UnClassic Film Review:Meet John Doe

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One day each week, we at UnClassic Film Review check out what happens to be playing on Turner Classic Movies at 3:00 in the morning that day and review it without having a clue what it is. Our qualification for taking on this task is two-fold: we know nothing about obscure old popular films, and we drink our own urine. We will base our review, which will be thorough and informative, solely on the blurb in the TV listing.

Meet John Doe (1941)[edit]

This week's film is Meet John Doe, starring Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold, Walter Brennan. It was made in 1941 and directed by Frank Capra.


A reporter's fraudulent story turns a tramp into a national hero and makes him a pawn of big business.

Now this is remake material[edit]

I think this is from the remake - looks like it was Josh Brolin and Mary Steenbergen. Not Dustin Hoffman.

OK, now we're talking. I've heard of Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck and Frank Capra. This means they must be kind of good. Although I've actually been fooled by that before, mind you. I saw the name "Bela Lugosi" in one of these old movies once - a name I know for sure I've heard before - and it turned out to be a pile of crap about some guy that likes angora sweaters. So now I know you can't always count on that.

But the subject looks compelling this time; I think I saw a remake of this movie with Dustin Hoffman. But that's a good sign. They only remake movies that were good before, because if they remade a bad movie, they would have to improve it. And improving the original is not what remakes are all about.

I bet Mary Steenbergen plays the Barbara Stanwyck character in the remake. I'm one of those film people that loves Mary Steenbergen and thinks she's totally underrated. Or it may have been Christina Ricci, too. She was great in that movie where she showed her tits.

Anyway, on to this movie. I like the idea. You take a bum from the street and an overzealous reporter telling some lie about him and then you watch the hilarity ensue. Now, I know what you're thinking, you've seen it all before. You probably think they got the idea from Marshall McCluhan. But look at the dates! It's more like McCluhan got his ideas from this movie! Now, that's impressive. Who's Marshall McCluhan, you ask? He's the guy who supposedly first said that reporters with nothing better to do often fraudulently turn tramps into national heroes, making them pawns of big business. But seeing this film, now I'm not so sure of that. Nice plagiarism job there, Marshall. You should give all your money to Frank Capra and Dustin Hoffman or whoever.

This might actually be Charlie Sheen. Was he in Apocalypse Now? Doesn't matter - the point is, Frank Capra is a genius.

As for Frank Capra, I think he later made Apocalypse Now, so you know this guy's got the movie chops. I'll never forget that scene where Martin Sheen gets all stoned and slices his hand on the broken mirror. Did you know he did that all for real and ad lib, and he really cut himself, and Capra just kept the camera rolling? That's cinema genius man. I hope someone cuts themselves in Meet John Doe. You know if Capra made it, someone probably does.


Four out of five stars for being interesting at 3:00 in the morning. I'll add the fifth star if one of the characters gets stoned and cuts themselves all up. There isn't enough of that kind of thing in these old movies for my taste.