The Prisoner of Shark Island

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One of Ford's least dated films from the '30s, even though its attitude towards the blacks it portrays is (understandably, given the times) undeniably racist. Inspired by historical reality, it begins with the assassination of the director's beloved, almost Godlike Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth, before proceeding to focus on the harsh fate dealt by destiny and an unforgiving America to Dr Samuel A Mudd, imprisoned for treating Booth's wounded leg. If the quasi-liberal message is undermined not only by a nostalgia for the Old (ie slave-owning) South but also by the over-emphatic assertions of Mudd's innocence, the film is nevertheless for the most part tautly scripted (by Dudley Nichols), vividly shot, and blessed with muscular performances. Baxter excels himself as the good doctor whose selfless integrity finally ensures his pardon, while Carradine's sadistic prison guard is terrific.

Release details

Duration: 95 mins

Cast and crew

Director: John Ford
Screenwriter: Nunnally Johnson
Cast: Warner Baxter
Gloria Stuart
Joyce Kay
Claude Gillingwater
Harry Carey
Paul Fix
John Carradine
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