Meet John Doe

This is a 1941 political themed drama directed by Frank Capra and staring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. The theme of an unimportant man who becomes a political figure and goes on to affect American politics was first introduced to us in Capra’s 1939 film, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”.  The Doe film was featured during Barbara Stanwyck day in August’s TCM Summer Under the Stars schedule so we saw it on the TCM channel,. However, it is available for streaming through Amazon Prime Video.  As fans of Stanwyck, we were enticed to view the film (even though we had not heard of it) and, we were not disappointed.  She turns in a stunning performance scene after scene; initially, somewhat comedic (through rapid fire delivery of her lines) and ultimately quite serious in a dramatic manner.  The film is complex, howeve here is a brief plot summary.  Stanwyck plays Ann Mitchell, a reporter who is fired as part of a downsizing move.  She writes her last column with a made-up letter written by John Doe.  Angered and desperate at the ill treatment of little people in American society, Doe threatens to jump off the roof of city hall on Christmas Eve.  Publication of the phony letter creates a media sensation.  The Managing Editor (James Gleason) sees an opportunity to boost newspaper circulation and agrees to a scheme to find and hire someone to pose as John Doe; enter Gary Cooper (found after a long search).  The John Doe philosophy and movement takes off attracting the attention of newspaper published D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold) who harbors presidential aspirations.  Norton fuels the movement as Doe clubs pop up all over the country. Cooper agrees with all of this until he discovers that Norton plans to exploit Doe to create a new political party and impose his authoritarian rule, if he wins, on the country.  Cooper tries to stop Norton and is disgraced in the process.  He does attempt to jump off City Hall on Christmas Eve, however, you guessed it, Stanwyck intervenes and rescues him!  Cooper turns in a very compelling performance as Doe, playing quite well off both Stanwyck and his friend, The Colonel (Walter Brennan).  Somewhat intense and particularly sad and dark in the final scenes, we give it a Worth the Search rating.  If you’ve seen “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, you’ll see the political theme similarities, however, like us you may not enjoy Doe as much as Smith!

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