In an era when movie stars were often better known for their glamorous images than for their performances, Paul Muni stood out for his almost religious devotion to the art and craft of acting. Honing his skills in the Yiddish theater—where he learned to use makeup to facilitate his remarkable physical transformations—Muni shot to film stardom in 1932 with his electrifying turns in the gangster classic SCARFACE and the hard-hitting prison exposé I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG. Marketed by Warner Bros. as “the screen’s greatest actor,” Muni was given the rare privilege of choosing his roles, an opportunity he used to make a series of acclaimed biographical dramas—including THE STORY OF LOUIS PASTEUR, for which he won the Academy Award for best actor, and THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA—built around his intensely researched, meticulously realized portrayals of men who changed the course of history. Though he worked only sporadically in films throughout the 1940s and ’50s, choosing instead to concentrate on his equally successful stage career, Muni left behind a legacy of quality and integrity that set a new standard for serious screen acting.
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy • 1932 • United States
Starring Paul Muni, Glenda Farrell, Noel Francis
Paul Muni gives a haunting performance in this brutal, startlingly raw exposé of prison conditions based on the autobiography by Robert Elliott Burns. Wrongly convicted of robbery, would-be architect...