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The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd (1980)

Not Rated | | Biography, Drama, History | TV Movie 25 March 1980
This is the story of the doctor whose farm John Wilkes Booth went to after assassinating Abraham Lincoln. Eventually he was wrongfully accused and tried and convicted as a member of the ... See full summary »



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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Frances Mudd
Capt. Murdock
Col. George Grenfell
Gen. Thomas Ewing
Larry Larson ...
Mary Nell Santacroce ...
Ellen Stanton
Clarence Thomas ...
Bill Gribble ...
Judge Holt
Bill Hindman ...
Stuart Culpepper ...
Kent Stephens ...

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This is the story of the doctor whose farm John Wilkes Booth went to after assassinating Abraham Lincoln. Eventually he was wrongfully accused and tried and convicted as a member of the conspiracy that assassinated Lincoln. Though he claimed to be innocent, he was still convicted and suffered immense hardship. While his wife tries to do what she can to get him released. Written by <rcs0411@yahoo.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

25 March 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La prueba  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Dr. Samuel Mudd was thirty-one years old at the beginning of events depicted in the film, while Dennis Weaver was fifty-five years old at the time of production. See more »


The Secretary of War implies that Dr. Mudd is said to have inspired the saying "your name is mud." However, the first verified, recorded use of the phrase was ten years before Dr. Samuel Mudd was born. See more »

Crazy Credits

This Program was Recommended by The National Education Association See more »


Version of Hellgate (1952) See more »

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User Reviews

Due Process Was Trashed
5 June 2010 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Whether Dr. Samuel Mudd was indeed part of the conspiratorial group around John Wilkes Booth is still open to speculation. The Ordeal Of Dr. Mudd presents him as a completely innocent party. I'm not sure that was the case.

But his heroism during the yellow fever epidemic that struck the Dry Tortugas is unquestioned. And also the fact that due process in the case of his trial was completely and totally trashed by the government still operating under wartime auspices.

The good doctor in this film is portrayed by Dennis Weaver and his loving and helpful wife is Susan Sullivan. Her role in his ordeal is vital, she kept his case before the public and before the politicians.

The story is simply that while fleeing from the assassination scene of Abraham Lincoln, the assassin John Wilkes Booth and one of the conspirators David Herold stopped at the Mudd house. Mudd had met Booth before and was evasive about certain answers. He claimed he did not know about the assassination, he was just setting the broken leg that Booth got jumping from Lincoln's box in Ford's Theater.

The villain of the piece is Edwin M. Stanton who is played here pretty accurately by Richard Dysart. Stanton in real life was every bit as ruthless as the man you see here. He also was one of the best lawyers in the country so his trashing of Mudd's due process is an even more severe black mark on his character than even the film shows. Lincoln made him Secretary of War in 1862 after the original Secretary Simon Cameron was caught lining his pockets with war contract rakeoffs. Stanton was also honest and he brought a marked degree of efficiency to the department and was invaluable in winning the Civil War.

To be fair the country was still operating in a wartime mode. Though Lee had surrendered, Joe Johnston's army was still in the field and so was Kirby Smith's west of the Mississippi. Jefferson Davis was at large as were many of the Confederate government cabinet and Congress. They did not know who or what was behind Booth. But had they simply arrested the other conspirators and allowed a real investigation to proceed, it's possible Mudd might never have been tried.

One glaring inaccuracy was the fact that the whole group of conspirators arrested including several who wound up with Mudd on the Dry Tortugas prison were all tried together. Mudd was not given an individual trial as is shown here. General Thomas Ewing did defend him and Arthur Hill does a good job in playing Ewing.

It's not an accurate film, but it's a good one and a reminder of what can happen when we take legal shortcuts and trash due process.

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