Dark, oddball Capra, but a worthwhile watch with a tail ending wagging the dog. The film opens as Stanwyck, a struggling journalist, is fired from her job when a new managing editor, Gleason, takes over her newspaper. She angrily writes her last piece about a mythical idealist she calls
John Doe and through him rants about the little guy being punished and mistreated by tycoons, moguls, magnates and captains of industry. To make good his protest, Doe states, in Stanwyck's fabricated letter to the paper, that he will leap off the top of City Hall on Christmas Eve. The public
response is enormous, and Gleason demands that Stanwyck turn over the letter she has received from this so-called John Doe. She confesses that there is no letter, that she made up the whole story. But then, to keep the job she values above all else, Stanwyck suggests they find a phony hero from
the ranks of the great unemployed and continue the story to sell more papers. When another paper jeeringly labels the story a fraud, Gleason, to save his newspaper's image, orders Stanwyck to pick out a stewbum and make him into her real-life John Doe. Enter Gary Cooper as Long John Willoughby, a
onetime minor league pitcher with a bad arm and a shortage of cash.
MEET JOHN DOE was Capra's first independent film production done away from his home studio, Columbia, and beyond the tyrannical reach of its boss, Harry Cohn. It's basically an attack on the fascist elements then in America, notably the pro-Nazi German-American Bund. Capra wanted to warn Americans
about the powerful fascist influences in their midst and did so mightily with this film. Though MEET JOHN DOE reportedly profited Capra and Riskin's independent company $900,000 on its initial release, Capra later reported that the tax bite was so heavy that he dissolved the company after a few
months. So great had Capra's reputation become that all the leading players in MEET JOHN DOE agreed to do the film without reading the script.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Dark, oddball Capra, but a worthwhile watch with a tail ending wagging the dog. The film opens as Stanwyck, a struggling journalist, is fired from her job when a new managing editor, Gleason, takes over her newspaper. She angrily writes her last piece abou… (more)