The Fountainhead - The Movie


seeker

Recommended Posts

I found a copy of the Movie version of AR's The Foutainhead 1949 (Gary Cooper)- on DVD no less. I had no idea that this had been made into a film, so I bought it. AR was the playwrite as well. As usual the book was far better than the movie. In fact compared to the book the movie was senseless! Not one character seemed to have the slightest motivation for doing the things they did. Most apalling were changes made to the story such as Dominique leaving Peter for Gail Wynand breaking their ENGAGEMENT not their MARRIAGE. I am always prepared for the movie to fall short of the book. But in this case the movie was an injustice if not an insult to AR's message. I just could not believe that AR wrote the screen play. It was a deeply disappointing movie and from my point view failed to get AR's point and objectivism's message across.

Appearantly I am missing something because the many reviews I read on line written recently by recent viewers (not professional reviewers) - raved about how pefectly the film brought out AR's philosphy. It was a stilted boring and stiff script that sounded more like the actors were reading from ther que cards and making no attempt to hide that fact. Shoddy at best.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 53
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Seeker; Having Keating only engaged to Domonique was probably due to the Hayes Office. The director was a naturalist. Gary Cooper was Miss Rand's choice for Roark but Miss Rand realized that he was not the actor for the role. I hope some day someone is able to look at the various verisions of the script and memos about the movie.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, personally, I think that Gary Cooper did quite a good job of presenting Roark's character and demeanor in a way that was consistent with the book. He probably was a little too old for the part, though.

The account of the tribulations that Ayn Rand had to go through in the production of that movie is laid out in detail in Barbara Branden's book, The Passion of Ayn Rand. Those not familiar with the details of that struggle should read that book. Considering the cultural atmosphere in Hollywood at that time, it is amazing that any of Rand's philosophic statements were allowed in the production (instead of ending up on the cutting room floor). In fact, many key philosophic statements (including the essence of Roark's trial speech) made it into the movie.

A particularly weak portrayal, though, was the truncated characterization of Peter Keating. His "confession" to Ellsworth Toohey appears constricted and contrived, and is not presented in a manner that would be believable to a viewer.

Incidentally, several other actors reportedly vyed for Roark's part. Among them, Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable. Although they were great character actors, their demeanor probably would not fit well with Roark's personality (i.e, Gable: "Frankly, Dominique, I dont give a damn!," or Bogart: "Dominique, it's clear that our love doesn't mean much in this crazy world..." Yeah, I know that the actors did not write these lines, but it is what they are remembered for).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that this is an embarrassingly bad movie.

A point I noticed the last time I saw it is that the script steers deliberately away from expressly political points, to the point of making the story positively harder to follow. One example is the scene between Keating and Toohey, where Keating, trying to get the Cortlandt job, says something like "you know people in this game" without ever mentioning that it's a government housing project. Another is when Roark finally sees what they've done to his design, and one of the actors says, dismissively, "you can't sue us." For all the viewer knows, they are private real estate developers counting on Roark's unwillingness to put time and money into a lawsuit. This was probably a way of compressing the story and getting immediately to the essential ethical message.

Peter

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Where did you find it on DVD?! I still have my copy from the library (I owe at least $5 on it), but I don't want to drive downtown. :unsure:

Overall, the film wasn't very good, but was worth a watch in my opinion. It's something I would sit down and watch if I were bored. Patricia Neal had some really great moments (none that I can recall at the moment), but her staring off into nothingness really got on my nerves. And I agree, Cooper was good as Roark, but too old.

Alsoooo, I didn't think the man who played Henry Cameron was very good. :rolleyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You may be able to find The Fountainhead on DVD by "searching" on the title after logging onto eBay. I have found that many movie titles that are "out of print" through the traditional sources (e.g., Amazon, imdb, etc.) are available if you look carefully on eBay. Some titles that you find there are from collectors or dealers in "used" or surplus movies. Some are done overseas. And some may be "unauthorized" copies (but not always, because many titles are no longer protected by copyright).

I found a copy of The Fountainhead on DVD there. Cheap. When I received it, I noticed that the DVD disc had no printed label on it. The dustjacket cover had a duplicate of the cover design that was used on the LaserDisc album, which was different from the VHS tape jacket cover (I know this, because I also have the LaserDisc album). I suspect that the DVD was really a "private transfer" (also known as "pirated') copied directly from a LaserDisc.

However, the DVD did play properly, and the images and sound were very good. Better than the VHS format version. In fact, just as clear and sharp as my LaserDisc version! Hmmm.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I found the DVD the same way and when I recieved it - there was NO LABEL on the disk either. It also was "Universal" meaning it would play in any DVD player regardless of the region setting. I agree it is likely a pirated copy -- although ot was advertised as a legitimate copy! I could not find the information i had on where on the Internet I found it.

You may be able to find The Fountainhead on DVD by "searching on the title after logging onto eBay. I have found that many movie titles that are "out of print" through the traditional sources (e.g., Amazon, imdb, etc.) are available if you look carefully on eBay. Some titles that you find there are from collectors or dealers in "used" or surplus movies. Some are done overseas. And some may be "unauthorized" copies (but not always, because many titles are no longer protected by copyright).

I found a copy of The Fountainhead on DVD there. Cheap. When I received it, I noticed that the DVD disc had no printed label on it. The dustjacket cover had a duplicate of the cover design that was used on the LaserDisc album, which was different from the VHS tape jacket cover (I know this, because I also have the LaserDisc album). I suspect that the DVD was really a "private transfer" (also known as "pirated') copied directly from a LaserDisc.

However, the DVD did play properly, and the images and sound were very good. Better than the VHS format version. In fact, just as clear and sharp as my LaserDisc version! Hmmm.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes Kat, I think it was that bad -- it lacked any background informatuion what-so-ever that would lead you to know who any character was and why s/he was doing what s/he did. I don't see how it would be comprehensible to anyone who had not first read the book.

Aw c'mon guys... it wasn't that bad.

Kat

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Seeker, I don't think you are being quite fair to the film, although I understand your perspective. I remember that when I first saw it, not long after it was released, I hated it -- I hated every single minute of it. I kept waiting for my favorite scenes, my favorite moments, my favorite lines, and many of them were not there; and if some of them were, they were not presented as the book presented them and as I wanted to see them. I considered the movie a total. disastrous failure.

It was only a few years later, when I saw the movie again -- and I was more removed from the book -- that I realized what I had done. For all practical purposes, I had watched the movie as if I had the book on my lap and I was waiting to see an exact facsimile on the screen -- which of course I didn't see. I realized that a film is not and should not be the presentation of a novel; it is an adaptation of a novel in in another medium, and must take advantage of that medium. It doesn't matter at all if Dominique was or was not married to Keating, what matters is the spirit of the book, not all of the concretes. Today, if I happen to see it on television, and I watch a bit of it, my reaction is: Good god! How did Rand manage to have these words, these scenes, these incredible ideas, made real on the screen? Who did she have to kill? The movie -- despite all its many defects -- is a miracle.

I recommend that those of who who dislike it, give it a bit more time, then see it again. You may change your view of it.

John, I agree with you about Richard Douglas' performance as Toohey. He was superb. The only problem was that he was too strong, not for Toohey, but for the other actors.

Barbara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My experience with the film was identical to Barbara's. That was back when I was an O-newbie, all full of fire. I was getting everything I could get my hands on. I was thrilled to find a battered VHS copy of it at a library. That was maybe over twenty years ago. Even then, I was far from a stranger to film. I found the dialogue stilted, contrived. There were moments, but overall I couldn't stand the thing.

I've seen it two or three times more since then, the last time about a year-and-a-half ago. I find more moments to enjoy.

But I still have to say that I've seen far better films from that era. Far better. Shoot, some of the larger scale Chaplin silents make mincemeat out of it.

Talk about a remake, I'd love to see that one done. It's much more containable than Atlas.

In the end though, I have a much more benevolent view of it than upon first viewing.

EDIT: Oh, and the musical score. Way, way too heavy-handed in a lot of places, especially in transitions, scene openings. Didn't care for it a bit, really.

Edited by Rich Engle
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Turner Classic Movie Channel just showed The Fountainhead. I watched it for the first time in a number of years. I repeat: It's a damn miracle! Whatever its flaws, what it captures is the wonderful, exalted idealism of the major characters, of Roark and Dominique and even Wynand, who in the movie kills himself when he understands the extent of his betrayal, and in the book does the equivalent. It captures their idealism, and the passion of their unswerving commitment to their values. And it captures, in essence, the nature of those values. Exactly how many movies have you seen of which you can say any of these things? These are the aspects of the movie that put the book back on the bestseller lists after its release, and that captured the allegiance of generations of young people and still continues to do so.

It was interesting to note that after the movie concluded, Robert Osborne, the host of TMC, and his guest (whose name I can't remember) talked about it briefly, and both clearly were deeply moved by it.

Watching it -- gasping as if I had never seen it before when Wynand rises to his feet in the courtroom to receive the jury's verdict on Roark, and on him, choking back tears during Roark's speech and not caring one whit if Cooper wasn't adequate because the words were more than adequate, saying to my cat "Saki, Ayn was a bloomin' genuis!" as Dominique rises toward the figure of Roark standing on the top of his skyscraper and blotting out the rest of the world for her -- I rememberd what had drawn and held me to Objectivism so many years ago, and what holds me to so much of it still today..

Those of you who haven't seen the movie: SEE IT! Those who have: SEE IT AGAIN!

Barbara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

~ No two ways about it: whatever it's 'flaws' as one subjectively evaluates it in mere terms of 'likes-dislikes', this movie, then, as well as now, is heads-and-shoulders of a different and 'higher' calibre than most movies made before, then, and since. I said that Gary Cooper was 'adequate' in handling his part and I praised his co-actors higher re their handling theirs. I must add that, movie-buff that I am, I'm not aware of any other actor that YET can really handle (in a more 'believable' manner, which is not to be confused with "I'd prefer/like-more to see 'X' doing it" ) his part better than he did, regardless that some see Cooper as 'wooden' (not I) in doing it. --- An aside: maybe a thread should be started to distinguish the diff between someone showing passion...and, merely showing scene-chewing emoting.

~ If I didn't make it clear, Cooper was 'adequate'...and playing Roark: that's no small feat. God help the actor who plays Galt in the upcoming Atlas Shrugged.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rich; You mentioned the score for The Fountainhead. The score was by Max Steiner who did a lot of Warner Brothers movies. Years ago I had a cassette that had excerpts from some of his movie work including The Fountainhead. If anyone know about this I would love to hear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

~ Max Steiner was one (if not 'the') 1st movie-music-composer I remember paying attention to in movies when I was a kid. Indeed, he was probably why I started actually 'reading' the end-credits...thereby learning about other 'soundtrack' (as the term became) composers, as well as 'gaffers' (not to be confused with 'go-fers.') Gone With The Wind was it ('music by...'). Thereafter I learned about Bernard Hermann, Jerry Goldsmith, Mancini, Kaper, etc.

LLAP

J:D

P.S: I see on IMBd that he has one hell of large resume.

Edited by John Dailey
Link to comment
Share on other sites

John; At the same time in Hollywood was Erich Wolfgang Korngold who wrote the score of Robin Hood. I can remember an acquaintance saying that there were Korngold movies at theatre in DC. Korngold was employed by Warner Brothers like Steiner.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chris:

~ Korngold? Did the music to the movie with my originally favorite iconically-heroic, devil-may-care, *actor/cinema-character* (hey, I was a 'kid' then) Errol Flynn aka Robin Hood? -- (Not that I recall the music much; this was pre-GWTW when I saw each; have to catch it a-g-a-i-n, I guess [sigh].)

~ How'd I m-i-s-s him?

LLAP

J:D

Edited by John Dailey
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

I tend to agree with Barbara. When I first saw it, I had a similar reaction.

However -- and I concur with the comments about Max Steiner's music (check out "White Heat" from the same year, thrilling score) and Robert Douglas -- what hardly anyone ever mentions is the stark, Expressionistic cinematography by DP Robert Burks.

Burks had been a special effects cameraman at Warner's and worked with the likes of great cinematographers Karl Freund (Fritz Lang's DP, later director of "The Mummy" and DP on "Key Largo") and Sid Hickox ("The Big Sleep"). Later on, Burks would become Hitchcock's favorite DP for movies such as "Strangers on a Train," "I Confess," "Vertigo," "North by Northwest," and "The Birds."

Max Steiner's score overwhelms as do the performances of Raymond Massey and Rob't Douglas. One night, however, I watched "The Fountainhead" with the sound off and the movie simply jumped off the screen: While it had a lot of the same props and themes as film noir movies from the period (arc lamps, long diagonal shadows, etc.), Burks keeps boxing in Cooper with an oppressively tight framing, much as he does with Montgomery Clift in "I Confess." When Roark is down and out, Cooper is trapped within a world of billboards, placards and stencilled lettering on frosted plate glass windows on doors. How better to signify the theme of the lone creator against the system? Burks' camera only really looks up in contemplating Roark's buildings, even though he presents Roark as a heroic figure by shooting him from a low angle.

Only one person gets the better of Roark, visually, and that's Patricia Neal as Dominique, in the famous scene with the buggy whip, in which Roark is filmed from the horseback POV.

Check it out: Watch this one with the sound off. It becomes a way stronger film, just as "Psycho" becomes *weaker* without Bernard Herrmann's frenzied soundtrack.

Edited by Robert Jones
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Robert; Your comments are very on target. King Vidor had the reputation as Naturalist but in The Fountainhead he breaks out and The Fountainhead is highly stylized. I think the same comment could be made about Patricia Neal who's later films are much more naturalistic. Two that spring to mind The Day the Earth Stood Still and A Face in the Crowd.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Robert: "When Roark is down and out, Cooper is trapped within a world of billboards, placards and stencilled lettering on frosted plate glass windows on doors. How better to signify the theme of the lone creator against the system? Burks' camera only really looks up in contemplating Roark's buildings, even though he presents Roark as a heroic figure by shooting him from a low angle."

That's fascinating. I'll do as you suggest, that is, I'll watch it with the sound off. Unfortunately, it seems I'm rarely aware of cinematography -- except in such films as "Citizen Kane" and a favorite of mine, "The Magnificent Ambersons."

Barbara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Turner Classic Movies shows "The Fountainhead" at least three or four times a year. It did so most recently this past month in a "31 Days of Oscar" tribute to Gary Cooper. I almost never miss it, and I've got two copies of the film on tape! (And will soon buy the long-overdue DVD.)

A newly produced "What a Character" interstitial piece on Cooper's career, one of many running between TCM features, relies heavily on shots of Cooper from this film. One of them is of his sketching the bastardized version of Wynand's house, in order to show that he couldn't be bought by the newspaper mogul. This piece noted that Cooper initially sought work in Hollywood as an illustrator, and that was news to me. No camera tricks, as I'd long thought ... he must have been actually sketching that atrocity!

It was interesting to note that after the movie concluded, Robert Osborne, the host of TCM, and his guest (whose name I can't remember) talked about it briefly, and both clearly were deeply moved by it.

Last Fall, the "Essentials" series co-host probably was Molly Haskell, a self-consciously feminist film critic who wrote From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies. I recall her being impressed by Patricia Neal.

That Haskell got past a usually quite cynical attitude to be, yes, notably moved is a tribute to the film's power. She's married to Andrew Sarris, creator of the "auteur" critical theory of director-shaped film productions, and someone who's long been dubious about the value of a less flamboyant craftsman such as King Vidor. That had to have made it more difficult, methinks, for her to show that this moved her.

I first saw this movie in 1976, age 17, on an ancient ('52) 18-inch black-and-white set that seemed, somehow, to fit it better than the color sets I've seen it on since. My dad urged us to watch it. He'd always admired Gary Cooper's work, with his own favorite being "Sergeant York." I'd found the piety and manipulation of that undeniably well-told story off-putting, and almost resisted Dad's suggestion.

I'm glad I didn't. We turned on the local PBS station (!) and I was enthralled. Especially by the courtroom speech, which was vastly different in ideas and rhetoric from the statist credo I'd had shoved at me in government schooling. The stark imagery and Max Steiner's soaring score were also compelling.

This was my introduction to the work of Ayn Rand.

A few weeks later, I looked up the full courtroom speech in the high school's copy of the book, since my mother had wanted to read it in full. I photocopied it, but didn't get enticed to read the whole book until the following Summer, my last before college. Well, then the hooks were in my mental hide!

And all these years later, I still think that this is the best way to encounter what still is Rand's best work of fiction -- solely as fiction, not as a hybrid with deliberate philosophic writing. Movie first, to get the essence of the story, and only then the far broader planes of the book.

This reversal of the usual path is nearly unique in my experience. Few movies ever match up to the mental vistas of their books. I wouldn't say that the film's storyline, far more condensed, is "better" than the book's, but it fits the film medium far better.

Most of all, it's more direct. You get a host of characters, especially Toohey and Wynand, brought out in detail by visual and aural cues. These two received lengthy flashbacks in the book, into their youth and career paths, which couldn't be easily portrayed on screen. Their psychologies were telegraphed, though, quite well by Robert Douglas and Raymond Massey, respectively. Gestures of flamboyance and drive were shown in walks, mannerisms, props (especially cigarette smoke), and intonations.

Even apart from the plot and Rand's dialogue, the vigor of the story comes out in an ineffable sense of being "driven" that was unique to Warner Bros. among the major studios. Their scrappy gangster pictures and saucy slices of strong Americans fit the thrust of Roark's persistence in the face of adversity. I can't imagine that the overbaroque production values of, say, MGM would have allowed for such tart thrusts of acting and visual design. (That studio's committee-driven production line would have gutted the content, as well.)

I'm struck on every re-viewing about how easily one can be absorbed in the story on its own terms. It highlighted the plotting. Rand's book brought out a far more detailed tapestry of motivations and conflicts, alongside -- and over and under and behind -- the plotting. Having been captivated by the book, I thought that re-viewings of the movie would feel flat by comparison, by not having this degree of detail. For me, at least, they haven't done so at all.

And I'll second the suggestion to see this film, for once, with the sound turned down. At least the powerful compositions in the last ten minutes, from Wynand rising with Roark in the courtroom onward. Especially notable here is the silhouette of Wynand and Roark against the buildings of New York, as Roark leaves Wynand's office for the last time. Both men are meant to measure up against the skyscrapers, literally and figuratively, very closely fitting how Rand saw the characters.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A very interesting post, Greybird. Now that you mention it, I am aware that many people who see the movie without having read the novel are overwhelmingly moved and fascinated by it -- and rush to get the book. I can imagine how stunning it must be to first encounter Rand's ideas in this rather stark, unembroidered form. I think you're correct in suggesting that the movie is a wonderful way to be introduced to Rand. I don't agree that it's necessarily the best way, however; I suspect that each of us thinks the way he first encountered Rand was the best way, and mine was through the novel of The Fountainhead.

Barbara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now