Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Yeah, D.B.? Cleaning out deadwood. Okay. Mr. Connell I can't afford to be without work right now. Not even for a day. I've got a mother and two kid sisters. More 'good luck' telegrams. You know how it is. I've 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 old 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, fireworks. People that hit with sledgehammers, start arguments. I can do that. I know this town inside out. - Give me a chance, please. - Alright, come in. Cashier's got your check. Who are these people? Gibbs, Crawley, Cunningham, Giles. Hey you, sister! Don't forget your last column before you pick up your check. You're a couple of sticks shy on your column, ma'am. Big rich slob like D.B. Norton buys a paper and chops 40 heads off. - Did you get it too? - You too? Joe, I'm sorry darling. Let's we tear the building down. Before you do, you better finish this column. Lavender and old lace. Wait, Joe. Wait. Wants 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, 4 years ago I was fired out of my job. Since then I haven't had another. At first I was sore at the State Administration because it's on account of slimy politics we have all this unemployment. But in looking around, it seems the whole world's going to pot. In protest, I'm committing suicide by jumping of the City Hall roof. Signed, a disgusted American citizen: John Doe." Editor's note: "If you ask this column, the wrong people are jumping of the roofs." Ann, this is the old fake-a-roo, isn't it? Never mind that, go ahead. "...because of slimy politics that we have all this unemployment." There it is. D.B Norton's opening attack on the Governor. Why Jim, it's just a letter sent into a column. No, I can smell it. That's Norton. Good morning, gentleman. You're here rather early. Governor, did you happen to see the new Bulletin? Yes, I had it served with breakfast. - Jim thinks it's D.B. Norton. - Of course it is. Come, Jim. That little item? D.B. Norton does things in a much bigger way. It's his opening attack on you, Governor. Take my word for it. What did he buy a paper for? Why did he engage a high pressure editor like Connell? He's in the oil business. Governor, he's after your scalp. Alright, Jim. Don't burst a blood vessel. - I'll look into it. - Yes, sir? Get me Spencer of the Daily Chronicle, please. Yes, I saw it, Governor. If you ask me, it's a phony letter. That gag's got whiskers on it. I'll get the Mayor and Chamber of Commerce to go after them. Get Mayor Lovett on the phone. Sorry, the Mayor's 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 at the Chronicle. Just a minute. Yes, Mrs. Brewster, I'm listening. I insist that this John Doe be found a job at once. If something isn't done, I'll call out the whole Auxiliary. And the Junior Auxiliary. We'll hold a meeting and see that it is... Yes, Spency? Who? The Governor? It's my building he jumping off! And I'm up for re-election. What? Get Connell at the Bulletin. Why, he's liable to go right past my win... - What was that? - What? - The window. Something flew by. - I didn't see anything. Don't stand there, you idiot. Go and look. Open the window. Why did he have to pick my building? Is there a crowd in the street? Maybe he's caught on a ledge. - It must have been a seagull. - A seagull? What's a seagull doing around the City Hall? - That's a bad omen, isn't it? - No, the seagull's a lovely bird. It's alright, Mrs. Brewster. It's just a seagull. Nothing's happened yet. I'm watching. Don't worry. 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 you gonna call me? I've got everybody and his brother and sister looking for him. See the box 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 and so forth..." Okay, Mayor, I'll let you know as soon as I have something. What? Well, pull down the blinds. Went up to Miss Mitchell's house. Boy, she's in a bad way. - Where is she? - Supports her mother and two kids. - Did you find her? - No. Her mother's worried. She said she was going on a roaring drunk, the girl I mean. Go out and find her. The biggest thing I didn't tell ya. Her old man's Doc Mitchell. He saved my mother's life and wouldn't take money for it. Okay, Boss. I'll look for her. Holy smokes, Commissioner. You've had 24 hours. Okay, Hawkshaw, grab a pencil. Here it is again. About 5 foot five, brown eyes, chestnut hair... and as fine a pair of legs as... ever walked into this office. - Do you want to see me? - No. I've had the whole Army and Navy searching for you because it's a game we play. I remember distinctly being fired. That's right, but you have property that belongs to this newspaper. - What's that? - The letter. - What letter? - The letter from John Doe. The town's in an uproar, we got to find it. It's the only clue. - There is no letter. - We'll get a handwriting expert to... - What? - There is no letter. - Say that again. - I made it up. You made it up. You said you wanted fireworks. Don't you know there are 9 jobs waiting for this guy, 22 families want to board him free, 5 women want to marry him and the Mayor's ready to adopt him? - Just called the morgue. A girl... - Shut up! Ann! Why didn't you...? Only one thing to do, Hank. Drop the whole business quickly. Run a story. Say John Doe was in here, and is sorry he wrote the letter... Sure. He came in here and I made him change his mind. "Bulletin Editor saves John Doe's life." It's perfect. I'll have Ned write it up. - Ned, I got a story... - Wait a minute. Listen, you great big genius of a newspaperman. You came to shoot some life into this dying newspaper. Well, the whole town's curious about John Doe and boom! You're going to bury him. There's enough circulation in that man to start an ink shortage. - In what man? - John Doe. - What John Doe? - Ours. The one I made up. Look genius. Now, look. Suppose a John Doe walked into this office? What would you do? Find him a job and forget the whole business, huh? Not me. I'd make a deal with him. A deal? You don't drop a stunt to sell papers like a hot potato. This is good for a couple of months. Know what I'd do? Between now and Christmas, when he jumps, I'd run a daily yawn. Starting with his boyhood, his schooling, his first job. A wide-eyed youngster facing a chaotic world. The problem of the average man, all the John Does. Then comes the drama. He meets discouragement. He finds the world has feet of clay, his ideals crumble. What does he do? He decides to commit suicide in protest against the state of civilization. He thinks of the river, but no. He has a better idea: The City Hall. Why? He wants to attract attention. He want to get things off his chest and it's the only way to be heard. - So? - So? So he writes me a letter and I dig him up. He pours out his soul to me. From now on we quote: "I Protest", by John Doe. He protests against all the evils in the world. The greed, lust, hate, fear. All of man's inhumanity to man. Arguments will start. Should he commit suicide or not? People will write in, pleading with him. But no, sir! John Doe will remain adamant. On Christmas Eve, hot or cold, he goes, see? Very pretty, 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 lunkhead. Wait a minute. Let me get this through this lame brain of mine. We hire someone who says they'll commit suicide on Christmas Eve? Now you're catching on. - Who for instance? - Anybody. Beany'll do. Why sure. Who me? Jump off a... Anytime but Christmas. I'm superstitious. Do me a favor. Go on out and get married, have babies but... stay out of the newspaper business. Better get that story in hand. It's getting late. You're supposed to be a smart guy. If it was raining 100 dollar bills, you'd be looking for a dime you lost someplace. Holy smokes. Wasting my time listening to this mad woman. Look what the Chronicle's running on John Doe. They say it's a fake. Why the no-good... "John Doe story, amateur journalism. This is so phony, it's a wonder anyone's taking it seriously." - What do you think of those guys? - That's fine. That's fine. Now fall into their laps. Go ahead. Say John Doe walked in and called the whole thing off. You know what that'll sound like. - That's all, Ned. Thank you. - All right. Amateur journalism, huh? That bunch of sophomores. - I could teach them more... - Boss! Get a load of this. - What? - Look. What do they want? - They say they wrote the letter. - Yeah, I wrote it, Boss. They all wrote the letter. Tell them all to wait. One is your John Doe. They're desperate and will do anything for a cup of coffee. Pick one and you can make the Chronicle eat their words. I'm beginning to like this. If you ask me, Hank, you're playing with dynamite. No, the girl's right. We can't let the Chronicle get the laugh on us. We've got to produce a John Doe now. Amateur 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. - Okay, you get your job back. - Plus a bonus. - What bonus? - The bonus of 1,000 dollars... the Chronicle was going to pay me for this little document. "I, Ann Mitchell, certify that the John Doe letter was created by me..." - I can read. I can read. - Sorry. You think this is worth 1,000 dollars, do ya? The Chronicle would consider it dirt cheap. Packs everything including a gun. Okay, sister, you got a deal. Let's look at the candidates. The one we pick has got to be the typical, average man. Typical American that can keep his mouth shut. Show me an American who can keep his mouth shut and I'll eat him. Beany, bring 'em in one at a time. Did you write that letter? - No, I didn't. - What are you doing here then? Paper says there were jobs. Might be one left over. Had any schooling? Yeah. A little. What do you do when you work? - I used to pitch. - Baseball? Yeah, till my wing went bad. Where did you play? Bush leagues, mostly. - Family? Got any family? - No. - Just traveling through? - Yeah. Me and a friend of mine. He's outside. - Looks alright. - He's perfect. A baseball player. What could be more American? - Wish he had a family. - Be less complicated without. Look at that face. It's wonderful.