The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)


The Prisoner of Shark Island is a 1936 film loosely based on the life of Maryland physician Samuel Mudd, who treated the injured presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth and later spent time in prison after his controversial conviction for being one of Booth’s accomplices.


A few short hours after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (Frank McGlynn Sr.), Dr. Samuel Mudd (Warner Baxter) gives treatment to a man with a broken leg who shows up at his door. Mudd does not know that the president has been assassinated and the man who he is treating is John Wilkes Booth (Francis McDonald). Mudd is arrested for being an accessory in the assassination and is sent to prison on the Dry Tortugas, described as in the West Indies and referred to in the film as “America’s own Devil’s Island”.

After a period of ill treatment due to his notoriety, and an unsuccessful escape attempt, his skills as a doctor are requested by the Commandant of the prison. The island has been in the grip of a yellow fever epidemic and the official prison doctor has fallen ill. Dr. Mudd takes charge with the blessing of the Commandant and the cooperation of the soldier guards, and the yellow fever epidemic subsides.

In the end he receives a pardon and is allowed to return home.


  • Warner Baxter as Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd.
  • Gloria Stuart as Mrs. Peggy Mudd.
  • Claude Gillingwater as Colonel Jeremiah Milford Dyer.
  • Arthur Byron as Mr. Erickson.
  • O.P. Heggie as Dr. MacIntyre.
  • Harry Carey as Commandant of Fort Jefferson.
  • Francis Ford as Corporal O’Toole.
  • John McGuire as Lieutenant Lovett.
  • Francis McDonald as John Wilkes Booth.
  • Douglas Wood as General Ewing.
  • John Carradine as Sergeant Rankin.
  • Joyce Kay as Martha Mudd.
  • Fred Kohler Jr. as Sergeant Cooper.
  • Ernest Whitman as ‘Buck’ Milford.
  • Paul Fix as David Herold.
  • Frank Shannon as Joseph Holt.
  • Frank McGlynn Sr. as President Abraham Lincoln.
  • Leila McIntyre as Mary Todd Lincoln.
  • Etta McDaniel as Aunt Rosabelle Milford.
  • J.M. Kerrigan as Judge Maiben.
  • Arthur Loft as Frank J. Thomas – Carpetbagger.
  • Paul McVey as General David Hunter.
  • Maurice Murphy as Prison Hospital Orderly.
  • Robert Homans as Sergeant (uncredited).
  • Murdock MacQuarrie as Edman Spangler (uncredited).
  • Cyril Thorton as Michael O’Laughlen (uncredited).
  • Cecil Weston as Mary Surratt (uncredited).
  • Lloyd Whitlock as Henry Rathbone (uncredited).


  • Twentieth Century Pictures, before it merged with Fox, purchased the rights to the book The Life of Dr. Mudd by Nettie Mudd Monroe, the doctor’s daughter.
    • The film’s credits, however, make no reference to Monroe or her book.
    • Modern sources state that Darryl F. Zanuck, Twentieth Century’s vice-president in charge of production, got the idea to make the film after he read an article in Time magazine about the prison camp for political prisoners on the Dry Tortugas island.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • John Ford.
  • Producer(s):
    • Nunnally Johnson … associate producer.
    • Darryl F. Zanuck … producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Nunnally Johnson (Screenplay).
  • Music:
    • R.H. Bassett (uncredited).
    • Hugo Friedhofer (uncredited).
  • Cinematography:
    • Bert Glennon.
  • Editor(s):
    • Jack Murray.
  • Production:
    • Twentieth Century Fox.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Twentieth Century Fox (1936) (USA) (theatrical).
    • Fox Films (1936) (Finland) (theatrical).
    • Netherlands Fox Film Corporation (1936) (Netherlands) (theatrical).
    • National Telefilm Associates (NTA) (1957) (USA) (TV) (syndication).
    • Gaumont/Columbia TriStar Home Video (2005) (France) (DVD).
    • Media Cooperation One (MC-One) (2005) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Eureka Entertainment (2006) (UK) (DVD).
    • Eureka Video (2006) (UK) (DVD).
    • 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (2007) (USA) (DVD).
    • Odeon Entertainment (2012) (UK) (DVD).
  • Release Date: 12 February 1936 (New York City, US).
  • Running Time: 96 minutes.
  • Rating: A.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

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