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The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)

7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 1,163 users  
Reviews: 31 user | 10 critic

The story of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was imprisoned after innocently treating President Lincoln's assassin in 1865.

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Title: The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)

The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936) on IMDb 7.4/10

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Mrs. Peggy Mudd
Claude Gillingwater ...
Col. Jeremiah Milford Dyer
Arthur Byron ...
Mr. Erickson
O.P. Heggie ...
Dr. MacIntyre
...
Commandant of Fort Jefferson
Francis Ford ...
Cpl. O'Toole
John McGuire ...
Lt. Lovett
Francis McDonald ...
Douglas Wood ...
Gen. Ewing
...
Sgt. Rankin
Joyce Kay ...
Martha Mudd
Fred Kohler Jr. ...
Sgt. Cooper
Ernest Whitman ...
'Buck' Milford
...
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Storyline

A few short hours after President Lincoln has been assassinated, Dr. Samuel Mudd gives medical treatment to a wounded man who shows up at his door. Mudd has no idea that the president is dead and that he is treating his murderer, John Wilkes Booth. But that doesn't save him when the army posse searching for Booth finds evidence that Booth has been to the doctor's house. Dr. Mudd is arrested for complicity and sentenced to life imprisonment, to be served in the infamous pestilence-ridden Dry Tortugas. Written by Alfred Jingle

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

28 February 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Prisoner of Shark Island  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

As a practical joke, director Ford had the hairdresser put a funny-looking hairnet on her as she slept in her chair, wrapped her in an old horse blanket, and stuck a bottle of whiskey in her lap. Then he had the photographer take pictures of her and presented everyone with one the next day. See more »

Goofs

Two errors with respect to the conspirators trial and hanging scenes. First, Mrs. Surratt is seen with a hood over her head in the trial scenes; in reality, she was the only one of the prisoners not required to wear a hood at any time. Also, the hanging is depicted as taking place at night when, in reality, it took place on a scorchingly hot July day. See more »

Quotes

Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd: Once before I was a doctor. I'm still a doctor.
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Connections

Featured in John Ford (1993) See more »

Soundtracks

Dixie's Land
(uncredited)
Written by Daniel Decatur Emmett
Played over the opening credits
Reprised by the Union Army band at Lincoln's request
Played as background music often.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Before Guantanamo, there was Dry Tortugas
12 July 2006 | by (Zurich, Switzerland) – See all my reviews

This moving story does have some actuality. One of the interesting details is some legal argument about the place of residence of doctor Mudd. The lawyers argue that if he could be transported from Shark Island, the prison on Dry Tortugas, to a place where normal US legislation is applied, then a writ of habeas corpus could be served and he would go free. Therefore Mudd's supporters launch a failed rescue attempt to that effect. On Dry Tortugas, an island off the Floridy Keys, the prisoner has no chance to appeal for territorial reasons. In my understanding (I am no lawyer, however) this pretty much reflects the Guantanamo situation of today and one just hopes that no doctor Mudds are holed up there and that all open legal questions in that context can be resolved satisfactorily.

I am always amazed how outspoken movies of the great Hollywood Studios could be on political issues or social or legal injustice. This movie is an important product of this tradition. The Prisoner of Shark Island is almost an Anti Yankee-movie. The soldiers are uncouth and brutal, the carpet baggers sleazy double talkers. The authorities panic after President Lincoln's assassination. Somebody, anybody has to hang for the crime. And fast. One of the memorable moments of the movie has one of the military judges in charge say something like „we owe it to the people", clearly meaning the enraged mob in the square below. Thinking of who else claimed to fulfill the wishes of „the people" around 1936 this could also be an appeal to legal authorities to serve the written law and not give in to those who shout the loudest.

Director John Ford certainly knew how to stir up emotions, some of the pathos might be regarded as slightly overwrought by contemporary viewers. However, The Prisoner of Shark Island certainly is one of the most beautiful and memorable movies of his.


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