Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Meet John Doe, or: I Protest!

This week’s film wraps up the pseudo-Christmas theme of the month and another year(?!!??!) of the Blog Collab.  If I had realized that, I might have picked something more in line with horror and/or film noir since those are the essential genres of this blog…though we still get a touch of horror from this week’s frequently too real selection.

The Film:

Meet John Doe

The Premise:

A newspaper columnist and an unemployed all-American type unintentionally kick off a political movement with the publication of a fake suicide letter.

The Uncondensed Version:

Newspaper columnist Ann is out of work and desperate to hold onto the salary that supports her mother and younger sisters.  Since she’s lost her job but still needs to write one final column, she writes an imaginary suicide note from a man protesting the state of civilization.  Fair enough, honestly.

A woman stands in front of an office door with a blank expression.
The face you make when you can’t say what you’re really thinking to a manager.

This John Doe will jump off a building on Christmas Eve to make his statement—a statement that apparently resonates with many Americans who see the letter in print.  With her job back, weekly column reinstated in the form of letters from John Doe, and a story quickly becoming headline news, Ann is determined to keep a good thing going.  She schemes with the newspaper execs to find a real John Doe to draw even more public attention.

This, of course, is Gary Cooper, who used to play baseball but is now homeless.  At first, John merely needs to pretend he’s the man behind the letters, but soon the paper and the people ask more and more of him.  As his friend the Colonel warns him, “when you become a guy with a bank account, they’ve got you.”

A man with a baseball glove crouches in a decorated room.
Movies are the only times when you should listen to the conspiracy theorist.

John gains an ever-increasing following that starts a political movement.  He refuses to identify with either major political party, so John Doe Clubs sprout up all across the country.  Buttons and signs with John’s face and inspirational messages about being a good neighbor are suddenly everywhere…which means someone will inevitably try to capitalize on the situation.  Obviously things fall apart when wealthy political wannabes get involved…which is just way too real even 70+ years later.  Damn it, Frank Capra.  Too on the nose.

Oh, also there’s a romantic subplot because it’s Frank Capra.

A man and woman sit somberly next to each other in the booth of a diner.
Yay for…on-screen relationships with zero chemistry?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a Frank Capra film, so there’s a strong optimism underlying the story along with an idealization of the all-American underdog, and a commitment to doing right even when everyone else thinks you’re wrong.  Many of the themes and story elements present in other Capra movies are here too, but they come across as a bit rehashed and less defined.  This feels like watching the 10th or so Woody Allen movie about infidelity and failed relationships–Jesus fucking Christ, dude, we get it.  There were also a shitload of baseball references I didn’t understand.

IDK if it was a good decision to watch this around Christmas because It’s a Wonderful Life is one of my absolute favorites.  I inevitably compared Gary Cooper to Jimmy Stewart, and I just don’t think he has the natural charm and squeeze-ability of J-Stew.  Gary Cooper feels more tough and reserved like later Jimmy Stewart, but I find earlier Jimmy more fun and sweet to watch.  It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway—Barbara Stanwyck is great in this.  This just doesn’t grip me like some of Capra’s other work.  It’s very possible that I’ve become too cynical to enjoy things anyway.

Would Christa stand up to the Man with this one or take the $50 and run?  Read her review here to find out!


4 thoughts on “Meet John Doe, or: I Protest!”

  1. Worst day to post! Oh well, I mean the world is going to pot and this examines that a bit, so it was pretty apt. I agree this just didn’t pack the Capra punch 🤛

    Lol at the baseball references and his ‘comedy’ sidekick. This says more about me I guess but it was hard to imagine Coop as a true vagabond, he was just a little too chiselled plus they were such stereotypes. I guess this was the 1940s, I don’t know what I’m expecting.

    All in all, very meh. He shoulda jumped! That would really have been the gritty ending it needed.


    Ps. I cannot believe we’re heading into our second third year of this brilliance. It really is one of my absolute favourite things in life! Now to pick a theme to ring in the new year!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gary Cooper was always waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too good-looking to be homeless. Sorry to buy into stereotypes, but he was just not believable as a homeless guy.
      Ha, I was kind of expecting Norma Desmond to show up at any second and offer him…a position. 😉
      Ah, I haven’t even thought about our film to ring in the new year! We have to start out strong…I’ll do some brainstorming!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Coool! I’ve got this thing called Letterboxd now as I’m going to properly record all my films there for the new year! It’s so addictive. It’s my pick isn’t it? We can decide the genre and then I’ll try and pick a bomb ass movie to wet our whistles! Hurrah!

        Norma Desmond should be in all films, I love that broad xoxo

        Liked by 1 person

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