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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Meet John Doe (1941)

Frank Capra directed a number of movies, and one of his movies that has been marked as a great movie, one that has been remembered for quite some time is 'Meet John Doe', released in 1941. Frank Capra had a certain style to his movies, and a lot of his movies showcased qualities such as the basic element of human goodness, hard work and being good to others (also translated as being unselfish); such a concept is very rarely seen in modern age movies that tend to show a large portion of life as having all human emotions including the negative ones, and fewer roles tend to be fully white, more like everybody having shades of grey. Some of the other famous movies by Frank Capra include 'It's a wonderful life' (1946), 'It happened one night' (1934), and many others. The movie did not do well at the Academy Awards, being nominated for Best Original Story.

Poster of Meet John Doe (1941)

This movie is slotted as a comedy, but it actually takes a hard and cynical look at both the newspaper business and at politics. The movie principally stars Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward Arnold. Barbara is a newspaper columnist, Ann Mitchell, who has just been fired, and angry, prints a fake letter from a 'John Doe', who claims that he is unemployed and threatens to commit suicide against the various ills of society. This letter catches the emotional thread of many many citizens, and becomes very popular. As a result, Mitchell is forced to continue the tale (in the process having got her job back), and to make sure that the story has some legs to stand on, they hire a vagabond and former baseball player, John Willoughby (Gary Cooper), to tour the country.
This movement becomes popular, drawing in support from all over, and is financially supported by the newspaper's publisher, D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold), who recognizes that such a movement could be a potent political weapon and aims to use it for his own fledging political aspirations. John soon discovers that he is being used, but before he can expose this whole scam, he is in turn exposed by Norton who claims that he was unaware of the scam.
Driven by frustration, John plans to commit suicide by jumping off City Hall (as claimed in the original letter); but what happens ? Does he commit out the actual suicide, or do the John Doe clubs manage to get him to back off ?

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