Picture tells the story of the rehabilitation of a tramp ex-baseball player who assents to the role of a puppet social reformer in the hands of a young woman columnist on a metropolitan newspaper.
The heroine, having been fired from her job through a change in the sheet’s ownership, regains her place by inventing a fictitious John Doe as author of a letter of protest against the prevailing injustices of a political and social system which permits hunger in a land of plenty and idleness in a world where much remains to be accomplished. As earnest of his appeal he declares he will commit suicide on Christmas Eve in expiation for the sins of society.
The synthetic fabric of the story is the weakness of the production, despite the magnificence of the Frank Capra-directed superstructure. But Robert Riskin, who wrote the screenplay from an original story by Richard Connell and Robert Presnell, leaves the audience at the finale with scarcely more than the hope that some day selfishness, fraud and deceit will be expunged from human affairs.
1941: Nomination: Best Original Story