The above comments were typical of the reviews which accompanied the
release in March,1941 of
MEET JOHN DOE. Still regarded as one of Capra’s finest films, it remains his most controversial.
Spiced by superb performances from an outstanding cast and full of memorable Capra touches, this is a must
for every movie buff.
When the newspaper she works for is taken over, columnist Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck) is fired by the new management.
In anger, she fabricates in her final column a phony letter signed "John Doe" in which the sender says he will jump
off the city's highest building on Christmas Eve as a protest against all the hypocrisy and corruption which exist
in the country. When circulation increases because of the letter, the paper is accused of creating cheap publicity.
The harassed editor, Connell (James Gleason) and Ann - now back on the payroll with a substantial raise - set out to
find someone to impersonate the "John Doe" who wrote the letter.
They find him in the person of Long John Willoughby (Gary Cooper), a penniless and hungry former baseball pitcher
whose arm has been injured. The paper pays him $5,000 - enough to get surgery for his arm - they clean him up, buy
him a new suit and put him on their front page. What starts out as a simple publicity stunt creates floods of
letters begging him not to commit suicide. Then he is pushed into doing a radio broadcast and soon John Doe Clubs
are springing up all over the country. This attracts the attention of powerful publisher and self-styled Fascist,
D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold) to step in and encourage the John Doe Clubs and to finance a national convention
with a cost-to-coast radio hook-up. The plan is to have Doe make a love-thy-neighbour speech to the whole country
and then nominate Norton as a third party candidate for the U.S. presidency. When Doe refuses, Norton sets out
to expose him as a fake. The only way the disillusioned Willoughby can redeem himself in the eyes of
the millions of John Doe followers is to commit suicide on Christmas Eve as first threatened in the letter.
Both Norton and Ann - who is now in love with Willoughby - are desperate to stop him. But he ignores them and
determinedly makes his way to the top of the city's highest building.
It is the film's final resolution that has made this the most controversial of Frank Capra's films.
MEET JOHN DOE
SPECIAL DVD FEATURES
1. Director’s approved cut digitally cleaned and restored to its full 123 minutes.
2. Audio Commentary by Film Historian, Ken Barnes (including exclusively recorded comments from Frank Capra)
3. Meet Mr. Cooper
4. Meet Miss Stanwyck
5. Meet Mr. Capra
6. Supporting Cast & Crew and Production Background
7. Restoration Comparison
8. Vintage Radio Promotion
(A) Sorry Wrong Number starring Barbara Stanwyck & Burt Lancaster
(B) For Whom The Bell Tolls starring Gary Cooper & Ingrid Bergman
For more than 50 years, MEET JOHN DOE has been dogged by a lack of proper attention to its original
film elements. In December of 1945 the film’s original producers – Frank Capra and Robert Riskin
– sold all rights in the film to New York distributor, Sherman Krellberg’s Goodwill Pictures.
While in Goodwill’s possession the camera negative eventually deteriorated due to poor storage
conditions and was junked. In the years that followed most existing prints fell into generally
poor condition. But in the mid-1970s, the American Film Institute launched a partial restoration
of this important film combining Krellberg’s surviving 35 mm nitrate prints with the Warner
Brothers’ studio print. It was these elements that formed the basis for a duplicate negative,
which is now held in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
This DVD is derived from one of the surviving European prints. The general image was only fair;
it was faded, scratched and carried various forms of age-related damage. But after transfer
to Digi-Beta , the picture underwent substantial digital restoration, image processing and noise
reduction eventually yielding a fully watchable picture.
What follows is a side-by-side comparison between what we started with and the final result.
On the left you will see the film in its unrestored state and on the right the finished Laureate
VINTAGE RADIO PROMOTION
Before the advent of television, the only areas of promoting feature films outside of theatres
was via the press (i.e. newspapers, magazines, etc.) and radio. While it was common for film
stars to make guest appearances on a variety of radio shows to plug their latest picture, it was
The Lux Theater – a popular radio series that ran from the 1930s to the ‘50s - where the stars
and the movies really came into their own in the broadcasting medium.
The massive listening audiences of the day were both wooed and entertained by radio adaptations
of favourite films often featuring the original stars repeating their roles for radio. These
adaptations were usually performed live in front of a studio audience and recorded directly onto
16-inch transcription discs. To recapture something of that period, this DVD offers two such
The first is a virtually complete performance – replete with commercials and plugs for other films
- of Lucille Fletcher’s 1948 screenplay SORRY WRONG NUMBER with Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster repeating their original screen roles.
The second is an edited performance (minus commercial breaks) of the 1943 box office success
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS derived from Dudley Nichol’s screenplay of Ernest Hemingway’s best-selling
novel, with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman in their original roles.
SORRY WRONG NUMBER had started out originally as a 1943 radio play in the CBS series Suspense
with Agnes Moorehead in the lead role. It had already been performed five times on the air when
film producer Hal Wallis bought the rights.
For the screen version starring Barbara Stanwyck,
writer Lucille Fletcher expanded her original short play through a string of flashbacks (and
flashbacks within flashbacks) to tell the full – and somewhat convoluted - story of a wealthy
and selfish bedridden woman who – while making a phone call - accidentally overhears a murder
being plotted, not realising, at first, that she is intended victim.
Stanwyck’s portrayal of
the spoiled Leona Stevenson earned her a well-deserved Academy Award nomination as Best Actress
of 1948. Four times nominated in her career, Stanwyck was often described as “ The greatest
actress never to win an Oscar.” On this occasion, she lost out to Olivia de Havilland in The
In this broadcast recording, you will hear not only a number of soap commercials but also well-placed
plugs for other notable films of the period including 20th Century Fox’s
'12 O’Clock High' and
Paramount’s 'The Heiress'.
At the end of the play, Stanwyck, suffering from a sore throat (probably due to her final fit of
screaming) endorses the Lux product and plugs her then current picture
'The File On Thelma Jordan'
while Lancaster mentions his own upcoming production 'The Hawk and the Arrow' –subsequently renamed
'The Flame And The Arrow'.
SORRY WRONG NUMBER
A Lux Theater Presentation
Prog. No. 684 9 January,1950
Leona - Barbara Stanwyck *
Henry - Burt Lancaster *
Sally - Frances Robinson
Fred - Lawrence Dobkin
Evans - Jay Novello
Doctor - Bill Johnstone
George - Robert Griffin
Marano - Paul Dubov
William Conrad * (who played Marano in the film)
as Leona’s father.
Other parts played by Charlotte Lawrence, Cliff Clark, Eleanor Audley,
Eddie Marr, Helen Andrews & George Niese.
· *Original film cast member
Musical direction: Louis Silvers
Intermission guest Paramount starlet: Barbara Ann Newton
Produced and hosted by
Ernest Hemingway’s famous novel
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS (first published in 1940) is one of the
literary classics of the 20th century. it is said that the author based the leading character,
Robert Jordan on his friend, Gary Cooper.
While it was natural that Cooper should play the lead
in the film version, other actors considered for the role included Ray
Milland, Joel McCrea and
Macdonald Carey. It was, however, Hemingway’s wish that Gary Cooper should play Jordan and that
Ingrid Bergman play Maria.
The author got his wish and the film was a 1943 box office success.
Nominated for six Academy Awards – Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor
(Akim Tamiroff), Best Supporting Actress (Katina Paxinou) and Best Music Score (Victor Young),
it collected only one which was presented to Katina Paxinou for Best Supporting Actress.
In this truncated radio version, Paxinou’s role as Pilar is played by Gale Sondergaard.
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS
A Lux Theater Presentation
Prog. No. 470: 12 February,1945
Robert Jordan………………………Gary Cooper *
Maria …………………….……… Ingrid Bergman *
Pablo ……………………………… Akim Tamiroff *
Pilar…………………………….. Gale Sondergaard
Augustio ……………...………………..Tito Renaldo
El Sordo / Colonel……...……………..Charles Seel
Anselmo………………....…………… Norman Field
Fernando……………….....……………. Jay Novello
Gomez …………………...……………. Ed Emerson
General Golz …………........…………… Joe Granby
* Original film cast member
Host & Narrator:
Musical Direction: Louis Silvers
MEET JOHN DOE - The Laureate Edition Copyright Laureate Presentations Ltd. © 2001
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