FRANK CAPRA – MEET JOHN DOE
While it is still on course, however, the film is powerful and affecting, and most of the credit must go to the acting and directing. Ann is in many ways a typical Capra heroine—the clever, manipulative woman who finally has a change of heart and ends up on the side of the “sucker” she has been trying to manipulate. Barbara Stanwyck plays the role with enthusiasm and effectiveness. Gary Cooper is perfect as Long John Willoughby, the simple man who finds himself realizing the complexities of his situation a bit too late. He convincingly conveys the artlessness of Long John, notably in the scene in which he reads the first radio speech, which he has not seen before he goes on air. It does not slight the performances of Stanwyck and Cooper, however, to say that the Colonel as played by Walter Brennan is perhaps the most memorable character in the film.
Despite its weaknesses, Meet John Doe was deservedly well received by the critics and the public. Its main theme—the danger of Fascist takeover—fit well with the mood of the time (Hitler had taken most of Europe and was threatening to take over the rest of the world), and its other themes and concerns, especially the manipulation of people by the media, remain apt today.