Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Yeah, D.B. Just cleaning out the deadwood. OK. Look Mr. Connell. I just can't afford to be without work. I've got a mother and two kid sisters. More good-luck telegrams... You know how it is. I've just got to keep on working, see? Sorry sister. I was sent down here to clean house. I told you I can't use your column anymore. It's lavender and no lace. Send those other people in. I'll tell you what I'll do. I get 30 dollars a week. I'll take 25, 20 if necessary. I'll do anything you say It isn't the money. We're after circulation. What we need is fireworks. People getting hit with sledgehammers. Start arguments. I can do that. I know this town inside out. Oh, give me a chance! Come in, come in, come in... Cashier's got your check. Who are these people? Gabs, Frawley, Cunningham, Jiles... Hey sister, don't forget to get out your last column before you pick up your check. You're a couple of sticks shy in your column, Mam. Big, rich slob like D.B. Norten buys the paper and 40 heads are chopped off! Did you get it too? Yeah, you too? Oh, Joe. I'm sorry, darling. Why don't we tear the building down? Before you do ma'm, perhaps you'd better finish this column. Lavendar and Old Lace. Wait Joe! Wait. He want fireworks, huh? Okay. Here. Below is a letter which reached my desk this morning. It's a commentary on what we laughingly call a civilized world. Dear Miss Mitchell. Four years ago, I was fired out of my job. Since then, I haven't been able to get another one. At first I was sore at the administration because it's on account of the slimy politics here we have all this unemployment. But in looking around, it seems the whole world is going to pot. So in protest, I am going to commit suicide... ...by jumping off the City Hall roof. Signed a disgusted, American citizen, John Doe. Editor's note, if you ask this column, the wrong people are jumping off the roofs. Hey, this is the old fake-a-roo, Never mind that Joe, go ahead. And it's because of the slimy politics that we have all this unemployment here. There it is. That's D.B. Norten's opening attack on the Governor. Why Jim, it's just a letter sent into a column. No, no, I can smell it, that's Norten. Good morning, gentlemen. Good morning, Governor. Governor, did you happen to see this in the New Bulletin? Yes, I had it served at my breakfast this morning. Jim thinks it's D.B. Norten at work... Of course it is. Oh come, Jim. That little item. D.B. Norten does things in a much bigger way This is his opening attack on you Governor. Take my word for it. Why did he buy a paper for? Why did he engage a high-pressure editor like Connell for? He's in the oil business. I tell you Governor, he's after your scalp. All right Jim. Don't burst a blood vessel. I'll look into it. Yes sir? Get me Spenser of the Daily Chronical please. Yes, yes I saw it Governor. And if you ask me, that's a phony letter. Why that gag has got whiskers on it. Ok I'll get the Mayor and maybe the Chamber of Commerce to go after them. Get Mayor Lovett on the phone. Sorry the Mayor is busy on the other phone. Yes I know Mrs. Brewster, it's a terrible reflection on our city. I've had a dozen calls already. Spencer from the Chronical. Hold him. Just a minute. Yes Mrs. Brewster. I'm listening. I insist that this John Doe man be found, and given a job at once. If something isn't done about it, I'll call the whole auxiliary. Yes Spencer? Who? The Governor? Well what about me? It's my building he's jumping off of and I'm up for re-election too. What are you doing? Get Connell at the Bullentin. He's liable to go right past my window Get me Connell. What was that? What? Out the window Something just flew by I didn't see anything. Don't stand there you idiot. Go and look. Open the window. Oh why did he have to pick on my building? Is there a crowd in the street? No sir! Maybe he's caught on the ledge, look again. I think it must have been a sea gull A sea gull? What's a sea gull doing around City Hall? That's a bad omen, isn't it? Oh no sir. The sea gull is a lovely bird. It's all right Mrs. Brewster. It was just a sea gull. Nothing's happened yet. I'm watching. Don't worry just leave it all to me. Spencer, I'll call you back. Hello Connell? This is... What are you doing? This is the Mayor. Yes Mayor Lovett, how many times are you going to call me? Got everybody out looking for him. Did you see the blacks I'm running? An appeal to John Doe. Think it over John. Life can be beautiful, says Mayor. If you need a job, apply to the editor of this paper and so forth and so forth. Okay Mayor. I'll let you know as soon as I have something. What? Well, pull down the blinds. I just came from Mrs. Mitchells house, and boy is she in a bad way. Where is she? Did you know she supports a mother and two kids. What do you know about that? Did you find her? No, her mother is awful worried about her. When she left the house, she said she was going on a roaring drunk! The girl, I mean. Go out and find her. Sure. But the biggest thing I didn't tell you, is her old man is Dr. Mitchell. You know the doc that saved my mother's life... and wouldn't take any money for it. You remember that? Okay boss, I'll go and look for her. Holy smokes Commissioner, you've had 24 hours. Okay, grab a pencil, here it is again. About 5 foot 5, brown eyes, light chestnut hair, and a fine of pair of legs as... ...ever walked into this office. Did you want to see me? No. I've had the whole army and navy out searching for you because it's a game we play here everyday. I remember distinctly being fired. That's right, but you have a piece of property that still belongs to this paper and I'd like to have it. What's that? The letter. What letter? The letter from John Doe. The whole town's in an uproar. We've got to find him and the letter is the only clue. There is no letter. Then get a handwriting expert to... What? There is no letter. Say that again. There's no letter. I made it up. You made it up? Yes, you said you wanted fireworks. Don't you know there are 9 jobs waiting for this guy ? 22 families want to board him free. Five women want to marry him and a man is ready to adopt him. And you... Just called the morgue boss and they said there's a girl... Shut up ! Ann! Say why didn't you... Beany! Only one thing to do Hank. Drop the whole business quickly How? Run a story saying John Doe was in here and he's sorry he wrote the letter... Sure. He came in here and I made him change his mind. Bulletin editor saves John Doe's life. Why it's perfect. I'll have Ned write it up. Oh Ned, I've got a story I want you... Wait a minute. Listen you great, big, wonderful genius of a newspaper man... You came down here to shoot some life into this dying paper, didn't you? Well the whole town is curious about John Doe and just like that, you're going to bury him. There's enough circulation in that man to start a shortage in the ink market. In what man? John Doe. What John Doe? My John Doe! The one I made up. Look genius. Suppose there was a John Doe and he walked into this ofice. What would you do? Find him a job and forget about the whole business I suppose, huh? Not me! I'd make a deal with him. A deal? Sure, when you get hold of a stunt that sells papers, you don't drop it like a hot potato. Why this is good for at least a couple of months. Why, do you know what I'd do? Between now and let's say Christmas, when he's going to jump, I'd run a daily starting with his boyhood, schooling, first job. A wide-eyed youngster facing a chaotic world! The problem of the average man, of all the John Doe's in the world. Now, then comes the drama. He meets discouragement, he finds the world his feet of clay, his ideals crumble. So what does he do? He decides to commit suicide and protest against the state of civilization. He thinks of the river but no. He has a better idea. City Hall. But why? Because he wants to attract attention. He wants to get a few things off his chest, and that's the only way he can get himself heard... So? So? So he writes me a letter and I dig him up. He pours out his soul to me. And from now on we quote: I protest, by John Doe. He protests against all the evils in the world. The greed, the lust, the hate, the fear. All of man's inhumanity to man. Arguments will start. Should he commit suicide, or should he not? People will write in pleading with him. But John Doe will remain adament. On Christmas Eve hot or cold, he goes! See? Very pretty indeed Miss Mitchell. But would you mind telling me who goes on Christmas Eve? John Doe! What John Doe!? The one we hire for the job, you lunk-head. Wait a minute. Let me get this through this lame brain of mine. Are you suggesting that we go out and hire someone to say that he is going to commit suicide on Christmas Eve? Now you're catching on. Who for instance? Anybody, Beany will do. Sure... What, who me... jump off a... anytime but Christmas. I'm superstitious. Miss Mitchell, do me a favor. Go on out and get married and have a lot of babies, but stay out of newspaper business. Better get that story in Hank, it's getting late. You're supposed to be a smart guy If it was raining 100 dollar bills, you'd be out looking for a dime you lost some place. Holy smokes. Wasting my time, listening to this mad woman. Look Chief what the Chronical is writing on John Doe. They say it's a fake. Why the no good! John Doe story amature journalism. It's probably phony and it's a wonder that anyone is taking it seriously. What do you think of those guys? That's fine! Now fall right into their laps. Go ahead. Say John Doe walked in and called the whole thing off. You know what that's going to sound like on top of this. That's all, Ned. Thank you. All right. Amature journalism huh? Why the bunch of sophomores, I can teach them more... Hey boss, get a load of this. What? Look. What do they want? They all say they wrote the John Doe letter. Oh, they all wrote the letter? Tell them all to wait. Mr. Connell, one of those men is your John Doe. They're desparate and will do anything for a cup of coffee. Pick one out and you can make the Chronical eat their words. I'm beginning to like this. If you ask me Hank, your beginning to play around with dynomite. No, no, no, the gal's right. Can't let the Chronicle get the laugh on us. We've got to produce a John Doe now. Amature journalism, huh! I'll show those guys. Sure, and there's no reason for them to find out the truth, because naturally I won't say anything. OK sister, you'll get your job back Plus a bonus. What bonus? Oh the bonus of 1000 dollars that the Chronicele was going to pay me for this little document. You'll see it says, I Miss Mitchell, do hereby certify that the John Doe letter was created by me... I can read, I can read. Sorry... You think this is worth 1000 dollars, do you? The Chronicle will consider it dirt cheap. Packs everything, including a gun. OK sister, you've got yourself a deal. Now let's take a look at the candidates. The one we pick has got to be the typical average man. Typical, American and can keep his mouth shut. Show me an American who can keep his mouth shut, and I'll eat him. Okay Beany, bring them in, one at a time... Did you write that letter to Miss Mitchell? No, I didn't. Why are you here then? Well the paper said there was some jobs around. Thought there might be one left over. Have any schooling? Yeah, a little. What do you do when you work? I used to pitch. Baseball? Yeah, till the wing went bad. Where'd you play? Bush leagues, mostly How about family? Got any family? No. Oh, just travelling through huh? Yeah, me and a friend of mine. He's outside. He looks all right. Oh, he's perfect and a baseball player What could be more American? Wish he had a family though. Be less complicated without a family. His face is wonderful. They'll believe him! Come on. What's your name? Willaby. Long John Willaby they called me in baseball. Would you like to make some money? Yeah... maybe... Would you be willing to say you wrote that letter and stick by it. I get the idea. Yeah, maybe. That's our man, he's made to order. I don't know. He don't seem like the kind of guy that will fall in line. When you're desparate for money, you'll do a lot of things Mr. Connell. He's our man, I tell you... He's fainted. Get some water, quickly Right here, sit down. You all right? Yeah, I'm all right. How many is that, six? Pretty hungry, weren't you? All this John Doe business is batty if you ask me. Well, nobody asked you. Trying to improve the world by jumping off buildings. You couldn't improve the world, if the buildings jumped on you. Don't mind the Colonel, he hates people. He likes you well enough to stick around. That's cause we both play doo-hickies. I met him in a boxcar a couple of years ago. I was fooling around with my harmonica and he comes over and joins in. I haven't been able to shake him since. All right boys, here he is. No, you can't take pictures of him like that, eating a sandwich and with a beard. But he's going to jump of a building. Yes, but not because he's out of a job. That's not news. This man's going to jump as a matter of principal. Maybe you're right. We'll clean him up, put him in a hotel under bodyguards. We'll make a mystery out of him. Did you speak to Mr. Norten? He thinks it's terrific. He says for us to go the limit. Wants us to build a bonfire under every bigshot in the state. Oh, swell!- Is that the contract? Yeah. What's he doing here? A friend of his, they play duets together Oh you trust him, well that's fine. I suppose he trusts you too. Oh stop it now. He's all right. Okay, but we don't want any more than a couple of hundred people in on this thing. Now the first thing I want is an exact copy of the John Doe letter in your own handwriting. I've got it already here. That's fine. Now I want you to sign this agreement. It gives us an exclusive story under your name, day by day, from now until Christmas. On December 26, you get one railroad ticket, out of town. And they agree to have your arm fixed. That's what you want, isn't it? Yeah, but it's got to be by Bone, Set or Brown. OK, Bone, Set or Vrown goes. Here sign it. Meanwhile, here is 50 dollars, spending money. That's fine. Beany, take charge of him. Get him a suite at the Imperial and some bodyguards. He needs some new clothes Beany. Do you think we'd better have him de-loused? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Both of them? Yes, both of them, but don't let them out of your sight. Hey Beany, grey suit huh? Yeah.