Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck star in Frank Capra's popular social commentary on the common man. Stanwyck is a newspaper reporter who sends a fake letter upon her firing, signing it John Doe. When the letter becomes a r... more »allying cry for all the little people, Cooper, a man in need of money, agrees to impersonate the nonexistent person who claimed he'd commit suicide because of the problems of society. And thus, a political movement begins--but the newspaper publisher has a secret plan.« less
"In itself "Meet John Doe" Is a warm, witty, and heartwarming story of two people who find paths cross because of a ruthless politician. This particular format from "Alpha Video Distributors" is the worst ever!! The picture looks as if if was transferred from a very bad copy of a copy of a copy of a video, with all the bad, scratches, no sharpness, washed out picture & jittery sound. I guess you get what you pay for! It's enough to make me not want to watch this dvd as it hurts my eyes and ears."
"Baseball's My Racket and I'm Stickin' To It"
Bobby Underwood | Manly NSW, Australia | 09/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""I've been lonely and hungry for something practically all my life." Long John Willoughby
This Frank Capra film, unlike others he had made, leaned more towards drama than humor. Though there is humor, and many charming moments involving Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, the tone of the Robert Riskin screenplay, based on a story by Richard Connell and Robert Presnell, has more serious implications than Capra's other films. For that reason, and perhaps because the prints of this film are not as good as the others, "Meet John Doe" sometimes gets unfairly dismissed when Capra's films are discussed. This was the meat in what many call "Capracorn."
Barbara Stanwyck is Ann Mitchell, a reporter soon to be unemployed when her paper is gobbled up by D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold). Desparate to keep the thirty dollar a week salary that keeps her two young sisters and her mom (Spring Byington) afloat, she begs editor Henry Connell (James Gleason) for her job back, but her plea falls on deaf ears. She exits with a column that's a real doozy, pretending she has received a letter from a "John Doe" who, because of the injustice in the world, the state of civilization, and the downtrodden, plans to kill himself at Christmas.
A groundswell of support for John Doe gets Ann her job back, but now she and boss Connell must find a "John Doe." In walks Long John Willoughby (Gary Cooper), a hungry baseball player with a bad wing. He and his pal, Colonel (Walter Brennan), are just hungry enough to play along. Colonel has reservations from the get-go, however, afraid that Long Johm will become a helot--a guy with a bank account.
Long John just wants to earn enough to get the arm he injured pitching a 19 inning game fixed by Bonesetter Brown, but his shy affection for Ann keeps him around long enough to make a radio speech, written from words in her father's diary. His speach spreads the John Doe movement all across the country. It is the crusty Colonel who sees the train wreck coming, however, and takes off.
Clubs start up everywhere, only the "little" people allowed to join. People start treating their neighbors with kindness, showing the spirit of Christmas on a day-to-day basis. D.B. Norton, however, has political aspirations, and sees a way to twist the movement to fit his ambitions. It is Henry Connell who clues in Long John on what is about to happen, letting the air out of his balloon and shattering his smitten image of Ann, with her chestnut hair and great legs.What follows, as the country discovers John Doe was a fake, will lead Long John to a rooftop overlooking the city on a snowy Christmas night.
Stanwyck is wonderful here, as Ann slowly comes to realize she has found a man like her father but may have helped to destroy him. Cooper is memorable as Long John Willoughby, a shy ball player who realizes he has come to stand for more than he ever could have on the pitching mound. Brennan is his usual great character, looking out for Long John as much as he can.
There are some warm and sentimental moments between Cooper's Long John and Stanwyck's Ann mixed in with the social drama, and some charm as well. Cooper's scene with Ann's mom, whose help he needs to ask her daughter to marry him, has a sweetness to it that is long gone from today's films. And the baseball scene in a hotel room, when they play pretend ball, is a classic.
This is a wonderful film about the little guy that sometimes gets analyzed too much. All Capra was trying to do, was remind people that the first John Doe came a long time ago, and people still weren't listening. This is a film that works best if you forget it is a Frank Capra picture, and just enjoy it on its own merits. It can then be placed proudly beside the director's other classics on your movie shelf."
Somewhat Dated But Still of Value
Robert Morris | Dallas, Texas | 09/19/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film appeared at a time when the United States continued to emerge from the Great Depression amidst fears of what soon became World War Two. Many people distrusted government and capitalism; some felt betrayed by them. Directed by Frank Capra, this film addresses the concerns of the so-called "common" man, a stereotype whom we now call "John Doe." How ironic that the film's hero and heroine, advocates of truth and justice, are frauds. After being fired by her newspaper during an extensive lay-off, Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck) includes in her final column a letter allegedly sent to by "John Doe" who is so upset about society's mistreatment of "the little people" that, in protest, he plans to jump from the top floor of city hall on Christmas Eve. The bogus letter creates so much interest that Mitchell is kept on to continue writing her column which now focuses entirely on John Doe. Fearful that the hoax will be revealed, the newspaper auditions several men and finally hires "Long John" Willoughby (Gary Cooper) to claim he is John Doe. Willoughby is a former baseball player with a dead arm who had been riding the rails with The Colonel (Walter Brennan). Once hired, Willoughby soon becomes totally caught up in the role he plays. His eloquence (expressing what Mitchell has given him to say) and apparent sincerity inspire what becomes the National John Doe Movement, with local chapters throughout the United States. What Willoughby doesn't know and Mitchell does not fully realize is that D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold), publisher of the newspaper, is funding the Movement (e.g. buying radio time for John Doe to promote his "Golden Rule" philosophy) to build a wide and deep base of popular support for his own (Norton's) Presidential campaign. Norton views with contempt precisely the same people who are attracted to John Doe, unknowingly serving as the political equivalent of a Trojan horse.Despite all the positive values which Capra so passionately affirms, this is a dark film. Its celebration of The Golden Rule is muted by the fact that, although the principles and objectives of the Movement are admirable, John Doe is a fraud. Also, although Mitchell and others reaffirm their faith in John Doe during the final scene on Christmas Eve atop city hall, there is no reason to think that the Movement can continue. In an earlier scene, Norton's "troops" quickly shut down a Movement rally. I will never forget Doe struggling to be heard, speaking into a microphone after its plug (and his) had been pulled by Norton's quasi fascists. People such as Norton with almost unlimited resources allow such movements only if they pose no threat and/or can be exploited somehow to their own advantage. Only actors with the skills and temperament of a Cooper and Stanwyck could possibly make the final scene credible, at least temporarily. Of course, we will never know what happened thereafter but Capra has made his point: The world would be a much better place if everyone practiced the Golden Rule. As the example of John Doe suggests, if it is worth dying for, then it is certainly worth living for."
Gary Cooper as the American Everyman in Capra's classic
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 11/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Meet John Doe" is clearly the most political of director Frank Capra's "Capracorn" films, even more than "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" or "State of the Union." Newspaper columnist Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck in a rare "good girl role") is fired and prints a phony letter in her final column about a man who is going to commit suicide on Christmas Eve to protest the misery and corruption afflicting the county. The letter is signed "John Doe." The letter causes a sensation and it becomes necessary for Ann to produce "John Doe." She basically holds auditions and settles on Long John Willoughby (Gary Cooper), a starving bush league pitcher whose arms has gone bad. Ann continues to write article in the name of John Doe, calling on everyone to love their neighbor and the like. This only increases the fan mail and the best scene of the film she writes "John Doe" a speech to read on the radio, inspired by the words of her father. As "John" himself gets caught up in the speech and its response, Ann is totally enraptured by the moment. This all might be a giant con game, but Ann is a true believer. Then the powerful publishing magnate, D. B. Norton (Edward Arnold), throws his support behind the John Doe clubs because he wants them to hold a convention where "John" will nominate him as a third party candidate for the presidency. Obviously Norton is some sort of American fascist, and when "John" refuses to play along, Norton publicly exposes him to the mob. All that is left to "John" is to fulfill the original promise of the first letter and commit suicide on Christmas Eve. Cooper and Capra had enjoyed success before with "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town," but this is the much better film. Cooper's performance in this 1940 film is certainly Oscar worthy, but his next film was "Sergeant York" and that was the film that won the actor his first Academy Award. Stanwyck's performance is just as good, proving she could do more than film noir bad girls. Like most of Capra's great works, including "It's A Wonderful Life," the mythic structure is clearly that of the crucifixion and resurrection (think about it). The symbolic "death" of John Doe is arguably the most painful in any of Capra's films and the character's "resurrection" is definitely the most believable. Capra originally had a darker ending than what was provided, but we all know that really would have gone against his grain. Again, the supporting cast for Capra's film is absolutely stellar, with Edward Arnold, Walter Brennan, James Gleason, Spring Byington, Gene Lockhart, and Steling Holloway all getting the most out of Robert Riskin's screenplay. "Meet John Doe" is definitely a classic Frank Capra film."
An Important American Film...
Adam Sterling | New York City NY United States | 11/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"...but buyers should be forwarned that the print from which this DVD is made was a poor one, and Alpha Video, the distributors of this classic Capra movie, made no attempt to clean it up.
Here we have an example of a key artwork about America's psychological and political framework during emergence from the economic depression of the 1930s, crying out for careful restration to the condition it so deserves."