Great Characters Wiki

James Allen is the titular protagonist of the 1932 classic crime film I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang. He's based on the real life World War I veteran Robert Elliott Burns who got involved with a Georgia chain gang and was sentenced to prison for a petty crime.

He was portrayed by Paul Muni.

Why He Rocks

  1. Due to all of his experience from World War I, he's got tons of leadership skills and had become very tough and independent with his personal fate. He had gone a long way from his old shoe job, and is now a master engineer. So it makes sense that he would yearn for a more complex job than his previous shoe-making job.
  2. Speaking for which, after working in the Tri-State Engineering Company Employment Office for a couple of years, he's quickly able to show progress up the company ladder over a period of five years. This just goes to show how dedicated and talented he is at his work. In fact when he's eventually caught by the Georgia state police the second time and sent to serve his remaining sentence, the entire city of Chicago fights for his freedom saying he's a hard-working, respectful citizen.
  3. Paul Muni does a very powerful and impressive performance as the war veteran that just adds to the tragedy of his fate.
  4. He's very brave, smart and a master planner, as demonstrated when he was arrested and was able to create a complex escape from prison. Twice.
    • The first time he broke out, he first convinced a black prisoner with powerful aiming skills to bend his foot shackles so he could not draw suspicion from the guards and be able to wiggle out of the shackles, then waited another day to take a break in some bushes and use the opportunity to break out. While escaping, he grabbed clothes from a clothesline and quickly changed, and outsmarted the guards and their dogs by hiding inside a swamp. And that's not even getting into buying new fancy clothes, evading several police officers, moving to Chicago and reinventing himself Allen James.
    • The second time he broke out, he initially agreed to return to prison, because he thought he would be pardoned after 90 days, then after state prison broke that promise, he agrees to be an honorable "model prisoner" for nine more months to pay for his obligation, then after the state prison broke that promise to release him, that's when he made the second great jail-break escape with Bomber. Here, they steal a truck carrying a case of high-explosive dynamite and blow up a bridge to seal off the pursuit of guards. Then he was able to stay hidden away for over a year and still hasn't been caught.
  5. He has masterfully written and downright heartbreaking fall to darkness. He starts out was an innocent, well-meaning, war hero who just wants to have a better job, then after getting falsely accused of burglary and arrest he had involved into a hard-working business men and a respected citizen of Chicago. Then after a second arrest, and two false hopes from the state police, he breaks out of prison a second time and basically abandons all of his past morals and traits, for fear that his hopes would get dashed again. So now he has to spend the rest of his life as a fugitive without any hope or close ones.