The Prisoner Of Shark Island

  • 1936
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Biography, Prison

Warner Baxter is smashing as a doctor who treats the ankle of fugitive assassin John Wilkes Booth, played by Francis McDonald. Arrested shortly thereafter, Baxter is charged with being part of the conspiracy to murder President Abraham Lincoln. Dragged away from his wife, Gloria Stuart, and their small child, Baxter is convicted on scant evidence and sent...read more

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Warner Baxter is smashing as a doctor who treats the ankle of fugitive assassin John Wilkes Booth, played by Francis McDonald. Arrested shortly thereafter, Baxter is charged with being part of the conspiracy to murder President Abraham Lincoln. Dragged away from his wife, Gloria Stuart,

and their small child, Baxter is convicted on scant evidence and sent to prison for life at Fort Jefferson on Shark Island in the Dry Tortugas. There he is considered, even by the black guards, to be a worthy "southern gentleman" doctor determined to care for prisoners and their captors alike when

they fall sick. When a yellow fever epidemic breaks out, Baxter, risking his own life, saves the lives of many. For this heroic act, Baxter's case is reopened; exonerated of being part of the Lincoln conspiracy, he returns to his family. This based-on-fact story about the injustice meted out to

one man is handled beautifully by director John Ford, whose cameras, under Bert Glennon's expert guidance, starkly depict the horrors of prison life. Baxter underplays his role superbly, eliciting viewer sympathy early on. Ford leaves no doubt as to the man's innocence by stating the facts of the

case right at the beginning of the film. The good doctor's sympathies are revealed when Baxter, while treating Booth, refers to Abraham Lincoln as the only salvation Southerners can look to. There are some slight similarities between this film and I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG and LES

MISERABLES, but THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND is a distinctive Ford film with his imprint on every frame, offering a taut, believable script by Nunnally Johnson. Typical of the reverential Ford is the scene depicting the assassination. Frank McGlynn, who played Lincoln many times, is shown seated

in his box; when the shot that ends his life rings out, only McGlynn's hand is shown slumping, then a quick full shot of the lifeless body dissolves into a magnificent portrait of the President.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Warner Baxter is smashing as a doctor who treats the ankle of fugitive assassin John Wilkes Booth, played by Francis McDonald. Arrested shortly thereafter, Baxter is charged with being part of the conspiracy to murder President Abraham Lincoln. Dragged awa… (more)

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