Warner Baxter as Dr Samuel A. Mudd, ‘America’s Jean Valjean’ of the post-Civil War hysteria, turns in a capital performance as the titular prisoner of ‘America’s Devil’s Island’.
The sympathetic trouping of Gloria Stuart as Dr Mudd’s plucky wife who constantly endeavors to win back biased public favor for her unjustly condemned husband, plus the effective injection of a new kid charmer (Joyce Kay) as their baby daughter does much to achieve some mixed sympathies, but by and large it’s a film for the men.
Not wholly a figment of Hollywood imagination, the saga of Dr Mudd is founded on fact. Baxter’s woes start when he unknowingly sets the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin. Accused of con- spiracy in the crime, he is court-martialed and, of eight co-defendants, three are hung and Dr Mudd is among those committed to Shark Island for life.
Casting is tiptop. John Carradine stands out as a new face among especially sinister heavies, a highly effective villyun. Frank McGlynn Sr, in his Abraham Lincoln person- ation is, as ever, realistic in dignified portrayal and uncanny resemblance to the martyred liberator.