A man needing money agrees to impersonate a nonexistent person who said he'd be committing suicide as a protest, and a political movement begins.

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(based on a story by), (based on a story by) (as Robert Presnell) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
The 'Colonel'
...
Mrs. Mitchell
...
Henry
...
Mayor Lovett
...
Ted Sheldon
Irving Bacon ...
...
Bert (credit only)
J. Farrell MacDonald ...
'Sourpuss'
Warren Hymer ...
Angelface
Harry Holman ...
Mayor Hawkins
Andrew Tombes ...
Spencer
Pierre Watkin ...
Hammett
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Storyline

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. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

ALL AMERICA WANTS TO MEET THE "MR. DEEDS" OF 1941! (original print media ad - all caps)

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

3 May 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Frank Capra's 'Meet John Doe'  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Frank Capra went into production without a clear idea of how the film should end. He shot or edited five endings and previewed two. In one, the film ended with John being disgraced at the John Doe Convention and Henry Connell saying, "Well, boys, you can chalk another one up to the Pontius Pilates." Preview audiences found that version too depressing. Another ending actually had John committing suicide, with The Colonel cradling his dead body in his arms and saying, "Long John, you poor fool. You poor sucker." Robert Riskin preferred this ending, but Capra was unconvinced and feared the suicide would cause problems with the Catholic Church. He also had a version in which Ann talks John out of committing suicide and a variation in which John's merry Christmas with Henry causes the corrupt publisher to see the light. Undecided, Capra released different versions of the ending for the film's initial engagements in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC. Finally, a comment from one of the previews inspired a fifth ending, in which some of the original John Doe Club members show up to tell Willoughby they had never stopped believing in him. That also would allow Capra to deal with another problem pointed out by preview audiences and in letters from angry fans--the depiction of Willoughby's followers as a fickle herd easily swayed by the film's corrupt politicians. Capra shot the new ending and had prints called back from theaters so it could be added before the film went into national release. Years later he would say that even that ending wasn't quite right. See more »

Goofs

During the montage showing John Doe Clubs gaining in popularity, closeups of a map are shown with flags being pinned up for every new club. At the end of the montage, the camera pulls back to show a map of the entire US. However, the final map has substantially fewer flags pinned to it than what was shown during the closeups. See more »

Quotes

Mayor Hawkins: No you can't see him, you didn't vote for me in the last election. Shame on you.
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Connections

Featured in The 79th Annual Academy Awards (2007) See more »

Soundtracks

Chicago
(1922) (uncredited)
Written by Fred Fisher
Played in the score
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User Reviews

 
Pollyanna eh?
9 April 1999 | by (Verdun, Quebec) – See all my reviews

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!


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