I first saw Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe (1941) at least fifteen years ago and had not revisited it, though it left me with very strong impressions. It was those impressions that made it a clear choice for the new year and our new political landscape. As for the film itself, I felt its themes would still resonate. It features performances by Hollywood legends that should invite interesting discussion and it was made by a filmmaker so well known for his populist, singularly American style that it earned its own somewhat derisive nickname, “Capra-corn”. Similarly, Cole had not seen the film for some time, and we were both excited to watch again.
Then something really interesting happened. Our expectations were upended. Initial and old impressions disappeared. What resonated before had different meaning now, while other aspects of the film came to the fore, specifically the character of John Doe, Ann’s character arc, and the script and dialogue. I am driven now, after some research, to further investigate how much of the Capra view of America actually comes from Capra or his collaborator Robert Riskin. This isn’t a perfect film, there are a number of things I dislike, and yet it seems a much more complex film now because of these conflicts. This last installment in the unofficial American trilogy of Capra’s is one that encourages multiple viewings and analysis. I think it’s a wonderful thing to find new and interesting interpretations in a semi-forgotten cinematic memory.
What you’ll find in this episode: our beloved CCC, Capra versus Riskin, that crazy spanking dream, the alternate endings, and the problem with romantic comedies.
Links and Recommendations:
Check out Meet John Doe on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Desk Set.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Ace in the Hole.
A map of CCC projects across America.
More about the relationship and ultimate rift of Robert Riskin and Frank Capra.