At the Movies

This Frank Capra holiday masterpiece is frequently eclipsed by his more popular and uplifting It’s a Wonderful Life. Perhaps it’s because Meet John Doe is a more serious film or because up ’til now, the prints of this movie have not been very crisp. Whatever the reason, this is a classic that should not be missed. And this new release has much improved the previously “scratchy” versions.

This is not a Frank Capra mad cap comedy. This is a drama more akin to another of his greats “Mr Smith Goes to Washington“. Now there is some humor and certainly some charming scenes and clever banter but this movie has a powerful tale to tell. Gary Cooper delivers what probably would have been an Oscar winning performance were it not for his role that same year in Sergeant York for which he did win the Academy Award. Barbara Stanwyck is also terrific as the cynical professional woman whose ambition originally outweighs her morals.

The film, made in 1941, has intentional anti-Nazi and Fascist undertones. It pits the political machine and manipulative media against the  plight of the common man. This is a timeless theme as relevant today as it was then and certainly appropriate for this season as Capra espouses his belief in the basic goodness of man and the power of brotherly love. Here is an extended clip of the beginning, where you can get a feel, hint – watch the jackhammer, for the obvious theme of this film.

The movie can obviously also be viewed as a universal religious metaphor as the ordinary man rises to be a national hero and a “messiah” for all the plain and little people who want to believe in something bigger than themselves. On many levels this is a film extremely well suited to the more meaningful messages of the holiday season. Even if just as a reminder to do unto others, this film has a rousing feel good ending that will reinforce your faith in mankind.

22 thoughts on “At the Movies

    • Hi Jeanne – Give this a try – it’s actually a different movie than the Brad Pitt movie I think you’re referring to, Meet Joe Black, which is a remake of Heaven Can Wait and the original Here Comes Mr. Jordan.

  1. Oh, this is one of my favorites. I always felt that Barbara Stanwyck was overshadowed by Bette, etc. but when you look at her filmography she did some really fabulous work. Great movie to watch this time of year, this time of life.

    • Jane – I agree and I think people are discovering what an incredible talent Barbara Stanwyck was. She was greatly admired by her peers for being professional and hard working.

    • The Buzz – It’s a terrific one to add to your list when you’re in the mood for something a bit more dramatic.

  2. This sounds just grreat, and I will put it on my list to watch this holiday season!

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  3. I don’t know how I missed this one. Big Stanwyck fan, she had just the best voice. I will always think of her as Mrs. Barkley because that is where I first saw her. Am going to see about putting this in my queue, should I even bother to mention how much I like Gary Cooper?

    • Hi Jeanette – If you’re a Barbara Stanwyck fan (from more than Big Valley I assume) then you’ll love this – she’s great!! And Gary Cooper – well,need I say more?

  4. I have to admit my shopping is done (thanks to your many tips) and this weekend I am watching all your recommendations. This one I’ve never seen – and I agree with Jane who wrote that BS was overshadowed. She’s a real presence on the screen. Thanks for the recommendation. Have a great weekend.

    • Hi Elle – I’m so envious that you’re finished your shopping! And glad to introduce you to a movie you haven’t yet seen – it’s a classic! Have a wonderful stress free weekend!

  5. This is a flick I haven’t yet seen. It sounds really interesting and one I would enjoy watching over the coming weeks.

    I love Fridays…my favorite day of the week. My boys finished school for the year today. A fire is roaring. Glass of wine nearby.

    Wishing you a wonderful, relaxing weekend!
    xo elizabeth

    • Hi Elizabeth – Fridays are my favorite as well, although your house sounds more tempting. This is a great movie I’m sure you’ll enjoy. Have a great weekend – your house entry looks fabulous by the way!!

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