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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.

Director:

John Ford

Writer:

Nunnally Johnson (screenplay)
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Warner Baxter ... Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd
Gloria Stuart ... Mrs. Peggy Mudd
Claude Gillingwater ... Col. Jeremiah Milford Dyer
Arthur Byron ... Mr. Erickson
O.P. Heggie ... Dr. MacIntyre
Harry Carey ... Commandant of Fort Jefferson
Francis Ford ... Cpl. O'Toole
John McGuire ... Lt. Lovett
Francis McDonald ... John Wilkes Booth
Douglas Wood Douglas Wood ... Gen. Thomas Ewing
John Carradine ... Sgt. Rankin
Joyce Kay Joyce Kay ... Martha Mudd
Fred Kohler Jr. ... Sgt. Cooper
Ernest Whitman Ernest Whitman ... 'Buck' Milford
Paul Fix ... David Herold
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Storyline

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


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 February 1936 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Je n'ai pas tué Lincoln See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

As a practical joke, director John Ford had the hairdresser put a funny-looking hairnet on Gloria Stuart 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 »

Goofs

Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, are seen riding away from Ford's Theater together, through the streets of Washington. In reality, Booth rode alone through Washington, and did not join up with with Herold until many miles outside the city. See more »

Quotes

'Buck' Milford: Move on, white man.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Since this film has never been released to the video market in the USA, the only version available for home entertainment is an Argentinean VHS edition that was lifted from a 16mm print. Although the film plays in English with Spanish language subtitles, the credits and all signs and letters shown in the picture were redone in Spanish. The name of this version is "Prisionero del destino". See more »

Connections

Featured in Directed by John Ford (1971) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

 
Before Guantanamo, there was Dry Tortugas
12 July 2006 | by manuel-pestalozziSee all my reviews

This moving story does have some actuality. One of the interesting details is some legal argument about the place of residence of doctor Mudd. The lawyers argue that if he could be transported from Shark Island, the prison on Dry Tortugas, to a place where normal US legislation is applied, then a writ of habeas corpus could be served and he would go free. Therefore Mudd's supporters launch a failed rescue attempt to that effect. On Dry Tortugas, an island off the Floridy Keys, the prisoner has no chance to appeal for territorial reasons. In my understanding (I am no lawyer, however) this pretty much reflects the Guantanamo situation of today and one just hopes that no doctor Mudds are holed up there and that all open legal questions in that context can be resolved satisfactorily.

I am always amazed how outspoken movies of the great Hollywood Studios could be on political issues or social or legal injustice. This movie is an important product of this tradition. The Prisoner of Shark Island is almost an Anti Yankee-movie. The soldiers are uncouth and brutal, the carpet baggers sleazy double talkers. The authorities panic after President Lincoln's assassination. Somebody, anybody has to hang for the crime. And fast. One of the memorable moments of the movie has one of the military judges in charge say something like „we owe it to the people", clearly meaning the enraged mob in the square below. Thinking of who else claimed to fulfill the wishes of „the people" around 1936 this could also be an appeal to legal authorities to serve the written law and not give in to those who shout the loudest.

Director John Ford certainly knew how to stir up emotions, some of the pathos might be regarded as slightly overwrought by contemporary viewers. However, The Prisoner of Shark Island certainly is one of the most beautiful and memorable movies of his.


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