“Meet John Doe” – A Feel Good Classic

Courtesy of Frank Capra Productions

By Nell Greaney – Staff Writer and Desiree Dylong – Copy Editor

The man with the suit stands by the microphone as he reads the script with shaky hands. His nerves are evident in his voice, but the longer he stands on the stage, the stronger his voice becomes. His name is “John Doe” and he represents the common man; the individual who works hard and comes back from adversity. The man  says that we are all John Doe’s; we are all fighting against adversity and striving for success, which means that we must always help our neighbors. This scene comes from Frank Capra’s 1941 film “Meet John Doe” and although the film may be considered a vintage movie, it has more than just old Hollywood nostalgia to offer.
In the beginning of the film, reporter Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck) is fired from her job since her columns are lackluster. In efforts to get her job back, Ann furiously writes a letter at by a fake man named John Doe who is so sickened by society’s ills and declares he will commit suicide. Readers of the paper insist on finding John Doe in attempt to convince him not to take his own life. When Ann’s editor calls her back in, she confesses that the letter was a fake. She then tells him that they can find a man to play John Doe. In walks John Willoughby( Gary Cooper) , a former baseball player, and they know they have their man. What started out as an attempt to win back her job turns into a revolution as the country becomes inspired by what John Doe represents; the strength of the common man.
This movie speaks volumes about human connection which still makes it relevant today. After hearing John Doe’s speech on the radio, citizens begin to break down their judgments towards their neighbors and begin to connect. Themes such as teamwork and brotherhood are sometimes presented with a heavy hand, but with Capra’s direction, touches of comedy and likeable characters, this film is able to convey its message without being too preachy.
Barabara Stanwyck is strong in this film as the determined Ann Mitchell. Considering the time period the film was made, Ann is a trail blazer since she orchestrates the whole plot of John Doe and created his speech that ignites the country. Any film with The Academy award winning Stanwyck, takes one back to the old glamour of the Hollywood actress; classy, statuesque and cunningly seductive.
Another standout performance is Gary Cooper as John Doe/John Willoughby. Cooper flawlessly pulls off the humble and hesitant normal man. Cooper, with his shrugs, shaky hand gestures and bashful disposition conveys a man who has is never really sure of himself, but he pulls this off without over doing it. Cooper’s character may have moments where he is unsure of himself, but he makes up for it with his strong convictions as the film progresses.
Movie fans who enjoy Frank Capra’s feel good films with political and social aspects such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, will enjoy “Meet John Doe”.  Because of its relatable story and strong acting, “Meet John Doe” is a memorable classic.