Can a movie be both cynical and sentimental? Meet John Doe is. Barbara Stanwyck plays a newspaper reporter who makes up a suicide letter from a mysterious John Doe for publicity purposes. The powers that be decide to interview various homeless people to play John Doe for a fee and then a bus ticket out of town just before his “suicide.”
Gary Cooper, in one of his best roles, plays a washed out baseball player who agrees to portray John Doe. The shenanigans grow behind the scenes as a politician co-opts the John Doe movement which springs up spontaneously as average people sympathize with Doe and don’t want him to die. What starts out as a genuine populist movement, turns into just a way for someone to grab political power. In the end, John Doe and Barbara Stanwyck go back to their original principles and double cross the politicians. This is one of my favorite black and white movies of all times.