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Meet John Doe (1941)

Not Rated | | 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:

Frank Capra

Writers:

Richard Connell (based on a story by), Robert Presnell Sr. (based on a story by) (as Robert Presnell) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Gary Cooper ... John Doe
Barbara Stanwyck ... Ann Mitchell
Edward Arnold ... D.B. Norton
Walter Brennan ... The 'Colonel'
Spring Byington ... Mrs. Mitchell
James Gleason ... Connell
Gene Lockhart ... Mayor Lovett
Rod La Rocque ... Ted Sheldon
Irving Bacon ... Beany
Regis Toomey ... Bert
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:

Frank Capra's Production for 1941 See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

3 May 1941 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Frank Capra's 'Meet John Doe' See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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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

The collar of John Doe's coat is alternately up and down between shots when Ann is persuading him not to jump off the roof. 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 »

Alternate Versions

Also available in a computer-colorized version. See more »


Soundtracks

March of the Swiss Soldiers
(1829) (uncredited)
From 'The William Tell Overture'
Written by Gioachino Rossini
Played on harmonica by Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan
See more »

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User Reviews

Propaganda at its best
2 February 2004 | by jjamison-1See all my reviews

This movie was made at a time in our history when the US was at war, and patriotism was high. A lot of movies were made at this time with the purpose of keeping spirits up, and presenting what the American ideal was all about.

This movie is full of symbolism. Every scene and every utterance has a message. A common man elevated-- being pulled in both directions. On the one hand, by a beautiful woman, on the other hand, by his old life- represented by Walter Brennan. Almost everyone in the movie praises the goodness of man, as long as man is on the right side and can be manipulated. There is a scene of a crowd in one accord, praising their hero-- the reverse image of a Hitler rally, because these people were good. Suddenly it starts to rain, and everyone has a large black umbrella. As they sing "God Bless America" the overhead shot shows the tops of the umbrellas gently moving in unison-- "huddled masses". Then the mood of the crowd changes-- can anyone say "Crucify him?" The same people who love him, suddenly hate him. Later in the movie Barbara Stanwyck reminds him of the John Doe of 2000 years ago. Christ. A beautiful tall building, glowing in the dark. A symbolism of capitalism. Anyone who wasn't around during the l940's, or have not read the history of that time. will miss all the symbolism- but the symbols are very clear to those in the know. All in all, a pretty good movie, if a bit long and drawn out, and very preachy, even if the preaching was well intended.


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