Nettie Mudd on the Airwaves

Nettie Mudd Monroe From Robert Summers' Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Research Site

Nettie Mudd Monroe From Robert Summers’ Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Research Site

In 1938, at the age of sixty, Dr. Mudd’s youngest daughter Mary Eleanor, better known as “Nettie” made a special vocal appearance during the intermission of Lux Radio’s production of The Prisoner of Shark Island:

The Prisoner of Shark Island radio drama was based off of the 1936 film of the same name starring Warner Baxter.  The film and radio shows are highly fictionalized versions of Dr. Mudd’s involvement in Lincoln’s assassination and life imprisoned on Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas.  In these highly popular renditions, Dr. Mudd is portrayed as a completely innocent country doctor who knew nothing of the men who stopped at his house during the early morning hours of April 15th, 1865.  While wholly inaccurate, these revisions to history and the efforts of Mudd descendants like Nettie and Dr. Richard Dyer Mudd helped to turn public sympathy to Dr. Mudd’s favor.  To this day, historians still have to compete with this inaccurate “legend of Dr. Mudd” when trying to accurately explain Dr. Mudd’s relationship to John Wilkes Booth and the events that led to Lincoln’s death.

Nettie Mudd from the Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Research Site

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Nettie Mudd on the Airwaves

  1. Kudos on finding this, Dave! It was fascinating to hear.

    • Thanks Roger. And thanks for highlighting it on your forum.

      Like most of what I post, I stumbled upon the reference to Nettie’s radio experience whole researching something else. The transcript of her talk is in Ed Steers’ Lincoln Legends. I managed to download the radio show, cut it to only Nettie’s part, and then upload it. The hardest part was getting the darn thing to show up on my blog. I was just about to email it to you and ask if you could host it for me when it finally worked.

  2. Wonderful! I LOVE hearing “voices from the past!” I had never heard this before — thanks ever so much, Dave! I second Roger!!

  3. Rich Smyth

    Great stuff! I had never heard that either. Mr. DeMille is Cecil B.

  4. Laurie Verge

    I had heard this before, but many long years ago. Nice to hear it again. My mother actually sat behind Nettie Mudd Monroe at the theater in D.C. when The Prisoner of Shark Island premiered there. She said that even Nettie did not approve of some of it. She didn’t know what her comments might have been, but Nettie shook her head quite a bit during the film.

  5. Richard Sloan

    I’ve had this recording for the last 15 tyears or so, and when I found it I sent a copy to Louise Mudd Arehart, the granddtr. who started the Mudd house museum. She had never heard it and told me it blew her away. I believe Ed Steers provided a typed transcript of it in an issue of the Surratt Courier about five years ago. I have an article reporting that she went to Hollywood dur. the making of the film, at the studio’s invitation. After she saw the movie (seated in front of Laurie’s mother), she commented that Gloria Stuart, who played HER mother, wasn’t nearly as pretty as her.. I found that rather amusing, since Gloria Stuart was one of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses. As you know, Ms. Stuart lived til she was 99 or 100, and tho very wrinkled, she was still beautiful, in my opinion. She played the elderly “Rose” character in James Cameron’s epic, “Titanic.”
    The radio version starred Gary Cooper as Dr. Mudd. The same script was used for a repeat, starring someone else as the doctor. I forget who it was but have it in my files (along with that tape, too.. I think it may have been Randolph Scott the second time. Mrs. Mudd may have been Fay Wray! Dr. Richard Mudd presented me with his original copy of the radio script, and I then sent him a xerox of it. (I also have a xerox of the movie script that he had. The movie is one of my all-time favorites.. Too bad it is not the true story! “The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd” came a little closer, but not entirely so. The story was also done two other times on TV. Once starring Lew Ayres, and once starring either Harry Townes or Robert Vaughan. Again, all this is off the top of my head. I just thought while you were on the subject I’d spout what I know, if that’s OK. You were great to play the tape on your blog!….

    • Richard, you are right that it was Fay Wray who portrayed Mrs. Mudd in the Lux radio production.

      For those of you interested, you can download the Lux production of The Prisoner of Shark Island here. Unfortunately this link does not contain the introduction or the intermission with Nettie, but the radio show is intact.

  6. tyboots


    • Thanks for the email, Yvonne. I have seen your image before at

      While I think the gentleman in your picture would win a Dr. Mudd lookalike contest (the beard, for example is a dead match), I don’t think it’s the good doctor (my opinion). Thank you so much for sharing it though.

  7. Richard Sloan

    I was looking up online reviews of “The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd,” which starred Dennis Weaver and Susan Sullivan. One stated that the prison scenes were filmed at Ft. Jefferson, which is totally false; they were filmed at Ft. Pulaski, which I am not sure, but I think also doubled as the Washington Arsenal in “The COnspirator,” the Redford movie about Mrs. Surratt. For anyone wishing to buy it on DVD, ebay sells it, but it’s expensive. I think a used copy can currently (Feb. 2013) be found on line, but all other copies are much more expensive. Another review states that while it’s a pretty good DVD transfer, the prison scenes are much too dark, and even scratchy. So buyer beware.
    Funny thing about this “Ordeal” show –back in the 1990’s, for six and a half years, I was (one of two) audio man on the ABC soap opera, “One Life to Live.” One of the actors who was on the show for about a year while I was there was named Chris Douglas, a male model -turned actor. He couldn’t act to save his life, but he was an extremely nice young man we all liked, so nobody ever wanted to talk about his lack of talent behind his back. I think he also forgot his lines a lot, ‘tho he didn’t have too many. We were used to actors who came and went on that show who either couldn’t act, speak loudly enough for the audio man, or couldn’t remember lines. They once hired an old Indian for a couple of days. We made plenty of money in overtime when he was there bec. he could only remember five words at a time! ) I worked for a year with Ryan Phillipe when he was only about 13 or 14. He played a gay teenager. (A few years later he became a teenage heart-throb and then was briefly married to Reese Witherspoon.) Nobody ever gave him voice lessons in acting class, and he was an audio man’s worst nightmare. I had to resort to him wearing hidden wireless mikes, which were a pain in the behind.
    Anyway, forgive my rambling. Now I’ll finally get back to Chris Douglas. Just a few days ago I discovered that shortlybefore or after I worked with him (I haven’t figured that out yet) , he was in a made-for-TV movie that starred Hulk Hogan called “Assault on Devil’s Island.” It’s a cool adventure about a kidnapping, as I recall, and the climactic scenes, involving a big chase, were filmed at Ft. Jefferson. I not only remember it; I videotaped and still have it. However, I haven’t pulled it out yet to see Chris. The shots of the Fort, the parade ground, lighthouse, ruins, and corridors were all used to full advantage, as I recall. These scenes are gorgeous, and show up well, unlike in “Ordeal,” which probably overdid the dramatic lighting attempts which resulted in the darkness noted by that one reviewer. . (P.S. One day my wife and some friends were with me in a little gift shop that sold some nice 5×7 picture frames. I spotted Chris Douglas in one of them. I pointed to it and blurted out, “I know that guy!” Our friends replied, “How could you know him; those aren’t real people; they’re models!” I said, “Yeah; I know,” and explained. I laughed the whole night.
    If you ever find this TVer for sale, “Assault on Devil’s Island,” grab it. It’sreally pretty good — maybe even better than “The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd” !

    • Richard Sloan sen this to me and asked I post it for him:

      First of all, Dave, I apologize for rambling about my days on the soap opera; I think I got carried away.
      Secondly, I have discovered that both VHS and DVD copies of this are available on ebay and on Amazon. They’re cheaper on ebay. But they only have a couple of copies left. However, the name must be changed! It’s
      “Shadow Warriors: Assault on Devil’s Island” !
      You do a magnificent job on this blog. Here’s an interesting observation about John M. Lloyd and Mrs. Surratt that nobody spotted, which I hope you will post (and credit to me.:

      THEY BOTH DIED FALLING FROM A SCAFFOLD! If you believe that Lloyd lied about her to save his own neck, then you could say this was a kind of ironic justice. (There’s another two-word saying or phrase for that which is appropriate, but I can’t for the life of me come up with it!)

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