Meet John Doe


Meet John Doe

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Total Count: 21


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Movie Info

The first of director Frank Capra's independent productions (in partnership with Robert Riskin), Meet John Doe begins with the end of reporter Ann Mitchell's (Barbara Stanwyck) job. Fired as part of a downsizing move, she ends her last column with an imaginary letter written by "John Doe." Angered at the ill treatment of America's little people, the fabricated Doe announces that he's going to jump off City Hall on Christmas Eve. When the phony letter goes to press, it causes a public sensation. Seeking to secure her job, Mitchell talks her managing editor (James Gleason) into playing up the John Doe letter for all it's worth; but to ward off accusations from rival papers that the letter was bogus, they decide to hire someone to pose as John Doe: a ballplayer-turned-hobo (Gary Cooper), who'll do anything for three squares and a place to sleep. "John Doe" and his traveling companion The Colonel (Walter Brennan) are ensconced in a luxury hotel while Mitchell continues churning out chunks of John Doe philosophy. When newspaper publisher D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold), a fascistic type with presidential aspirations, decides to use Doe as his ticket to the White House, he puts Doe on the radio to deliver inspirational speeches to the masses -- ghost-written by Mitchell, who, it is implied, has become the publisher's mistress. The central message of the Doe speeches is "Love Thy Neighbor," though, conceived in cynicism, the speeches strike so responsive a chord with the public that John Doe clubs pop up all over the country. Believing he is working for the good of America, Cooper agrees to front the National John Doe Movement -- until he discovers that Norton plans to exploit Doe in order to create a third political party and impose a virtual dictatorship on the country. The last of Capra's "social statement" films, Meet John Doe posted a profit, although Capra and Riskin were forced to dissolve their corporation due to excessive taxes.


Gary Cooper
as Long John Willoughby, John Doe
Barbara Stanwyck
as Ann Mitchell
Walter Brennan
as The Colonel
Edward Arnold
as D.B. Norton
James Gleason
as Henry Connell
Spring Byington
as Mrs. Mitchell
Gene Lockhart
as Mayor Lovett
Rod La Rocque
as Ted Sheldon
Regis Toomey
as Bert Hansen
Warren Hymer
as Angelface
Aldrich Bowker
as Pop Dwyer
Ann Doran
as Mrs. Hansen
Madge Crane
as Mrs. Brewster
J. Farrell MacDonald
as Sourpuss Smithers
Carlotta Jelm
as Ann's Sister
Tina Thayer
as Ann's Sister
Bennie Bartlett
as Red, the Office Boy
Sarah Edwards
as Mrs. Hawkins
Garry Owen
as Sign Painter
Charles C. Wilson
as Charlie Dawson
Edward Earle
as Radio MC
M.J. Frankovich
as Radio Announcer
Margaret Crane
as Mrs. Brewster
Harry Holman
as Mayor Hawkins
Bess Flowers
as Newspaper Secretary
Emma Tansey
as Mrs. Delaney
Selmer Jackson
as Radio Announcers at Convention
Knox Manning
as Radio Announcers at Convention
John B. Hughes
as Radio Announcers at Convention
Frank Austin
as Grubbel
Edward Keane
as Relief Administrator
Edward McWade
as Joe, Newsman
Guy Usher
as Bixler
Walter Soderling
as Barrington
John Hamilton
as Jim, Governor's Associate
William Forrest
as Governor's Associate
Charles K. French
as Fired reporter
Edward Hearn
as Mayor's secretary
Hank Mann
as Ed, a Photographer
James Millican
as Photographer
Harry Davenport
as Ex-owner of Bulletin
Paul Everton
as GOP man
Mary Benoit
as Secretary
Mildred Coles
as Secretary
Eddie Kane
as Tycoon
Melvin Lang
as Foreign Dignitary
Alphonse Martell
as Foreign Dignitary
Edwin Stanley
as Democrat
Isabelle La Mal
as Chamber of Commerce Member
Alfred Hall
as Chamber of Commerce Member
George Melford
as Chamber of Commerce Member
Henry Roquemore
as Chamber of Commerce Member
John Ince
as Doctor
Gail Newbray
as Telephone Operator
Earl Bunn
as Policeman
Edmund Cobb
as Policeman
Jack Cheatham
as Policeman
Lew Davis
as Electrician
Howard Chase
as Electrician
Floyd Criswell
as Electrician
Carl Ekberg
as Reporter
Frank Fanning
as Reporter
Walter Finden
as Photographer
Jack Gardner
as Photographer
William Gould
as Sergeant
Kenneth Harlan
as Publicity Man
Richard Kipling
as Police Commissioner
Forbes Murray
as Legislator
Maris Wrixon
as Autograph hound
Susan Peters
as Autograph Hound
Frank Mayo
as Attendant
Lucie Carroll
as Bit Part
Claire Meade
as Bit Part
Elsa Peterson
as Bit Part
Sada Simmons
as Bit Part
Bessie Wade
as Bit Part
Lillian West
as Bit Part
Mack Gray
as Bit Part
Jay Guedillio
as Bit Part
Donald Hall
as Bit Part
Frank Jaquet
as Police Desk Sergeant
Larry McGrath
as Bit Part
Joe McGuinn
as Bit Part
Tom McGuire
as Bit Part
Frank Moran
as Bit part
Clark Morgan
as Bit Part
Bob Perry
as Delegate
Hal Price
as Bit Part
Stanley Price
as Bit Part
Don Roberts
as Bit Part
Ed Williams
as Bit Part
Max Blum
as Bit Part
Sidney Bracey
as Club Member
Glen Cavender
as Bit Part
Inez Gay
as Bit Part
Sally Sage
as Bit Part
Eddie Graham
as Tall Autograph Hound
Stuart Holmes
as Bit Part
Al Lloyd
as Bit Part
Paul Panzer
as Bit Part
Jack Richardson
as Man in Diner
Leo White
as Bit Part
Tom Wilson
as Man in Diner / Man in Radio Station Audience
Jack Wise
as Delegate
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Critic Reviews for Meet John Doe

All Critics (21) | Fresh (19) | Rotten (2)

Audience Reviews for Meet John Doe

  • Sep 27, 2018
    Director Frank Capra lays it on pretty thick here, with a message combining the love of one's fellow man, the need to defend America's freedoms, and the power of common people to stand up to the rich and powerful when they band together and act out of decency and truth. This is a film filled with big idealistic speeches and moments meant to stir the heart. Capra knew that the democracy faced threats all over the globe as WWII loomed, but also that America, like any other country, faced threats within, that it was possible that an authoritarian may rise to power here by exploiting the masses, and controlling the media. This was a real possibility in the 1940's, and of course, is still relevant today. It's very telling that at the beginning of the movie, a newspaper is being taken over by a rich industrialist, who wants to stimulate circulation at any cost. The plaque outside the building reading "A free press means free people" is chiseled away, and replaced with one reading "A streamlined newspaper for a streamlined age." When a plucky young reporter (Barbara Stanwyck) keeps her job only by writing a fake letter from a John Doe, we're at first led to believe that the deception is for the better, because she uses the resulting column to push altruistic messages extracted from her late father's old writing. She and the newspaper editor (James Gleason) hire a local vagrant (Gary Cooper) to play the part of John Doe, and the message expands and catches on, so much so that 'John Doe Clubs' are being formed all over the country. The message they push is one against all sorts of ills: the collapse of decency, corruption in local politics, graft in state relief, and hospitals shutting their doors to the needy. The idea is that if people could live up to Christian ideals all year round, rather than just at Christmas-time, that if they could simply 'love thy neighbor' and exercise tolerance for one another, they would not only feel better about life, but it would solve some of society's problems. All seems well, but lurking is the rich industrialist (Edward Arnold) funding the whole thing, initially for what seems to be the common good, but sure enough, he has ulterior motives. Thus, love your fellow man, but beware those seeking to control you. And for all his optimism and faith in man, Capra knew that a mob whipped into a frenzy was dangerous, and there are some dark elements in the film. Edward Arnold is brilliant as the industrialist, and Gleason is excellent as the editor. The two of them turn in great performances in their supporting roles, with Gleason's speech while drunk ("Yep, I'm a sucker for this country...") is one of the film's strongest. He extols the idea that the freedoms enjoyed in America to speak and live freely were important, and far preferable to the totalitarian governments at both ends of the political spectrum in the world (e.g. Fascist Germany and the Communist Soviet Union). If that sounds like a nationalistic message it is, but it was appropriate for the period, and more than balanced out by the socialist and anti-materialistic messages. Barbara Stanwyck is a delight to watch as always, and 1941 was a fantastic here for her ('Ball of Fire', also with Cooper, and 'The Lady Eve' came out that year). She's a wee melodramatic in the film's final scene though. Gary Cooper is just average in playing the bumbling everyman, and not as strong as Jimmy Stewart in similar roles for Capra. He is awkward and wide-eyed too often, especially early in the film. On the other hand, he shows a little bit of a devilish side in his subconscious, describing a dream of spanking Stanwyck at length (a scene which is a little odd). His best exchange with Stanwyck occurs when he senses she's also corrupt, and asks her "Did you write this?", referring to his next speech, she confesses yes but "I had no idea what was going on", and he pushes past her, remarking "That's a swell bracelet you're wearing," noticing the expensive gift she's received. He then proceeds to stand up to a group of powerful men, speaking for the little guy ("I'm just a mug and I know it. But I'm beginning to understand a lot of things. Why your types are as old as history. If you can't lay your dirty fingers on a decent idea, and twist it and squeeze it and stuff it into your own pocket, you slap it down! Like dogs! If you can't eat something you bury it!") If it's not already apparent, if you're cynical by nature, this is probably not the film for you. And, I have to say, Capra uses just a teensy bit too much of a heavy hand here, among other things likening John Doe to Jesus Christ (you know, that other great socialist who preached love and tolerance). However, he also has brilliant moments when he lets everything linger, such as when the crowd is disillusioned and wonders who is telling them the truth. That moment is simply spellbinding. Solid film, with wonderful messages.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 13, 2011
    Another Capra masterpiece that is still relevant today. Cooper and Brennan are great.
    Graham J Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2010
    This is a remarkable movie, and a great performance from Stanwyck. I highly recommend this movie.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Dec 15, 2007
    Frank Capra's illustration of the media's use of an average shmoe with a simple message to manipulate the masses for political gain is as relevant today as it was when released. A very laid-back Gary Cooper is perfect in the title role, with the beautiful Barbara Stanwyck as the woman used to mold him into the tool he becomes. Excellent support provided by Walter Brennan.
    Moe E Super Reviewer

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