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The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)

Thriller | 96 minutes
3,49 44 votes

Genre: Thriller / Drama

Duration: 96 minuten

Alternative title: De Gevangene van het Haaieneiland

Country: United States

Directed by: John Ford

Stars: Warner Baxter, Gloria Stuart and Claude Gillingwater

IMDb score: 7,2 (2.614)

Releasedate: 28 February 1936

The Prisoner of Shark Island plot

"Based on the life story of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd"

A few hours after US President Lincoln is assassinated, Dr. Samuel Mudd a wounded man who shows up at his door. Little does he know, however, that it is Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth. After it is discovered that he did, he is sentenced to life in prison in the infamous Dry Tortugas military prison.

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Full Cast & Crew

Actors and actresses

Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd

Mrs. Peggy Mudd

Mr. Erickson

Dr. Mac Intyre


Corporal O'Toole

Lieutenant Lovett

John Wilkes Booth

General Ewing

Reviews & comments


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avatar van stinissen

stinissen (crew films & series)

  • 22358 messages
  • 70228 votes

Excellent film about the true story of the doctor John Wilkes Booth fled to after he assassinated Abraham Lincoln. Booth was for Dr. Mudd a stranger when he came to have his broken leg treated. Dr. Mudd helped him, but was arrested shortly afterwards and charged with treason and conspiracy to commit murder.

Only I found the version with Dennis Weaver Ordeal of Dr. Mudd, The (1980) slightly better.

dutch flagTranslated from Dutch · View original

avatar van mrklm


  • 8808 messages
  • 8497 votes

After John Wilkes Booth [Francis McDonald] assassinates President Lincoln [Frank McGlynn Sr.] during a stage performance, he breaks his leg jumping from the balcony onto the stage. Booth manages to escape and with the help of David Herold [Paul Fix] he is treated by doctor Samuel Mudd [Warner Baxter] who cuts the boot and manages to treat the leg sufficiently so that his patient can leave immediately. When two soldiers report to Dr Mudd the next day, they find the boot containing Booth's name and arrest the doctor for involvement in the conspiracy to assassinate the President.

So far the story is historically correct. Dr Mudd was convicted but narrowly escaped execution. Instead, he had to serve his life sentence on Shark Island. Mudd's conviction remains controversial, but several attempts to clear his name have failed. Nunnally Johnson's screenplay portrays Mudd as an innocent victim, someone who fell victim to his duty as a doctor. In doing so, this film ignores crucial evidence. Johnson even suggests that the jury was pressured to convict all defendants to prevent rioting.

That makes the story of the merciful doctor interesting, but the distortion of reality is difficult to swallow. Of course, this also applies to the racist stereotyping of the black characters. That does not detract from the excellent acting of Warner Baxter, who manages to find a strong villain in John Carradine. In itself this is a light, smooth and well-made action drama, so those who are not too concerned with historical correctness will definitely enjoy this.

dutch flagTranslated from Dutch · View original