7.7/10
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82 user 47 critic

Meet John Doe (1941)

Passed | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 3 May 1941 (USA)
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.

Director:

Writers:

(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
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Mayor Lovett
...
Ted Sheldon
...
...
Bert
...
'Sourpuss'
...
Angelface
Harry Holman ...
Mayor Hawkins
Andrew Tombes ...
Spencer
...
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:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although the film seemed poised to make a handsome profit for Frank Capra and Robert Riskin, under federal laws at the time they were required to pay taxes on the income before the profits even came in. Without studio overhead and a steady stream of pictures to keep money rolling in, they had to dissolve their corporation simply to pay taxes on the film. Capra would have to postpone his dream of producing his own films for years because of that. See more »

Goofs

When Henry is telling John about Morton's plans for the John Doe clubs, he lights a match but holds it an inch above the cigarette that he suppose to light it with. At the end of the scene, Henry presses the end of the cigarette into a plate to extinguish it, but the cigarette at this point is no longer burning and the end is already bent over showing that it had already been pressed into the plate in an early take. See more »

Quotes

The Colonel: [criticizing John's anti-separatism speech] Tear down fences... why, if you tore one picket off your neighbor's fence, he'd sue you!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Murder in the First (1995) See more »

Soundtracks

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

 
The third film in Capra's unofficial trilogy is darkly wonderful.
4 March 2008 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

After doing Mr Deeds Goes To Town and Mr Smith Goes To Washington for Columbia, Capra quit and made this third film about an average Joe thrust into a powerful world where exploitation is high on the agenda, but in true Capra style the story unfolds to a customary flip flop triumph.

Ann Mitchell is a struggling journalist who gets fired from her newspaper job by new editor Henry Connell, by way of venting her frustrations she writes in her stinging last article about a man called John Doe who is tired of being pushed around and held back by the big bosses, she finishes the piece by claiming that Doe will commit suicide on Christmas Eve by leaping off the roof of city hall, the public react to the letter with tremendous heart and Doe becomes a champion of the people.

After Connell gets interested in the letter Ann has to confess that she made it up, they hatch a plan to turn a real unemployed drop out into John Doe so as to continue the story and sell more papers, and of course Ann gets to keep her job. This brings in ex minor league pitcher Long John Willoughby, who is down on his luck and very short of cash, and this is when the story shifts from amiable comedy on to a much darker path, the result making for a riveting watch.

Whilst not being up with the best Capra films in his armoury, it is, however, one of his smartest. The portrayal of the human spirit in many guises is stark and poignant, whilst thematically Capra got his point over about the unsavoury elements blossoming in America. The cast are nailed on watchable, Gary Cooper is John Doe, the right amount of sympathy and guts is garnered from his performance, and in one rousing speech he has the viewers in the palm of his hand. Barbara Stanwyck is Ann Mitchell and she delivers a great turn that calls for a number of emotions to be performed convincingly, while the support cast are all solid with the stand out a bizarrely unnerving Edward Arnold as D B. Norton; a man wishing to be a dictator if ever there was one. 10/10


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