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The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)

Approved | | Biography, Drama, History | 28 February 1936 (USA)
The story of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was imprisoned after innocently treating President Lincoln's assassin in 1865.





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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
Sgt. Cooper
Ernest Whitman ...
'Buck' Milford


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

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Release Date:

28 February 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Je n'ai pas tué Lincoln  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


As a practical joke, director John 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 »


Booth is seen entering the President's theater box on the President's left; he even opens the door first to make sure the President is there. He then shoots him at a distance of at least 5 feet, again from Lincoln's left side. In reality, Booth entered the box from behind the President, and shot him at very close range in the back of the head. Also, in real life Booth shot Lincoln immediately after the line "...you sockdolagizing old mantrap!", thus insuring that the audience laughter would drown out the sound of the shot (Booth was very familiar with the play and knew just when to shoot). In the film, the line in question is uttered before Booth has even made his way into the box. See more »


Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd: Once before I was a doctor. I'm still a doctor.
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Referenced in The Best of Sex and Violence (1981) See more »


Battle Hymn of the Republic
Music by William Steffe (circa 1856)
Lyrics by Julia Ward Howe (1861)
Played as background when Lincoln is shot
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User Reviews

Leave Hope Behind Who Enters Here
12 August 2005 | by (brooklyn NY) – See all my reviews

**SPOILERS** A bit inaccurate version of the life of Dr. Samuel Mudd in regards to his knowledge of President Abraham Lincoln's assassin John Wilks Booth. It's been brought out that Dr. Mudd did know Booth before he treated his injured leg after he escaped from the Union troops, during the confusion at the Ford Theater. After he shot and killed Pres. Lincoln on the evening of April 14, 1865.

Booth did know and met with Dr. Mudd three different times during social occasions on Nov. 13 Dec. 18 & 23 of 1864 so it wasn't ,like the movie made it out to be, that Dr. Mudd met Booth only after he's escape from the Union Army after shooting Pres. Lincoln. Besides that inaccuracy the rest of the film "The Prisoner of Shark Island" honestly tells the story of the tragic saga behind Dr. Mudd's incarceration in the yellow fever and mosquito infested island prison Fort Jefferson or as it's also known as the notorious Shark Island.

Taking in an injured John Wilks Booth and his fellow conspirators David Herold Dr. Mudd treats his broken leg and before you know it the two take off and travel south towards Virgina. Booth's Gunned down a few days later and anyone who had anything to do with him was quickly arrested and sentenced to be hung by a military court with the exception of Dr. Mudd.

Dr. Mudd given a life sentence at the infamous Fort Jefferson of the Florida Keys where he's treated worse then the worst criminals on the island for his involvement in the Lincoln assassination which he had nothing to do with.Being a man of medicine Dr. Mudd felt it was his duty as a doctor to treat Booth even though at the time he had no knowledge of his murder of the president. At Shark Island Mudd is treated as an outcast even among his fellow prisoners and after an aborted escape attempt Mudd is thrown into solitary confinement, or the hole, that almost cause him to lose his mind and go insane.

After two years at Shark Island the prison population, as well as the military personnel guarding and controlling them, is hit by a plague of Yellow fever that cause the island to be quarantined. Both the inmates and guards are struck down by the hundreds and with no medical man wanting to go on the island to help it's left up to prison inmate Dr. Samuel Mudd to do the job. In the end Dr. Mudd not only saves over 1,000 lives,mostly prisoners regardless of what crimes that they committed, but after four years behind bars Dr. Mudd is given a full and complete pardon from the them President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, on March 8, 1869.

Fine performance by Warren Baxter as Dr. Samuel Mudd. There's John Carridine as the vicious Sgt. Rakin who after treating Dr. Mudd with sadistic brutality he in the end repents from what he did to the good doctor after Dr. Mudd saved his life as well as over a thousand others on the mosquito infected isle from Yellow Fever. Dr. Mudd himself got infected by what he called the "Yellow-jacket" that almost ended up killing him as well.

Dr. Mudd was a real man of medicine as well as man of kindness as he showed, like in the case of John Wilkes Booth, that he didn't care what a person did even though he had no idea of Booth's actions at the time. He not only treated him but helped anyone else, to the best of his ability, regardless of what they did like the many prisoners that he save from the jaws of death on "Shark Island".

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