34 user 19 critic

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.




Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

1 win. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Brash hoodlum Tom Connors enters Sing Sing cocksure of himself and disrespectful toward authority, but his tough but compassionate warden changes him.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, Arthur Byron
The Hurricane (1937)
Certificate: Passed Action | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A Polynesian sailor -- unjustly imprisoned after defending himself against a colonial bully -- is relentlessly persecuted by his island's martinet French governor.

Directors: John Ford, Stuart Heisler
Stars: Dorothy Lamour, Jon Hall, Mary Astor
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A fictionalized account of the early life of the American president as a young lawyer facing his greatest court case.

Director: John Ford
Stars: Henry Fonda, Alice Brady, Marjorie Weaver
Judge Priest (1934)
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Judge Priest, a proud Confederate veteran, uses common sense and considerable humanity to dispense justice in a small town in the Post-Bellum Kentucky.

Director: John Ford
Stars: Will Rogers, Tom Brown, Anita Louise
The Informer (1935)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

In 1922, an Irish rebel informs on his friend, then feels doom closing in.

Director: John Ford
Stars: Victor McLaglen, Heather Angel, Preston Foster
Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

One dark summer night, Francesca Cunningham, a once world famed pianist, escapes from her hospital room and tries to commit suicide by jumping off a local bridge. She is rescued and taken ... See full summary »

Director: Compton Bennett
Stars: James Mason, Ann Todd, Herbert Lom
Drama | History | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Newlyweds Gil and Lana Martin try to establish a farm in the Mohawk Valley but are menaced by Indians and Tories as the Revolutinary War begins.

Director: John Ford
Stars: Claudette Colbert, Henry Fonda, Edna May Oliver
Tobacco Road (1941)
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Hillbilly family life in 1941 rural Georgia.

Director: John Ford
Stars: Charley Grapewin, Gene Tierney, Marjorie Rambeau
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Aboard the freighter Glencairn, the lives of the crew are lived out in fear, loneliness, suspicion and cameraderie. The men smuggle drink and women aboard, fight with each other, spy on ... See full summary »

Director: John Ford
Stars: John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell, Ian Hunter
The Fugitive (1947)
Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Anti-Catholic and anti-cleric policies in the Mexican state of Tabasco lead the revolutionary government to persecute the state's last remaining priest.

Directors: John Ford, Emilio Fernández
Stars: Henry Fonda, Dolores del Rio, Pedro Armendáriz
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

"Jigger' Lane forms a band that includes singer Ginger 'Character' Powell, wife of the trumpeter Leo Powelll, and Nickie Haroyen and Peppi. All of them dedicate themselves to work as a unit... See full summary »

Director: Anatole Litvak
Stars: Priscilla Lane, Betty Field, Richard Whorf
Certificate: Passed Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A Washington official courts a society matron who is trying to ignore the effects of World War II.

Director: Harold S. Bucquet
Stars: Edward Arnold, Fay Bainter, Richard Ney


Cast overview, first billed only:
Mrs. Peggy Mudd
Col. Jeremiah Milford Dyer
Mr. Erickson
Dr. MacIntyre
Commandant of Fort Jefferson
Cpl. O'Toole
John McGuire ...
Lt. Lovett
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

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

28 February 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Je n'ai pas tué Lincoln  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The $50 Dr. Mudd gets for setting Booth's leg would equate to about $770 in 2017. See more »


The sign over the entrance to the prison section at Fort Jefferson actually said "Whoso entereth here leaveth all hopes behind". See more »


'Buck' Milford: There's more mosquitos on this here man's island than I ever seen before.
See more »


Featured in Omnibus: John Ford: Part One (1992) 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
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Tortured by a Nation for his Act of Mercy!
26 January 2013 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The Prisoner of Shark Island is directed by John Ford and written by Nunnally Johnson. It stars Warner Baxter, Gloria Stuart, Harry Carey, John Carradine, Ernest Whitman, Francis McDonald, Joyce Kay, Claude Gillingwater and Frank McGlynn. Music is by R.H. Bassett and Hugo Friedhofer and cinematography by Bert Glennon.

After setting the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth (McDonald), Dr. Samuel A. Mudd (Baxter) is tried as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (McGlynn). Sentenced to life imprisonment at the military prison of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, Mudd desperately tries to stay sane and fight a vicious regime in the hope of one day proving the unjust nature of his sentence.

A personal favourite of Ford's, it's not hard to see why given that The Prisoner of Shark Island is supreme film making. Based on the true story of Samuel Mudd, there is perhaps unsurprisingly some little fudging of the facts, but this in no way detracts from the truthful basis of this incredible human interest story. Time is afforded to the joy at the end of the Civil War, Lincoln's weariness (McGlynn classy as usual), the assassination on that desperate day April 14th 1865, Mudd's family life and moral fibre and then the night he abided by his Hippocratic Oath and administered medical aid to the man who had just murdered the president. These are all delicately handled scenes by Ford, who aided by Johnson's screenplay manages to hit home to us the fragile nature of the Mudd incident that is harnessed by a country grieving with anger.

Once the trial arrives, the film shifts to another level, the delicacy of Ford's framing of characters and Johnson's rich dialogue passages are replaced by striking imagery and an impassioned performance by the wonderful Baxter. The hooded prisoners on trial for their lives and the wooden gallows outside the court chill the blood, then Baxter delivers his heart tugging three pronged defence monologue that is as good a piece of acting as was given in the 30s. Sentenced passed, execution off camera strikes a chord and then Mudd sits alone and forlorn in a darkened cell, filtered light shards imprison Mudd and let us know that Glennon has arrived to takes us up yet another notch.

What then unfolds is a superb depiction of the horrors of prison life, Fort Jefferson is a dank and desperate place, a place of misery for the prisoners, especially for Mudd, who has the patriotic but sadistic Sergeant Rankin (Carradine brilliant) after his blood. Ford is alive to the benefits of Carradine's nasty performance, so has him lighted as malevolent and angled like a horror movie protagonist. Some of the shots during the prison sequences are clinical on impact value, such as Mudd on his cell window sill or one capture as he stares down through a floor grate, shadows and light showing Glennon at his best and giving us a shot fit to grace the best film noirs of the 40s.

The rest is history as written, the desperation of an escape attempt, the yellow fever outbreak and his eventual pardon by President Andrew Johnson (this would be 1869 in reality). Nicely packaged by Ford who closes the picture down by having Mudd and Buck (Whitman an impressive presence throughout the picture), his one time black slave and loyal friend, return home to their families, harmony restored after such hardships. There is inevitably some annoyance by critics and film fans alike that the black characters are racial stereotypes, but this is a 1936 film depicting a story unfolding in 1865/67, Ford and Johnson's work here is representative of its times. And in no way, to my film loving mind, hurts this picture in any way.

Classic cinema in its purest form from the writing table to finished product, it's highly recommended viewing. 9.5/10

6 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: