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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 ... Henry
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
Edit

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

Production Co:

Frank Capra Productions See more »
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

Regis Toomey had already memorized his monologue about the John Doe Clubs for his audition, so the day he was supposed to shoot it, Frank Capra asked if he needed a rehearsal. Toomey didn't, so they shot the scene in one take. See more »

Goofs

When Ann is struggling to write John Doe's radio speech, she balls up one draft and throws the paper on the floor in disgust. The dog picks up the crumpled paper and approaches the apparently empty wastebasket. After the cut, when the dog drops the paper into the wastebasket, the wastebasket is full. 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 »

Connections

Featured in Film Breaks: Matinée Idols (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

O Tannenbaum
(1824) (uncredited)
Traditional tune, lyrics by Ernst Anschütz
[Incorrectly credited as written by Ernst Anschütz]
Played in the score
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The third film in Capra's unofficial trilogy is darkly wonderful.
4 March 2008 | by SpikeopathSee 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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