As a parting shot, fired reporter Ann Mitchell prints a fake letter from unemployed "John Doe," who threatens suicide in protest of social ills. The paper is forced to rehire Ann and hires John Willoughby to impersonate "Doe." Ann and her bosses cynically milk the story for all it's worth, until the made-up "John Doe" philosophy starts a whole political movement. At last everyone, even Ann, takes her creation seriously...but publisher D.B. Norton has a secret plan.
Running Time: 122 Minutes
MPAA Ratings: PG
This film offers a standing rebuke to critics who use the term "Capracorn". None of Capra's films are as blindly optimistic as is often argued, but this one is a pitch-black jeremiad against manipulation by the media. The mob scene at the "John Doe" convention is one of the powerful scenes ever filmed. Stanwyck is incredible as reporter Anne Mitchell. She is one of the great actresses of the century, and she always did her best work Capra, whose female characters are generally more compelling to the women we get in the movies of our "liberated" era. Cooper is fantastic as a truly "average" guy who is "awakened" by his experience with the John Doe movement, and Edward Arnold is absolutely terrifying in the role of Fascist D.B. Norton. This film is even more relevant today than when it was made, and I would argue that it should be viewed in high schools across the continent. Capra is asking his viewers to think critically of EVERYTHING they hear on the radio or see in papers or hear from elites, and amen to that!
Frank Capra's unabashed patriotism wins another pennant for Team U.S.A. with `Meet John Doe,' an Oscar-nominated feature (for original screenplay) that roots for the underdog while demonstrating the power of the people en masse. He backs up his strong, daunting ideology with sharp, crisp writing and even sharper character delineation. Capra's social piece was timely released in 1940, when Nazi sympathizers were gaining a potent voice in America, just prior to our involvement in WWII. - Gary Burnmugh
Best Writing, Original Story - Nominated
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