Meet John Doe (DVD, 2001)

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Product Details

  • Release Date: 2002-01-15
  • Genre: Comedy Drama
  • Artist Name: Stanley Andrews, Edward Arnold, Irving Bacon, Walter Brennan, Spring Byington, Gary Cooper, Vaughan Glaser, Sterling Holloway, Harry Holman, John B. Hughes
  • Director: Frank Capra
  • AMG Rating:
  • MPAA Rating:
  • Category: Feature Films
  • Cautions: Suitable for Children
  • Year: 1941
  • Running Time: 123
  • Movie Country of Origin: USA
  • Available Language: English
  • Subtitles: Unspecified

    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. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Movie Type
    Comedy Drama
Movie Level Themes
    Ladder to the Top, Members of the Press, Righting the Wronged
Movie Level Tones
    Sentimental, Confrontational, Affectionate, Talky, Atmospheric

DVD Features

  • [None specified]
    AMG Rating


        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. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi


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  • Source: ALPHA VIDEO
  • Region Code: 0
  • Aspect Ratio: Pre-1954 Standard (1.33.1)
  • Presentation: B&W
  • Language: English
  • Time: 2:03:00
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