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The Fountainhead

Posted by admin | Posted in Movies | Posted on 26-09-2010

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Description
Based on the novel by philosopher Ayn Rand, this is the story of architect Howard Roark. An idealist, Roark believes he can balance his values with the needs of society. His mentor disagrees – encouraging him to compromise his integrity rather than suffer for his artistic goals.Amazon.com
Exhibiting a darker edge to his hero persona, the strapping Gary Cooper has the (Frank Lloyd) Wright stuff as architect Harold Roark, a “fool visionary” who refuses to conform hi… More >>

The Fountainhead

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Comments (5)

The first time I saw this movie, circa 1969, I was disappointed. I felt it was melodramatically presented, in black and white, and in two hours it was an injustice to the novel’s power and grandeur. The actors did not seem to measure up, or buy in, to the characters they portrayed. This movie review, thirty years ago, would have rated “The Fountainhead” as, at best, two stars. It was a definite embarassment to most Ayn Rand devotees at the time.

The five star rating I give the movie today, thirty years and numerous viewings later, is a very personal, indivdualized one. Through these eyes, “The Fountainhead” is enormously moving, well-cast and very well portrayed, if you’re the kind of person who relates to: (1) the struggle between integrity and conformity in our private and business lives (2) the travails of entrepreneurship and perseverance in the face of spirit crushing adversity (3) the belief that there is definable difference between good and evil, and that it is really possible for the former to prevail.

Several of Gary Cooper’s scenes as Howard Roark are profoundly memorable: (1) when he refuses money from Peter Keating after showing him he was down to his last few cents (2) when he walks out on the munificent offer from the bank board to build a mutation of his bank design (3) the party scene when Dominique discovers the quarry worker she had obsessed over was Roger Enright’s architect, Howard Roark.

There’s more. Great camera angles, strong dialogue from the supporting cast, especially Ellsworth Toohey.

Summarily, the director, screenplay people and actors did a magnificent job within the two hour confines of making a riveting movie. But if you’re looking for a verbatim reproduction of the book, or you have an aversion to Ayn Rand’s message of individual creativism and freedom, this one’s not for you!
Rating: 5 / 5

Ayn Rand not only wrote the screenplay for this film based on her classic novel, she was, according to most reports, in favor of casting Gary Cooper as her architect hero Howard Roark. That proved to be a mistake. Not only is Cooper too “mature” for the role, he lacks the necessary passion to deliver Rand’s philisophical speeches with conviction. Despite this misstep, “The Fountainhead” is a pretty faithful summary (as opposed to adaptation) of the legendary novel, and though it is far from perfect, the fact that Warner Bros. would even undertake such a radical project shows that the movie moguls of the past (such as Jack L. Warner) had a lot more vision and courage than the folks running the show in Hollywood today. The rest of the cast is quite good, and King Vidor’s direction is masterful. The camera angles, the cinematography, and set design are all splendidly offbeat, making this film worthwhile for its visual qualities alone.
Rating: 3 / 5

While it was based on Ayn Rand’s book, Ayn Rand personally altered the story to adapt it to film. It is a great movie that really makes the viewer think about many things including individualism, selfishness, and even what is right and wrong. For many people who take these notions as given from a very young, questioning them with an adult mind is a good idea. If you enjoy this movie, be sure to pick up and read some of Ayn Rand’s non-fiction.
Rating: 5 / 5

This is a masterpiece that gives people of independent minds hope and reason to go on with its message of “don’t compromise…follow your ideals”. As an artist working in a medium that is unusual, I LOVE this movie. I put it on whenever my determination gets a little wobbly ! Strong and handsome, the fabulous Gary Cooper is perfect as Howard Roark, and Patricia Neal and Raymond Massey are also wonderful. The cinematography by Robert Burks ( who did a lot of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films ) uses sharp contrasts and is brilliant in its use of shade. This film deserves 5 stars just for how it looks. Don’t miss it !
Rating: 5 / 5

Since David O. Selznick (producer of “Gone With the Wind” and “Rebecca”) didn’t produce this as a faithful adaptation of the novel, but Henry Blanke (“The Maltese Falcon” and “Casablanca”) DID, I recommend seeing the movie first. When you read the novel first, you cast it, design sets and play it out in your mind, and in my mind, Howard Roark is played by Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman is Dominique, and Orson Welles plays a thinly-veiled Charles Foster Kane, aka Gail Wynand. Screenplay by Charles Brackett and Ben Hecht, directed by Howard Hawks, Technicolor, music by Bernard Herrmann.

Anyways, since that’s all in my mind’s eye, let us deal with what’s really there:

This film is the greatest example of post-German expressionism after World War II. Visually, it’s overflowing with licht und schatten worthy of Lang and Murnau. This is the movie’s greatest achievement, deftly accomplished by cinematographer Robert Burks, who confines Gary Cooper (the movie’s martyred saint) in a shadow-world so oppressing, that it rivals Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” and Hitchcock’s “I Confess” (for which Burks was also DP, as he was on all Hitch’s films from the early 1950s through Marnie, in 1964, with the exception of “Psycho”) for the sense of loneliness and psychological isolation which crowd in the hero.

Burks owes a lot to “Citizen Kane” in the use of low-camera-angles employed in projecting the movie’s tragic hero, Gail Wynand, played by Raymond Massey. Massey brings a British-Canadian flair to the role that is completely outrageous and incongruous with the role’s Hell’s Kitchen origins. So what! As with Cary Grant, Massey succeeds in the “willing-suspension-of-disbelief” department when it comes to ignoring his British accent.

Burks’ camera lingers longingly and tenderly on screen siren Patricia Neal, as Dominique. This is when REAL HOT WOMEN got Hollywood roles, and when the likes of Marilyn Monroe “replaced” Jane Russell and Kim Novak was groomed as the next Rita Hayworth. The scene in which Neal visits Coop’s apartment with the none-too-subtle white fur bust ornament above her evening gown is priceless in the glamor department. A few reviewers call this movie “dated.” If by dated, they mean not having untalented, unalluring and underfed matchsticks like Gwyneth Paltrow and Calista Flockheart, then, yes, “The Fountainhead” is dated.

Britisher Robert Douglas plays Ellsworth Toohey, the rabble-rousing colmunist with over-the-top and villainous aplomb. Wielding his ever-present cigarette holder with blatant swishiness designed to circumvent the Hayes’ office censors, Douglas gives the best flamboyant-homosexual-villian performance this side of Robert Walker, as the tortured Bruno in Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train.”

Rounding out this bombastic Expressionist tour-de-force is Max Steiner’s equally plush and bombastic Romantic score, which uses heavy brass and low strings to provide an aural sledgehammer that sets the action onscreen to the passionate sturm und drang of Tristan und Isolde. They don’t make movie music like this anymore. Composer David Raksin (“Laura”) once quipped that 1940s movie music overwhelmed the listener not only with foreboding, but with “fifthboding.”

Again, compare Steiner’s “maximalism” (no pun intended) with the oat-bran sparseness of today’s so-called composers such as Philip Glass (minimalist is too big a word to describe his simplistic, monotonous, scratchings) and Michael Nyman.

“The Fountainhead” is a movie made about giants, by giants. Reality be damned, this movie is worthy of “Citizen Kane,” “Metropolis” and “Double Indemnity.”

Now, once you’ve seen the movie, then read the book, which is even better! Do it the other way around, and you’ll find yourself “what-if”ing the Fountainhead that could’ve been, rather than basking in this sterling example of 1940s cinema.
Rating: 4 / 5

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