Frank Capra, Robert Riskin and “Meet John Doe” Attacks American Fascism

One of my favorite filmmakers is the 1930s and 1940s American director Frank Capra. When I first watched his movies, I initially assumed Capra was a liberal. Frank Capra, though, was actually a conservative Republican. But during the 1930s he was an open minded man who collaborated with many leftwing screenwriters to produce his many classic movies. Capra’s most fruitful collaboration was with the New Deal liberal Robert Riskin, the screenwriter of It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, You Can’t Take It With You and Meet John Doe. So Capra’s films were a mixture of both progressive and conservative values.

The conservative Capra and the liberal Riskin were both deeply concerned about how to uphold our American democratic values in the face of the Great Depression, a fascist threat in Europe and dangerous homegrown demagogues like Huey Long and Father Coughlin. When Frank Capra and Robert Riskin collaborated in the 1941 movie “Meet John Doe”, they used the movie to attack sympathy for fascism in the U.S. and to defend democratic institutions like the freedom of the press. Both men were horrified by a rally by American Nazis that took place on February 20, 1939, in Madison Square Garden that had 20,000 attendees. “Meet John Doe” also criticized our vulnerability to being seduced by demagogues who are able to exploit radio, a response to the popularity of Huey Long and Father Coughlin.

At a time when the Alt Right is influencing people to be more receptive to fascist thought, and when our free press is under attack, I think “Meet John Doe” is more relevant than ever. Here is a youtube video of the whole film.

About angelolopez

I’ve wanted to be an artist all my life. Since I was a child I’ve drawn on any scrap of paper I could get a hold of. When I went to San Jose State University, I became more exposed to the works of the great fine artists and illustrators. My college paintings were heavily influenced by the humorous illustrations of Peter De Seve, an illustrator for the New Yorker magazine. I also fell under the spell of the great muralists of the 1930s, especially Thomas Hart Benton and Diego Rivera. I graduated with a degree in Illustration. Angelo Lopez has had illustrations published in Tikkun Magazine, the Palo Alto Daily News and Z Magazine. From April 2008 to May 2011, Angelo's cartoons were regularly published in the Tri-City Voice, a weekly newspaper that covers the Fremont, Hayward, Milpitas, Neward, Sunol and Union City areas in California. He did a political webcomic starring his cartoon character Jasper for the progressive blogsite Everyday Citizen. Since December 2011, Angelo does a regular weekly political cartoon for the Philippine News Today, a Filipino American newspaper based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Angelo is a member of the Sunnyvale Art Club, and the Northern California chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. During the 1990s, he was a member of the part-timer workers SEIU unit in the city of Sunnyvale. Angelo won the 2013, 2015 and 2016 and 2018 Sigma Delta Chi award for editorial cartooning for newspapers with a circulation under 100,000. He has also won the 2016 RFK Book and Journalism Award for Editorial Cartoons. Angelo won first prize for the Best of the West contest in 2016 and third prize in 2017. Angelo is married to Lisa Reeber. They enjoy taking walks, watching movies and hanging out with their nieces.
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