you know that's not so. I never said that. You're just trying to put me in a spot. And you know it wasn't love - just as well as I do.
Marie: So that's the way you feel, huh!? Well, you can't make me out cheap and get away with it! I know what I'm talkin' about, see? And some day, you're gonna be sorry.

Jim: I appreciate all you've done for me, but I couldn't love you. I can't change my feeling toward you any more than I can change the color of my eyes. I know I'm speaking bluntly, but frankly, and it's to save us both a lot of misery.
Marie: And is that your only reason for leaving?
Jim: Well, it's a pretty good one, isn't it?
Marie: Not very. Of course, when a fella wants to ditch a girl, he'll do most anything - providing it doesn't land him back on the chain gang where he probably belongs...I wouldn't tell if I had a reason to protect you.
Jim: What do you mean?
Marie: I wouldn't tell if you were my husband.

Jim: Do you mind if we stay here awhile, or must you go home?
Helen: There are no must's in my life. I'm free, white, and twenty-one.
Jim: You're lucky.
Helen: Why?
Jim: Well, you can go where you want, when you want.
Helen: Can't you?
Jim: Yes - and no.
Helen: You're a strange, moody person. You need somebody to pull you out of those doldrums.
Jim: Are you applying for that job?
Helen: I might consider it.
Jim: You're hired.
Helen: When do I start?
Jim: You've started several hours ago.

Jim: Why don't you play the game square?
Marie: Square! So that you and your sweet mama can give me the grand goodbye, huh? Ah, be yourself.
Jim: If you don't listen to reason, I'll find some way.
Marie: You do and you'll serve out your time.
Jim: It's no worse than serving out my time with you.
Marie: You'll be sorry you said that.
Jim: Now, listen, you've held a sword over my head about long enough. It's about time you called it quits. You've been pulling a bluff on me and I've been fool enough and coward enough to fall for it.
Marie: Oh, you filthy, good-for-nothing convict. A bluff, eh? You'll see. You'll see.

Bomber: How did you get to this little bit of heaven, kid?
Jim: That's a long story.
Bomber: Boy, if you think those other chain gangs are tough, wait till you get a load of this joint. These are the guys that were too tough for the chain gang.

Helen: Jim, why haven't you come before?
Jim: I couldn't, I was afraid to.
Helen: But you could have written. It's been almost a year since you escaped.
Jim: But I haven't escaped. They're still after me. They'll always be after me. I've had jobs but I can't keep them. Something happens. Someone turns up. I hide in rooms all day and travel by night. No friends. No rest. No peace.
Helen: Oh, Jim!
Jim: Keep moving. That's all that's left for me. Forgive me, Helen. I-I had to take a chance to see you tonight. Just to say good-bye.
Helen: Oh, Jim. It was all going to be so different.
Jim: It is different. They've made it different....[A door slams] I've gotta go.
Helen: I can't let you go like this!
Jim: I've got to.
Helen: Can't you tell me where you're going? [He shakes his head no] Will you write? [He backs up and again shakes no] Do you need any money? [He again shakes no] But you must, Jim. How do you live?
Jim: I steal!

Cast[edit]

External links[edit]