"Meet John Doe," which starts today at the Met, is a typical Frank Capra picture, combining all the virtues and all the faults of all the pictures Capra has produced. As a highly sentimental sermon on the innate goodness of man, the movie is slow-moving, maudlin, and embarassingly over-done in spots. As a serious warning to America that a Democracy is not altogether safe from some of its own power-craving citizens, it is rather well-timed and forcefully presented. And lastly, as a humorous love story about a newspaper sob sister and an erstwhile tramp, the picture is well-acted, well-written, and definitely up to previous Capra standards.
The picture tells the story of an easy-going tramp who becomes involved in a nation-wide publicity stunt by a pretty newspaper reporter. The publicity stunt, however, takes on Fascist leanings when it falls into the hands of an unscrupulous publisher, which, needless to say, complicates the somewhat idyllic love story; and what starts out to be a harmless little romance turns into a national crisis.
Gary Cooper is excellent as the guileless tramp, though by now the role of a good-natured, honest, lovable fellow from the sticks must be getting a little tiring for him. Barbara Stanwyck imitates the movie conception of a woman reporter to perfection, even though in the end she has to let her hair down and become merely A Woman. Edward Arnold also acts out a part which he has played for years--the cigar-smoking, smooth-talking menace who threatens to upset the true-love apple-cart with his foul designs, but in the end is either converted to true humanity or is foiled in his insidious intentions. The only new twist to this picture is that neither of these fates befall Mr. Arnold.
All in all, "Meet John Doe" is a rehash of what Frank Capra has been doing for years. The plot is slightly different, and the characters have different names. But the same people do the same sort of things, and the same Capra hand can be felt behind all the scenes, delivering the same message of love thy neighbor.