— The Fountainhead — A Movie Review Of An Ayn Rand Book From 1949

Back in 1943, Ayn Rand wrote a book called The Fountainhead. I had long known it was turned into a movie, but happened upon it on some obscure Cable channel that I’d never actually heard of [It was like channel #1784 or something].  But I thought I’d check it out being the Ayn Rand, Libertarian-type guy that I am.  And I was impressed.  It is actually a gorgeous movie to behold.

Sales of the book were brisk, making it Ayn Rand’s first financially successful book.  The novel broaches the ideas of individualism and Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism.  The movie rights were purchased by Warner Brothers, and in 1949, Ayn Rand adapted her book into a movie.  Her lead el fountainheadcharacter, Howard Roark, is an architect who is having a hard time selling his work in a 1940’s world where traditional building design reigns supreme.  Since he designs in a modern, minimalistic style, society is not ready for him.  Instead of selling-out as everyone else does in order to make money, he holds to his principles and builds a career out of great, innovative, unmistakable design and by selling only to those who allow him to design exactly as he chooses.  Gary Cooper plays this role in what is the very best acting I’ve ever seen from him (yes, I just said that).

The love interest of Howard Roark is, Dominique Francon.  She is a complex lady who comes from money.  She seeks to live with the finer things in life… but she does not care about the trivialities of becoming rich.  She is played by Patricia Neal, who was just amazingly gorgeous at the time of filming.  Seriously!  It is criminal how gorgeous she was.  She grows to love Roark, however, the timing is not right and they go their own separate ways.  She searches for happiness, but perhaps happiness is not for her.

The Fountainhead is a recognition that any industry or enterprise, can find itself a target of collectivism and the mindset it creates.  Howard Roark is appalled by the concept that his designs, skills, and what he, as an individual, creates, is somehow the property of the greater collective society.  He disagrees and is forced to fight a society that would destroy him.  He ends up on trial and makes it clear that he only works for himself, and only himself.  He also is forced to witness as a close friend of his must also decide if he will follow a path of collectivism or to stand alone on principle.  The two of them make differing decisions.  One of the best lines in the movie is where Howard Roark notes that:

“Thousands of years ago, the first man discovered how to make fire. He was probably burned at the stake he had taught his brothers to light.”

In general, this movie is well filmed, well produced, and although it was filmed over 60 years ago, the story is sort of modern and still relevant.  Although, much of the book’s minute detail is not in the movie (because you can “see” that detail), The movie is as true to the book as possible.  This is most likely due to the fact that Ayn Rand herself was a pivotal part of the movie’s adaptation.

Should you see it?  Yes!  (That’s all I’ve got!)

Kali Pinckney


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