As a parting shot, fired reporter Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck) prints a fake letter from unemployed "John Doe," who threatens suicide in protest of social ills. The paper is forced to rehire Ann and hires John Willoughby (Gary Cooper) to impersonate "Doe." Ann and her bosses cynically milk the story for all it's worth, until the made-up "John Doe" philosophy starts a whole social movement. At last everyone, even Ann, takes her creation seriously...but publisher D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold) has a secret plan.