Priducer: Frank Capra
Director: Frank Capra
Writer: Robert Presnell, Sr.
Cast: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold, Walter Brennan, Spring Byington, James Gleason, Gene Lockhart, Rod La Rocque, Irving Bacon, Regis Toomey, J. Farrell MacDonald, Harry Holman, Warren Hymer, Pierre Watkin, Sterling Holloway, and Harry Davenport
I find that there is “nothing new under the sun” case in point Frank Capra’s marvelous movie is about fake news.
Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck) furious that she is loosing her job after the newspaper she works for has been purchased and informed that she still must write one last column for the paper writes a fictional account of an unemployed “John Doe” who disgusted by society’s ills threatens to commit suicide on Christmas Eve in protest.
This letter causes an uproar amongst the city’s elites who demand that something be done about this horrendous affair. The rival newspaper claims that it is all a fraud and demands proof. When Ann Mitchell is brought before the owner and the editor she admits that she made it all up.
Pointing out that this would be a great way to sell more papers by having a column “written” by John Doe exposing the ills of society the owner agrees seeking to use the column for his own means. But they need a patsy. And in walks a perfect one Long John Willoughby (Gary Cooper) a former baseball player and tramp looking to earn some money to fix his arm so he can go back to playing baseball.
Ann Mitchell starts writing the columns and even gets John to read a speech on the radio. But being convicted by his friend “The Colonel” (Walter Brennan) he runs away and rides the rails with “The Colonel” until they come to a small town where he, John, is recognized as John Doe. There he learns that regular people inspired by his speech are going out and helping their neighbors and have set up “John Doe club”.
These clubs spread across the country and the owner of the Newspaper that started all of this plans to use them as a means to run the country and get his own political agenda into the government. When John finds out about this and threatens to expose them he responds that he is prepared for that contingency and will ruin it all. John’s reply needs to be seen to be appreciated.
This is a great family movie and one that can bring up good conversations regarding what newspapers, indeed any news organization, owes to the people who rely on them for what is the news and what is happening in the world.
I give this movie five stars.