The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)

The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Prisoner of Shark Island Photos

Movie Info

In this film, Warner Baxter plays Dr. Samuel Mudd, American history's most famous victim of circumstance. In 1865, Dr. Mudd sets the broken leg of a mud-caked stranger. The injured man turns out to be John Wilkes Booth, and Mudd is accused of conspiring to murder President Lincoln.
Classics , Drama , Western
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
20th Century Fox


Warner Baxter
as Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd
Gloria Stuart
as Mrs. Peggy Mudd
Arthur Byron
as Mr. Erickson
John McGuire
as Lt. Lovett
Joyce Kay
as Marth Mudd
Claude Gillingwater
as Col. Jeremiah Dyer
Douglas Wood
as Gen. Ewing
Fred Kohler Jr.
as Sgt. Cooper
Harry Carey
as Commandant of Fort Jefferson
Paul Fix
as David Herold
John Carradine
as Sgt. Rankin
Francis McDonald
as John Wilkes Booth
A.S. Byron
as Mr. Erickson
O.P. Heggie
as Dr. McIntire
Paul McVey
as Hunter
Francis Ford
as Cpl. O'Toole
Ernest Whitman
as Buck Tilford
Frank Shannon
as Judge Advocate Holt
Frank McGlynn Sr.
as Abraham Lincoln
Arthur Loft
as Carpetbagger
Maurice Murphy
as Orderly
Paul Stanton
as Orator
Jack Pennick
as Signal Man
Merrill McCormack
as Commandant's Aide
James Marcus
as Blacksmith
Jan Duggan
as Actress
Lloyd Whitlock
as Maj. Rathbone
Leila McIntyre
as Mrs. Lincoln
Bud Geary
as Sergeant
Duke R. Lee
as Sergeant
Merrill McCormick
as Commandant's Aide
Robert E. Homans
as Sergeant
Robert Dudley
as Druggist
Wilfred Lucas
as Colonel
Cecil Weston
as Mrs. Surratt
Cyril Thornton
as Maurice O'Laughlin
J.M. Kerrigan
as Judge Maiben
Etta McDaniel
as Rosabelle Tilford
J.P. McGowan
as Ship's Captain
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Prisoner of Shark Island

All Critics (1)

Ford makes a convincing and emotionally telling argument for Mudd's innocence.

Full Review… | December 14, 2007
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Prisoner of Shark Island

Despite its attempts, this movie is--for the most part--very boring. Probably my least favorite John Ford film I've seen. (Though it still looked great.)

Jeff Bachman
Jeff Bachman

The prisoner of Shark island is the story of Dr.Mudd; he was arrested of unknowingly assisting John Wilkes Booth after Lincoln's death, by bandaging his leg. After his arrest he is sentence to the Infamous Shark Island, which as you may have guessed is an island surrounded by Shark infested waters. The story is probably not completely historically accurate. It's still not clear if Mudd was part of the assassination conspiracy and it has been confirmed he did probably met Booth on a previous occasion. But to an extent this doesn't matter Ford frequently pointed out that he does not make documentaries and in fact thought they were boring. Ford having surveyed almost all of American history up until the time of his death approached it not unlike G.B. Shaw while not striving for prefect accuracy but giving us an understanding of people of that time and the context they existed in. Prisoner of Shark Island is perhaps one of Ford's best pictures although it's relatively unknown to a modern audience, this is odd because the film feels more relevant now than ever.The film deals with demonization of alleged criminals based entirely of circumstantial evidence and calling it patriotism and pointing out how legal courts should be 'The voice of the people'. The mentality Ford depicts in the early court scenes(where the defendants are brought in with sacks on their heads) show how political uncertainty can give rise to paranoia and persecution. The scenes on the island are among some of the best in Ford's career and being Catholic may be his best mediation on the nature of suffering , the paraphrased quote from 'Inferno' (abandon hope those who enter here) above the prison cells is a stroke of brilliance. Ford's films are hard for young people to appreciate as many of them contain folksy elements(which you'll see in some of the earlier scenes) but with repeated viewings it's easy to see how his insight transcends things like that. As Francois Tiffuat(who originally wasn't a fan of Ford's material) said "He Achieved absolute uniformity on technical expertise'. Before wrapping this up the issue of race should still be discussed. Again many of the African Americans in the film have roles that are somewhat stereotyped as a product of the time. Ford however still treats them with a great deal of respect and Dr.Mudd's only real companion in the film is his black friend Buck(who is essentially his counterpart). The most interesting aspect is once on island all the guards are black and essentially in control of their white in a brilliant reversal of fortune, it was an aspect Daryl Zannuck loved about the film.

Gregory Suarez
Gregory Suarez

A barely watchable film and its blatant racism makes it all the more difficult to appreciate. Worse than all, the Dr Mudd is presented as some sort of hero whereas his heroic deed was to have two shots fired at a ship. The Kafkaesque part of the story is pleasant nonetheless but over all the script's too poor for the film to be intresting.

Ben Gui
Ben Gui

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