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Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Prisoner Of Shark Island (1936)

Unaware that President Lincoln has been assassinated, a physician (Warner Baxter) treats the broken leg of a man (Francis McDonald) who turns out to be John Wilkes Booth. The doctor is later arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the conspiracy of the Lincoln assassination despite his protestations of innocence. Directed by John Ford, this is a highly fictionalized account of the case of Dr. Samuel Mudd. The film portrays him as a totally innocent man when, in fact, Mudd (who was pro slavery) knew Booth well enough to have him as an overnight guest in his home. He made no attempt to contact authorities after treating Booth and learning of the assassination (if he did not already know). The movie is tainted with that inexplicable pro Confederacy edge that was so prevalent in the "golden" age of Hollywood. All that aside, its historical fabrications (Hollywood played fast and loose with history in the 30s and 40s) could have been overlooked if the movie had any artistic or entertainment value but it's a rather sluggish vehicle. Baxter does well enough but the rest of the cast overacts considerably with John Carradine at his worst. He plays his prison guard like he was playing Simon Legree in the third road company of UNCLE TOM'S CABIN! With Gloria Stuart (TITANIC), Harry Carey, Paul Fix and O.P. Heggie.

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