Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 6, No. 10 July 28, 1943
[Letter from R.S. Parker to Salient Vol. 6, No. 10 July 28, 1943]
—As I had just been to "Meet John Doe" the night before reading July's Salient, I was the more poignantly touched by your film reviewer's innocent enthusiasm for Capra's latest production. The idea of Hollywood "exposing the criminal methods of Fascists" is too funny.
Actually, the Fascist motif in the film was handled with masterly restraint, and every care seemed to be taken not to feature too prominently or too unfavorably the private army of uniformed toughs. After all, that might have been misinterpreted as a slight upon those loyal servants of the film-magnate's fellow-entrepreneurs, who on occasion so admirably maintain law and order against the agitator and preserve the purity of American institutions. The necessity of preserving those institutions intact, just as they are, was clearly the moral of the film. John Doe, the unemployed "typical American," was no agitator. The John Doe Clubs (though they confessed they had nothing else to do at their meetings) must of course be "non-political." The careful association of the "labour leader" with the Fascist plotters was a reminder that one brand of politician was as bad as another, and that the best thing the people can do is just to love their neighbours and leave politics well alone. The cream of the joke on your reviewer, however, is (if the metaphor may change) his hook-line-and-sinker acceptance of the film's subtle suggestion that by failing to break into national politics, the bankers and oil magnates are baffled "in their attempt to come to power."
Lavishly sweetened with drug-store sentimentality, thoroughly besprinkled with Babbitts and their wives, replete with domestic respectability and the stagiest of Stage parsons, familiarly free from artistic integration or integrity (entirely unconvincing in its closing scenes—who would have a quiet fag Just before committing suicide?) this picture struck me as a typically Hollywood example of backhanded propaganda. Can any good come out of . . . Gomorrah?
R. S. Parker.