Meet John Doe

Meet John Doe

5.0 1
Director: Frank Capra

Cast: Frank Capra, Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold


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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 fabricatedSee more details below


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.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Meet John Doe is the Frank Capra movie that spoke most directly to the mood of the United States at the time that it was made. It's a fundamentally pessimistic film, without a positive resolution, and also an astonishingly mature movie -- virtually groundbreaking as a "message" movie aimed at a mainstream audience. Appearing in 1940, it closed out a decade that had been dominated by despair, disillusionment, dislocation (economic and personal), and desperation, a period characterized by a reliance on often inept government officials or duplicitous would-be leaders. All of these elements are present in Meet John Doe from its opening scene (a mass layoff at a newspaper), and they get addressed over and over again as the plot unfolds. The movie also had the courage to put some very attractive stars -- Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck -- in some very unattractive roles, as two people putting over a huge fraud on a public that trusts them. It wasn't considered a very successful film in its own time, being a little too dark and mature amid the ominous reality of the European war being waged at the time, but it is probably the best of Capra's "message" pictures and his best slice-of-life drama other than It Happened One Night. One scene, in which Cooper's Long John Willoughby tries to address the crowd and is cut off, was mimicked (some would say perverted) in real life during the 1980 presidential campaign, when Ronald Reagan defiantly resisted being cut off during the New Hampshire debates. It was life imitating art, and Reagan played it even better than Cooper did in the movie.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Echo Bridge

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Gary Cooper Long John Willoughby,John Doe
Barbara Stanwyck Ann Mitchell
Edward Arnold D.B. Norton
Walter Brennan The Colonel
Spring Byington Mrs. Mitchell
James Gleason Henry Connell
Gene Lockhart Mayor Lovett
Rod La Rocque Ted Sheldon
Irving Bacon Beany
Regis Toomey Bert Hansen
John Farrell MacDonald Sourpuss Smithers
Warren Hymer Angelface
Harry Holman Mayor Hawkins
Andrew Tombes Spencer
Pierre Watkin Hammett
Stanley Andrews Weston
Mitchell Lewis Bennett
Charles Wilson Charlie Dawson
Vaughan Glaser Governor
Sterling Holloway Dan
Mike J. Frankovich Radio Announcer
Emma Tansey Mrs. Delaney
Edward McWade Joe, Newsman
Mary Benoit Actor
Pat Flaherty Mike
Fritzi Brunette Actor
Edmund Cobb Policeman
Jack Cheatham Policeman
Mildred Coles Secretary
Margaret Crane Mrs. Brewster
Sarah Edwards Mrs. Hawkins
Frank Fanning Actor
Eddie Fetherstone Reporter
Jack Gardner Photographer
William Gould Sergeant
Edward Hearn Mayor's secretary
Hall Johnson Choir Actor
Maris Wrixon Autograph hound
Kenneth Harlan Publicity Man
James Harrison Actor
Max Hoffman Actor
Stuart Holmes Actor
John Ince Doctor
Frank Jaquet Actor
Eddie Kane Tycoon
Richard Kipling Police Commissioner
William Forrest Governor's Associate
John Hamilton Jim, Governor's Associate
Alphonse Martell Foreign Dignitarie
Frank Mayo Attendant
Tina Thayer Ann's Sister
James McNamara Sheriff
Joe McGuinn Actor
Tom McGuire Actor
Hank Mann Ed, a Photographer
Billy Curtis Midget
Lucia Carroll Herself
Paul Everton GOP man
Forrester Harvey Bum
Forbes Murray Legislator
Edward Earle Radio MC
Gene Morgan Mug
Edward Peil Actor
Carlotta Jelm Ann's Sister
Bob Perry Actor
Guy Usher Bixler
James Millican Photographer
Stanley Price Actor
Jack Richardson Actor
Henry Roquemore Chamber of Commerce Member
Thomas W. Ross Actor
Cliff Saum Actor
Suzanne Carnahan Autograph hound
Ann Doran Mrs. Hansen
Don Turner Guard
Fredrik Vogeding Actor
Johnny Fern Lady Midget
Susan Peters Autograph Hound
Bess Flowers Matie, Newspaper Secretary
Edward Keane Relief Administrator
Ed Williams Actor
Lotta Williams Actor
Tom Wilson Actor
Cyril Thornton Butler
Mrs. Wilfred North Actor
Lafe [Lafayette] McKee Mr. Delaney
Harry Davenport Ex-owner of Bulletin
Bennie Bartlett Red, Office Boy
Floyd Criswell Electrician
Evelyn Dockson Actor
Edwin Stanley Democrat
Don Roberts Actor
Walter Soderling Barrington
Sally Sage Actor
Eddie Graham Actor
Frank Austin Grubbel
Aldrich Bowker Pop Dwyer
Charles French Fired reporter

Technical Credits
Frank Capra Director,Producer
George Barnes Cinematographer
Arthur S. Black Asst. Director
Richard Connell Original Story,Screenwriter
Jack Cosgrove Special Effects
Leo F. Forbstein Musical Direction/Supervision
Stephen Goosson Art Director
Dan Mandell Editor
Robert R. Presnell Original Story,Screenwriter
C.A. Riggs Sound/Sound Designer
Robert Riskin Screenwriter
Dimitri Tiomkin Score Composer
Natalie Visart Costumes/Costume Designer

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