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Meet John Doe – Cinema Studies, Reel and Unreal: Politics on Film

Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Show | 2:34pm
Hollywood has always been fascinated by Washington, and vice versa. Movie makers have turned their sights on politics and elections from the very beginnings of American cinema, and continue through this day. By looking at five films from different political and cinematic eras, three fictional and two documentaries, we can explore how movie makers both depict and try to shape the political discussion. Professor Dale Pollock will lecture on the film being screened, exploring how and why it was made, and the themes and ideas the film will present. A focused discussion will follow immediately after the screening, concluding with a question and answer session.

Meet John Doe

Not Rated. The first of director Frank Capra’s independent productions, Meet John Doe begins with the end of reporter Ann Mitchell’s (Barbara Stanwyck) job. Fired as part of a downsizing move, she ends her last column with an imaginary letter written by “John Doe.” Angered at the ill treatment of America’s little people, the fabricated Doe announces that he’s going to jump off City Hall on Christmas Eve. When the phony letter goes to press, it causes a public sensation. Seeking to secure her job, Mitchell talks her managing editor (James Gleason) into playing up the John Doe letter for all it’s worth; but to ward off accusations from rival papers that the letter was bogus, they decide to hire someone to pose as John Doe: a ballplayer-turned-hobo (Gary Cooper), who’ll do anything for three squares and a place to sleep. “John Doe” and his traveling companion The Colonel (Walter Brennan) are ensconced in a luxury hotel while Mitchell continues churning out chunks of John Doe philosophy. When newspaper publisher D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold), a fascistic type with presidential aspirations, decides to use Doe as his ticket to the White House, he puts Doe on the radio to deliver inspirational speeches to the masses — ghost-written by Mitchell, who, it is implied, has become the publisher’s mistress. The central message of the Doe speeches is “Love Thy Neighbor,” though, conceived in cynicism, the speeches strike so responsive a chord with the public that John Doe clubs pop up all over the country. Believing he is working for the good of America, Cooper agrees to front the National John Doe Movement — until he discovers that Norton plans to exploit Doe in order to create a third political party and impose a virtual dictatorship on the country. (allmovie.com) INFORMATION ON THE FULL SERIES Will call tickets may be picked up at The Cary Box Office beginning one hour prior to the movie.