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The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936)

John Ford started his long association with 20th Century Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck with this often-neglected fictionalization of history. The titular prisoner, Dr. Samuel Mudd (Warner Baxter), is a Maryland physician wrongly charged as a co-conspirator with John Wilkes Booth because he treated the assassin’s broken leg before he knew of Lincoln’s death. He’s sent to a U.S. prison camp off the Gulf of Mexico, setting the stage for a battle of wills with a cruel guard (John Carradine, in the first of 11 films with Ford) convinced of his guilt. Although overshadowed by such Ford masterpieces as Stagecoach (1939) and THE SEARCHERS (1956), THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND is a gripping portrayal of political polarization—a topic that feels increasingly relevant for today’s American audience.  

d. John Ford, 96m, 35mm