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My Father's Shadow: The Sam Sheppard Story (1998)

Fact-based story about the controversial conviction of Dr. Sam Sheppard (Peter Strauss) for the murder of his wife in Cleveland. The story picks up with his conviction and concentrates on ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sam Reese Sheppard (segment "Chip")
Richard Eberle, in jail
John Bourgeois ...
Dr. Robert Sheppard
Bradley Reid ...
Sam Reese - Age 7 / Age 10
Jonathan Kroeker ...
Sam Reese - Age 17
Ariane - Age 25 / Age 64
Ralph Small ...
Terry Gilbert
Madhuri Bhatia ...
Cayahoga County Coroner
Prosecutor Mahon
James B. Douglas ...
R.A. Sheppard
Roger Dunn ...
Norma Edwards ...
Ethel Sheppard


Fact-based story about the controversial conviction of Dr. Sam Sheppard (Peter Strauss) for the murder of his wife in Cleveland. The story picks up with his conviction and concentrates on his son's (Henry Czerny) efforts 40 years later to find evidence that his father was innocent of the crime. The story was the basis for the film and TV series of "The Fugitive". Written by John Sacksteder <jsackste@bellsouth.net>

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Release Date:

17 November 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Death in the Shadows  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Despite the optimistic ending to this supposedly true account, a 2000 Ohio civil trial concluded that Sam Sheppard did in fact murder his wife. The trial is detailed in the nonfiction book "Dr. Sam Sheppard on Trial" by Jack DeSario and William Mason. See more »

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User Reviews

a hellish, and true, story
9 September 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Peter Strauss plays Dr. Sam Sheppard, accused of killing his pregnant wife Marilyn in 1954, in "My Father's Shadow: The Sam Sheppard Story." Henry Czerny plays Sheppard's son, Sam Jr., trying to clear his father's name.

The film spans something like 40 years, which is impossible to do in an hour and thirty-five minutes, and viewers who know the story will get more out of it. The case is both fascinating and important, and if you're not familiar with it, it makes for good reading in any number of books or on Wikipedia. Growing up, I can remember all the publicity that Ariadne, who became Sheppard's second wife, garnered when she fell in love with him and tried to assist in his release from prison.

The original case isn't really covered here a lot, rather, there are reminisces of Sam Jr. (Henry Czerny) about his father before the murder, and after his father is released and remarried. (Due to so many inequities in the trial, Sheppard was re-tried and acquitted ten years after the original trial, in 1966.) An odd thing in the film: Sheppard's mother commits suicide in the film; however, I believe it was his father-in-law who actually killed himself after the original verdict.

Both Strauss and Czerny do a wonderful job. Strauss expresses Sheppard's heartache and anger beautifully; and as another viewer mentioned, the last time Sam Jr.(Jonathan Kroeker as the younger Sam) sees his father is a devastating moment in the movie. A brunette Lindsay Frost plays Marilyn.

The Sheppard case was groundbreaking, as it resulted in new case law. The phrase "change of venue" comes directly from that case, as do reforms in the discovery portion of a case so that the prosecution cannot hide or tamper with evidence. It's the case that made a star out of F. Lee Bailey.

The case has been the subject of many books, documentaries, and films; the TV series "The Fugitive" was based on it. Among the actors who have played Sheppard are Peter Strauss in this film, George Peppard, David Janssen, and Harrison Ford.

The press reported that Sheppard was guilty from the beginning, and the Judge told reporter Dorothy Kilgallen (who here is an anonymous male reporter) that Sheppard was guilty. He also refused to sequester the jury so they could make sure to hear the news calling for his being found guilty. Not exactly a fair trial. When modern technology brought new evidence to the fore, Sheppard's son, Sam Jr. (Henry Czerny) tried to get his father's name cleared by the Ohio government.

Sheppard died at the age of 46, in 1970. The acquittal in 1966 had come too late: he tried and failed to work again as a doctor, he became a raging alcoholic, and ultimately, thanks to his third wife's connections, he launched a career as a professional wrestler (and actually invented a move still used today).

Sam Sheppard wasn't the first person whose life and family was destroyed by botched justice that we are told is the best system in the world, nor would he be the last. This is a good movie, told from the point of view of a little boy, and later an adult talking to his dead father, who lost both his parents, one to murder, and one to murder of another kind.

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