FRANK CAPRA – MEET JOHN DOE
Long John Willoughby and John Doe both seem completely defeated; indeed, director Capra has admitted that he could not find a satisfactory conclusion for the film. He shot five different endings and finally settled on one in which John decides that the only way he can prove his sincerity is to jump from the top of the City Hall on Christmas Eve. Ann, Connell, and the Colonel all go to the Hall to try to stop him. When they find him, they are unable to dissuade him even though Ann tells him that the first John Doe has already died for the people. It is only when Bert, his wife, and another John Doe club member come to plead with him that John decides to live rather than die. Connell turns to Norton, who is also present, and says, “The people—try and lick that.”
Perhaps Meet John Doe can best be characterized as a flawed masterpiece. Most of the flaws are in the last part of the film, where the pace slows drastically and the story seems to lose its bearings and drift off course. The drifting begins with John’s somewhat out-of-character description, which lasts far too long, of a dream to Ann which shows his love for her. When John learns about the plot to use him to establish a third party, the pace again slows as Connell delivers a maundering, drunken harangue. And to say that the ending is overdone is to understate the obvious. It uses shameless Christian imagery as well as the characterizations of a repentant, hysterical woman who has gotten out of a sickbed (Ann) and a corrupt and powerful man (Norton) overmatched by one of the little people (Bert)—all on a cold, snowy Christmas Eve.
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