Meet John Doe
Meet John Doe is a 1941 film about a man needing money who agrees to impersonate a nonexistent person who said he'd be committing suicide as a protest, and the resulting political movement that begins.
- Directed by Frank Capra. Written by Robert Riskin, based on a story by Richard Connell and Robert Presnell.
- EST. 1862 · The BULLETIN · A free press means a free people.
- Stone lettering removed from the wall by jackhammer and replaced with a sign "THE NEW BULLETIN · A STREAMLINED PRESS FOR A STREAMLINED ERA"
Long John Willoughby/John Doe
- I'm gonna talk about us — the average guys, the John Does. If anybody should ask you what the average John Doe is like, you couldn't tell him because he's a million and one things. He's Mr. Big and Mr. Small, he's simple and he's wise, he's inherently honest but he's got a streak of larceny in his heart. He seldom walks up to a public telephone without shovin' his finger into the slot to see if somebody left a nickel there. He's the man the ads are written for. He's the fella everybody sells things to. He's Joe Doakes, the world's greatest stooge and the world's greatest strength. Yes sir, yes sir, we're a great family, the John Does. We are the meek who are supposed to inherit the earth. You'll find us everywhere. We raise the crops, we dig the mines, work the factories, keep the books, fly the planes and drive the buses, and when the cop yells, 'Stand back there you,' he means us - the John Does. We've existed since time began. We built the pyramids. We saw Christ crucified, pulled the oars for Roman emperors, sailed the boats for Columbus, retreated from Moscow with Napoleon, and froze with Washington at Valley Forge. Yes sir, we've been in there dodging left hooks since before History began to walk. In our struggle for freedom, we've hit the canvas many a time, but we always bounced back because we're the people — and we're tough.
- They've started a lot of talk about free people goin' soft, that we can't take it. That's a lot of hooey! A free people can beat the world at anything, from war to tiddlywinks, if we all pull in the same direction. [Applause] I know a lot of you are saying, 'What can I do? I'm just a little punk. I don't count.' Well, you're dead wrong. The little punks have always counted because in the long run, the character of a country is the sum total of the character of its little punks.
- But we've all got to get in there and pitch. We can't win the old ball game unless we have teamwork. And that's where every John Doe comes in. It's up to him to get together with his teammate. And your teammate, my friends, is the guy next door to ya. Your neighbor — he's a terribly important guy, that guy next door. You're gonna need him and he's gonna need you, so look him up. If he's sick, call on him. If he's hungry, feed him. If he's out of a job, find him one. To most of you, your neighbor is a stranger, a guy with a barkin' dog and a high fence around him. Now you can't be a stranger to any guy that's on your own team. So tear down the fence that separates you. Tear down the fence and you'll tear down a lot of hates and prejudices. Tear down all the fences in the country and you'll really have teamwork.
- I know a lot of you are saying to yourselves: 'He's askin' for a miracle to happen. He's expecting people to change all of a sudden.' Well, you're wrong. It's no miracle. It's no miracle because I see it happen once every year and so do you at Christmastime. There's something swell about the spirit of Christmas, to see what it does to people, all kinds of people. Now why can't that spirit, that same warm Christmas spirit last the whole year round? Gosh, if it ever did, if each and every John Doe would make that spirit last 365 days out of the year — we'd develop such a strength, we'd create such a tidal wave of good will that no human force could stand against it. Yes sir, my friends, the meek can only inherit the earth when the John Does start loving their neighbors. You'd better start right now. Don't wait till the game is called on account of darkness. Wake up, John Doe, you're the hope of the world.
- [to Norton] You mean to tell me you'd try to kill the John Doe movement if you can't use it to get what you want?...Well, that certainly is a new low. I guess I've seen everything now...You...think of deliberately killing an idea that's made millions of people a little bit happier. An idea that's brought thousands of 'em here from all over the country — by bus, and by freight and jalopies and on foot — so they could pass on to each other their own simple little experiences...Why, your type's as old as history — if you can't lay your dirty fingers on a decent idea and twist it and squeeze it and stuff it into your own pockets, you slap it down. Like dogs, if you can't eat something, you bury it! Why, this is the one worthwhile thing that's come along. People are finally finding out that the guy next door isn't a bad egg. That's simple, isn't it?...It may be the one thing capable of saving this cock-eyed world. Yet you sit back there on your fat hulks and tell me you'll kill it if you can't use it. Well, you go ahead and try. You couldn't do it in a million years with all your radio stations and all your power, because it's bigger than whether I'm a fake, it's bigger than your ambitions, and it's bigger than all the bracelets and fur coats in the world.
- [in her newspaper column] Below is a letter which reached my desk this morning. It's a commentary on what we laughingly call a civilized world.
Dear Miss Mitchell:
Four years ago, I was fired out of my job. Since then, I haven't been able to get another one. At first, I was sore at the state administration because it's on account of the slimy politics here. We have all this unemployment. But in looking around, it seems the whole world is goin' to pot. So in protest, I'm goin' to commit suicide by jumping off the City Hall roof.
Signed, a disgusted American citizen. John Doe.
Editor's Note: If you ask this column, the wrong people are jumping off the roofs.
- He [John Doe] wants to get a few things off his chest and that's the only way he can get himself heard...So he writes me a letter and I dig him up. He pours out his soul to me. From now on, we quote: "I PROTEST" — by John Doe. He protests against all the evils in the world — the greed, the lust, the hate, the fear, all of man's inhumanity to man. Arguments will start. Should he commit suicide or should he not? People will write in, pleading with him — but NO! No sir, John Doe will remain adamant. On Christmas Eve, hot or cold, he goes. See? [when her editor still won't commit] If it was raining hundred dollar bills, you'd be out looking for a dime you lost someplace.
- Now please, John, you won't let me down, will ya? Will ya? Of course you won't. If you'll just think of yourself as the real John Doe. Listen, everything in that speech are things a certain man believed in. He was my father, John. When he talked, people listened. And they'll listen to you too. Funny, you know what my mother said the other night? She said to look into your eyes and I'd see father there...Now, listen, John. You're a pitcher. Now get in there and pitch. Good luck.
- Please don't give up. We'll start all over again. Just you and I. It isn't too late. The John Doe movement isn't dead yet. You see, John, it isn't dead or they [Norton's group] wouldn't be here. It's alive in them. They kept it alive by being afraid. That's why they came up here. Oh, darling!...We can start clean now. Just you and I. It'll grow John, and it'll grow big because it'll be honest this time. Oh, John, if it's worth dying for, it's worth living for. Oh please, John...You wanna be honest, don't ya? Well, you don't have to die to keep the John Doe ideal alive. Someone already died for that once. The first John Doe. And he's kept that ideal alive for nearly 2,000 years. It was He who kept it alive in them. And He'll go on keeping it alive for ever and always — for every John Doe movement these men kill, a new one will be born. That's why those bells are ringing, John. They're calling to us, not to give up but to keep on fighting, to keep on pitching. Oh, don't you see darling? This is no time to give up. You and I, John, we...Oh, no, no, John. If you die, I want to die too. Oh, oh, I love you.
- John: Hey, stop worryin', Colonel, fifty bucks ain't gonna ruin me.
- The Colonel: I've seen plenty of fellas start out with fifty bucks and wind up with a bank account!
- Beany: Hey, what's wrong with a bank account, anyway?
- The Colonel: And let me tell you, Long John, when you become a guy with a bank account, they gotcha! Yes sir, they gotcha! When they got ya, you've got no more chance than a road rabbit.
- Beany: Who's got him?
- The Colonel: The helots!
- Beany: What's a helot?
- The Colonel: You've ever been broke, sonny?
- Beany: Sure, mostly often.
- The Colonel: All right. You're walking along, not a nickel in your jeans, your free as the wind, nobody bothers ya. Hundreds of people pass you by in every line of business: shoes, hats, automobiles, radios, everything, and there all nice lovable people and they lets you alone, is that right? Then you get a hold of some dough and what happens, all those nice sweet lovable people become helots, a lotta heels. They begin to creep up on ya, trying to sell ya something: they get long claws and they get a stranglehold on ya, and you squirm and you duck and you holler and you try to push them away but you haven't got the chance. They gots ya. First thing ya know you own things, a car for instance, now your whole life is messed up with alot more stuff: you get license fees and number plates and gas and oil and taxes and insurance and identification cards and letters and bills and flat tires and dents and traffic tickets and motorcycle cops and tickets and courtrooms and lawers and fines and... a million and one other things. What happens? You're not the free and happy guy you used to be. You need to have money to pay for all those things, so you go after what the other fellas got. There you are, you're a helot yourself.
- Gary Cooper - John Doe/Long John Willoughby
- Barbara Stanwyck - Ann Mitchell
- Edward Arnold - D. B. Norton
- Walter Brennan - The Colonel
- Spring Byington - Mrs. Mitchell
- James Gleason - Henry Connell
- Gene Lockhart - Mayor Lovett
- Rod La Rocque - Ted Sheldon
- Irving Bacon - Beanie