Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) - Plot Summary Poster

Plot Summary

  • In 1912, the notorious and violent prisoner Robert Franklin Stroud is transferred to the Leavenworth Prison convicted for murdering a man. When a guard cancels the visit of his mother, Elizabeth Stroud, due to a violation of the internal rules, he stabs and kills the guard and goes to trial three times. He is sentenced to be executed by the gallows, but his mother appeals to President Woodrow Wilson who commutes his sentence to life imprisonment. However, the warden, Harvey Shoemaker, decides to keep Stroud in solitary for the rest of his life. One day, Stroud finds a sparrow that has fallen from the nest in the yard and he raises the bird until it is strong enough to fly. Stroud finds a motivation for his life raising and caring for birds and becomes an expert in birds. He marries Stella Johnson and together they run a business, providing medicine developed by Stroud. But a few years after, Stroud is transferred to Alcatraz and has to leave his birds behind.

    - Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • The incarcerated life of Robert Stroud at Leavenworth and Alcatraz from 1912 to 1959 - the last forty-three of those years in solitary confinement - is presented, that end date which is when he is about to leave Alcatraz for good, the result of the writings of advocate Thomas E. Gaddis. Stroud's story starts in year three of his twelve year sentence for manslaughter. In the eyes of the authorities, he is seen as dangerous and unrepentant, not so much of the crime itself but of what they see as his stand against their authority. That attitude leads to him murdering someone else in prison, which ultimately results in a life sentence to be spent in solitary confinement. His life begins to change in 1920 when he finds an abandoned baby sparrow in the prison courtyard. This find begins a self-taught life as an ornithology expert, most specifically in combating bird diseases, many which had no known cure before his findings. Over the course of his imprisonment, his relationships with those people key to what happens to him are shown. They include: his mother, who began as his sole focus in life early in his incarceration, but with who he had a falling out late in her life; Harvey Shoemaker, the prison warden at both Leavenworth and Alcatraz for the better part of his incarceration, and who was in many respects his chief antagonist based on their differing views of the penal system in general; Bull Ransom, who was his primary guard for most of his stay at Leavenworth; and Stella Johnson, whose initial connection to him is through their mutual interest in birds.

    - Written by Huggo
  • As an inmate at Leavenworth prison, Robert Stroud has a series of confrontations with the guards and with the other convicts. When Stroud kills a guard, he is sentenced to be executed, and only his mother's impassioned intervention gets his sentence commuted to life imprisonment, which he must serve in solitary confinement. As he serves out his sentence in boredom and despair, one day he finds a helpless baby sparrow in the exercise yard. Stroud soon takes a deep interest in caring for birds, which gives him a new purpose in life, but which also brings new conflicts with prison authorities.

    - Written by Snow Leopard
  • A surly convicted murderer held in permanent isolation redeems himself when he becomes a renowned bird expert.

    - Written by Kenneth Chisholm


A true-life drama about Robert Stroud who educated himself in the science of birds while spending 53 years in prison...

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