Straight into my review today, as I’m in no mood to fuck about. (My idols are dead and my enemies are in power). Jill chose this old school number for our final film in December, part of a mixed up month, if we’re honest. I wouldn’t want it any other way though.
Hang on a sec, just getting another Baileys. Right, let us begin.
Meet John Doe (1941)
Director: Frank Capra
Stars: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck
A man needing money agrees to impersonate a nonexistent person who said he’d be committing suicide as a protest, and a political movement begins.
Feisty Ann Mitchell (Stanwyck) is royally fucked off when she’s laid off from her job at a newspaper. Her boss tells her she has to file one last story before clearing her desk and she’s not having it. On her way out of the building, she pens a letter to the paper from a “John Doe”, threatening to commit suicide on Christmas Eve in protest of society’s ills. (Considering the same letter if next year is anything like this one, tbh).
Well, she doesn’t anticipate quite the reaction this letter gets on publication. The paper’s readers are in uproar, while the its main rival news outlet is suspicious of the source of this letter and starts to investigate, which forces editor Henry (James Gleason) to hire Ann back. First port of call is to make it all seem real and they audition a slew of potential John Does to carry the sentiment of the Ann’s words to the masses.
In wanders homeless hottie John Willoughby (Cooper), a former baseball player with a dodgy arm. He’s just down on his luck enough to get on board Ann’s crazy scheme and see this farce through.
So, Ann pens some articles for John Doe, driving home the points made in the original letter, and the new John Doe is compensated heavily for his troubles. Along for the ride is his tramp friend, The Colonel (Walter Brennan), who has a bee in his bonnet about people who take money from other people or something, I wasn’t really paying attention.
Ann writes an awesome speech for Doe to deliver, which he does after turning down an offer from the rival paper to admit it’s all a hoax. Doe does the job he’s been paid to do but gets a conscience about it and runs away with The Colonel to a small town where he’s spotted. Here he learns about the ‘John Doe Club’. He also finds out that his words have inspired a lot of people and have become something of a grass-roots movement. Which is kind of cool obviously. Their slogan is “Be a better neighbour.” (WOAH, really?).
It all gets political from here, when it becomes clear that the editor of the paper has his own agenda, which Doe is unwittingly helping him along with. A new speech is written by Ann which has Doe endorsing the editor D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold) and his political ideas. Oopsy.
This might not be so bad if a) he knew about this manipulation, b) Ann hadn’t written the speech and c) he hadn’t started believing his own hype (and the hype of the ‘John Doe Club’). FYI, and *spoiler alert*, our friend Doe is madly in love with Ann and quite close to proposing.
When he finds out about the betrayal, he’s none too pleased and threatens to go to the planned rally (where the new speech was due to be presented) to spill all. He disowns Norton (and Ann) and rushes to the rally to expose the whole charade. Unfortch, Norton gets there first and outs Doe as a fraud. Like any good fat cat, he pretends he knew nothing about the farce and blames it on his newspaper staff.
Now, we’re heading to the ending which I don’t want to give away entirely. All you need to know is that the premise of the original letter comes back to haunt Doe, who heads to the roof of City Hall on Christmas Eve… will his angry and now despondent followers ever forgive him? Will he jump? Will the love he feels for Ann change anything, especially as she pretty much fucking loves him too?
Find out for yourselves, must I do everything?
This is strangely relevant when you think about the state of the world today and although the themes aren’t strictly identical, there are parallels to be drawn.
I got bored quite quickly as this didn’t quite have the punch of the usual noir we adore, but Ann Mitchell is still a feisty mare with a wardrobe tdf. Cooper, too is easy on the eye. When I think about Cooper, I think about how Tony Soprano holds him up as his hero, the strong, silent type and that comes across in his onscreen persona. He’s beautiful but very serious.
Other than those points, it was okay. Quite forgettable, though.
3/5. Shrug. Maybe a modern-day remake would excite me more.
Did Jillian love this? Is it the antidote to all society’s ills or is it whacker than the world’s media? Find out here.