powered by AFI
Robert E. Burns's book was serialized in True Detective Mysteries (publication date undetermined). Both Paul Muni and the picture were nominated for Academy Awards. The National Board of Review named it the best picture of 1932. All contemporary reviews include Sheridan Gibney as one of the screenwriters, but his name does not appear on screen. According to Film Daily, Wynne Gibson was considered for the female lead. Motion Picture Herald credits Morgan Wallace with the role of "Ramsey," Sam Baker with "Sebastian T. Yale" and Russell Simpson with the role of "Sheriff." Although many reviews refer to the film's locale as Georgia, the film itself leaves its southern location unnamed. Modern sources differ as to whether Burns was recaptured during a publicity appearance and subsequently was put back into prison or whether he remained free until his death from cancer in 1955. According to modern sources, a replica of the prison camp was built on the Warner Ranch in Calabasas, CA. The rock breaking scene was shot in an actual quarry in Chatsworth, CA. Daily Variety notes that there was a possibility that the Soviet government would release the film as one of three American pictures permitted circulation in the USSR. Cabin in the Cotton had already been shown because "it exploited oppression of poor whites in the South." Daily Variety reports that two wardens sued Warner Bros. and Vitaphone for alleged attacks on them in the film. Hollywood Reporter identifies one of the wardens as L. C. Perkins, who was in charge of the Campbell County prison camp from which Burns escaped. The lawsuits were dismissed by the Fulton, GA Superior Court. Modern sources identify the wardens as J.H. Hardy and P. Philips. The chain gang system was not abolished until 1937. According to interviews with Mervyn LeRoy, the darkness at the end of the film was the result of a fortuitous accident. Just as Paul Muni finished his line, "I steal," the electricity in the studio failed. When the rushes were viewed, the sudden darkness was thought to be so effective, that he decided not to reshoot the end. Modern sources add the following credits: Exec prod, Hal B. Wallis; Tech dir, Jack Miller.