Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1941. Frank Capra Productions. Story by Richard Connell, Robert Presnell Sr., Screenplay by Robert Riskin. Cinematography by George Barnes. Produced by Frank Capra, Robert Riskin. Music by Dimitri Tiomkin. Production Design by Stephen Goosson. Costume Design by Natalie Visart. Film Editing by Daniel Mandell. Academy Awards 1941.
A newspaper with sagging circulation needs a bit of a lift, so columnist Barbara Stanwyck decides to give it one. She invents the story of John Doe, an angry worker who represents the common man and plans to commit suicide in the middle of New York City in protest of how he has been treated by society. The story makes waves in the Big Apple, prompting the newspaper to hire a drifter (Gary Cooper) to play the part of Doe when it comes time for him to make a public appearance. What Stanwyck and her crew don’t count on, however, is for the John Doe philosophy of life to start a major social movement all around the country, turning Americans into caring-and-sharing people until the whole thing threatens to blow up should anyone find out that the real John Doe is a complete fraud. On top of that, our lady heroine seems to be falling in love with her own invention. Stanwyck is at her chirpiest and Cooper is at his dopiest, and the two of them together under Capra’s direction make for comedy movie magic.