The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)

“Once before I was a doctor. I’m still a doctor.” A highly fictionalized but very entertaining film based on the story of Dr. Samuel Mudd (Academy Award-winning actor Warner Baxter), The Prisoner of Shark Island was directed by John Ford (The Searchers). In 1865, Mudd was convicted of aiding and conspiring with John Wilkes Booth (Francis McDonald) in the 1865 assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (Frank McGlynn, Sr.) and sentenced to life imprisonment (Mudd had set Booth’s broken leg). Mudd was shipped off to Shark Island – “America’s own Devil’s Island” (actually Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, about 70 miles West of Key West, Florida). Gloria Stuart (Titanic) portrays Mudd’s long-suffering wife Peggy, while John Carradine is perfectly cast as Sgt. Rankin, a sadistic prison guard. After his heroic actions during a yellow fever epidemic on the island, Mudd is eventually released and reunited with his wife. The film was scripted by Nunnally Johnson, who received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Grapes of Wrath (1940) but lost out to Donald Ogden Stewart (The Philadelphia Story).

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