In addition to being this month’s “Favorite things about…” feature, this post was written for the Barbara Stanwyck Filmography Project, my quest to watch every single film Barbara Stanwyck ever made! For more reviews from the project, visit the dedicated index page.
The favorite film:
Meet John Doe, a 1941 dramedy/societal critique directed by Frank Capra
When publisher D. B. Norton takes over a newspaper and fires several of the reporters, he stirs up a lot of anger. Ann Mitchell, who has been writing a column in order to support her mother and siblings, is one of the reporters to lose her job. As a parting gift to Norton, she submits her final column, a fake letter from “John Doe,” an unemployed man threatening suicide. Called back into the newsroom after the letter causes a frenzy with the public, Ann and the bosses decide to hire a man to impersonate “John Doe” in order to boost circulation.
- Barbara Stanwyck as Ann Mitchell
- Gary Cooper as “John Doe”
- Edward Arnold as D. B. Norton
- Walter Brennan as The Colonel
- Spring Byington as Mrs. Mitchell
- James Gleason as Henry
- Gene Lockhart as Mayor Lovett
- The film is based on “A Reputation,” a short story by Richard Connell which first appeared in Century Magazine.
- Working titles for the film included The Life and Death of John Doe and The Life of John Doe. Meet John Doe was ultimately chosen, TCM reports, to avoid potential confusion over the film being a biography.
- “Daisy,” the animal actress playing the Mitchells’ dog in the film, appeared in 45 films total including the Blondie series.
- This film marked the final collaboration between Frank Capra and screenwriter Robert Riskin. They made ten films together in total.
- Frank Capra reportedly filmed five different endings for Meet John Doe.
- Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck co-starred in a total of three films: Meet John Doe (1941), Ball of Fire (1941), and Blowing Wild (1953). Both also appeared in The Stolen Jools (1931) and Variety Girl (1947), though they didn’t share any scenes.
- Ann Sheridan was considered for the role of Ann Mitchell.
- The film was nominated for an Academy Award for its screenplay.
- Ann: “Big, rich slob like D. B. Norton buys the paper and forty heads are chopped off!”
- Ann: “He wants fireworks, eh? Okay.” *furiously typing*
- Mayor Lovett: “Well, what about me? It’s my building he’s jumping off of!”
- Stanwyck’s fast-talking explanation of the sales potential of “John Doe”
- Ann: “On Christmas Eve, hot or cold, he goes!”
- Henry: “What John Doe?”
Ann: “The one we hire for the job, you lunkhead!”
- Ann: “If it was raining hundred dollar bills, you’d be out looking for a dime you lost some place!”
- Ann: “That’s our man! He’s made to order!”
- The “I Protest!” photo adorning so many front pages
- The montage of The New Bulletin‘s circulation growth
- Daisy the dog!
- Ann’s frenzied writer’s block as she prepares a speech for “John Doe”
- Ann’s mother telling her that no one will listen to “John Doe” because there’s already so much negativity on the radio, and sharing Mr. Mitchell’s diary for inspiration
- The John Doe radio broadcast — how he stumbles over his words at first, has microphone mishaps, and is heckled, but delivers his message powerfully by the end (even if he isn’t totally buying it, himself!)
- “To most of you, your neighbor is a stranger, a guy with a barking dog and a high fence around him. Now you can’t be a stranger to any guy that’s on your own team. So tear down the fence that separates you. Tear down the fence and you’ll tear down a lot of hates and prejudices. Tear down all the fences in the country and you’ll really have teamwork.”
- Waiter: “Ma! MA! That’s John Doe!”
- The montage of the growth of the “John Doe” movement
- John’s dream of interrupting Ann’s wedding
- John passionately standing up against the killing of “John Doe”
- The snow showers and shadows of the scenes at City Hall
- Ann: “That’s why those bells are ringing, John! They’re calling to us – not to give up – but to keep on fighting! To keep on pitching! Oh, don’t you see, darling? This is no time to give up!”
- Harry: “There you are, Norton. The people! Try and lick that!”