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The People vs. John Doe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The People vs. John Doe
"The People vs. John Doe" movie ad "Waiting in the Shadow of the Fatal Chair" - from, Moving Picture Weekly (1915-1920) (page 183 crop).jpg
Directed byLois Weber, Phillips Smalley
Written byLois Weber
StarringHarry De More

Evelyn Selbie

Willis Marks

Leah Baird

George Berrell

Maude George

Charles Hill Mailes

Robert Smith
CinematographyAllen Siegler
Distributed byUniversal Film Manufacturing Company
Release date
December 10, 1916
Running time
6 reels
LanguageSilent..English titles

The People vs. John Doe is a 1916 silent feature film about capital punishment co-directed by Lois Weber and Phillips Smalley.[1] The film was released by Universal Film Manufacturing Company.


A wealthy farmer and his sister are murdered just days after the man hired an uneducated farmhand (Harry De More). A detective eager to collect reward money (Charles Hill Mailes) brutally forces a confession from the farmhand and his mentally disabled brother. Both men are convicted and sentenced to death. An attorney (Leah Baird) suspects that the men's confessions are false, tracks down the real murderer and saves the men from execution.



Lois Weber's script was based on one of the most notorious death penalty cases at the time. Like the character in her film, Charles Stielow was an uneducated farmhand unjustly accused of murder and sentenced to death. Attorney Grace Humiston and suggest activist Inez Milholland Boissevain was instrumental in efforts to exonerate him. Weber's script was originally called "The Celebrated Stielow Case."[2]


All references to the Charles Stielow case were removed from the film prior to release and the film's title was changed to The People vs. John Doe. Nonethless, Universal rushed the film into release less than a week after New York governor Charles S. Whitman commuted Stielow's death sentence. Opponents of the death penalty screened the film to draw attention to their cause in New York City and Pennsylvania.[3]


  1. ^ "American Film Institute Catalog".
  2. ^ Stamp, Shelley (2015). Lois Weber in Early Hollywood. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. pp. 97–98. ISBN 978-0520284463.
  3. ^ Stamp, Shelley (2015). Lois Weber in Early Hollywood. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. pp. 98–99. ISBN 978-0520284463.

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 30 September 2021, at 03:15
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