Meet John Doe (1941)
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I loved the movie all the way throughout, but sadly, I think Capra was right that there just is not a single right way to end this film. After reading all his ideas for alternate endings, none of them would have been better than the one chosen. But I dunno, something just didn't feel quite right there.
But the rest of the two hours is so wonderful and absolutely charming in that Capra way that only he could manage, that the little slip-up towards the end isn't too bad.
To sell newspapers, Barbara Stanwyck invents a "common man" who rails against society's ills and swears to jump off a building on Christmas Eve in protest in Frank Capra's Meet John Doe, his OTHER jump-off-a-structure Christmas movie. When the story catches fire, they need someone to play John Doe, so enter Gary Cooper as an earnest homeless man who needs the money, but soon finds himself at the head of a neighborly movement. One of Capra's better community-driven utopias, it nevertheless has a very dark streak, at once showing the best of humanity's virtues, and its capacity for selfishness and anger. It remains an incredibly relevant film about the power of propaganda, the misuse of media by corporate masters, and how the best intentions at the local level are flattened and corrupted at higher (political) levels. From what I read, it could have been darker still. Several endings were filmed. The one we get is more hopeful than others.
A strong entry in Frank Capra's canon. Gary Cooper and especially Barbara Stanwyck are very strong here, although I think it lacks the tension of Mr Deeds Goes to Town or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Clearly an inspiration for Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd, although that film lacks Capra's signature hopeful tone.
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In 3 official lists
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This movie ranks #49 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers
This movie ranks #256 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #671 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown