Thursday, 18 July 2013

Meet John Doe


Frank Capra

Gary Cooper, Barbara Starwyck, Edward Norton, Gene Lockhart, Walter Brennan, James Gleason and Rod La Rocque

10 and up

In order to increase the sales of newspapers, Ann Mitchell (Starwyck) writes an article about a man, John Doe, who has threatened to jump down from Mayor Lovett’s (Lockhart) office. The article generates a great deal of sympathy from the readers.  The problem is, John Doe does not exist. The newspaper’s boss Connell (Gleason) needs to find someone to act as John Doe, and somehow Long John Willoughby (Cooper) is selected for the job. D.B. Norton (Arnold) decides to publicize John Doe through radio speeches, tours and the press. Soon, John Doe Clubs, which promote good neighbourliness, start popping up all over the country, but Willoughby threatens that he is going to reveal his identity.

Long John Willoughby (Cooper) is picked from the streets to act as John Doe, a fictional character created to increase readership at an ailing newspaper.

Why it’s good
This movie has a really imaginative plot.  It’s a political comedy about a man who is paid to act as someone else. And that is what’s so funny when he gets into a whole lot of trouble being suppressed by Norton while trying to live his own life.  He is just a simple down-and-out guy who wants to be a baseball player, but he does succeed in inspiring the whole nation to be good and helpful neighbours.

The movie also touches on the role that the media plays in sensationalizing news.  Can we really believe what the newspapers, radio or television (and now the internet) tell us, and want to have us believe?  

Norton is the real bad guy, and that’s not really obvious when you first meet the man in his round glasses.

Capra had four endings directed and they were tried out in four different states – the one where Mitchell fainted on top of Mayor Lovett’s office was the best.

Parent’s Guide

If you like this…
"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" (1939), "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1941) and "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946) are other feel good movies from Frank Capra, where there is a happy ending in the end after the protagonist overcomes a lot of hardship and emotional upheavals.

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