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The Fountainhead (1949)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 2 July 1949 (USA)
2:17 | Trailer

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An uncompromising, visionary architect struggles to maintain his integrity and individualism despite personal, professional and economic pressures to conform to popular standards.



(screenplay), (novel)



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Complete credited cast:
Alvah Scarret


Individualistic and idealistic architect Howard Roark is expelled from college because his designs fail to fit with existing architectural thinking. He seems unemployable but finally lands a job with like-minded Henry Cameron, however within a few years Cameron drinks himself to death, warning Roark that the same fate awaits unless he compromises his ideals. Roark is determined to retain his artistic integrity at all costs. Written by Col Needham <col@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


No Man Takes What's Mine ! See more »


Drama | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

2 July 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Le rebelle  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


King Vidor was Ayn Rand's personal choice for the movie's director, as was its star Gary Cooper. See more »


When Dominique is taking the construction elevator to the top of the skyscraper, the camera (as if from Dominique's perspective) zooms in slowly to the top of the building but there is no elevator shaft. See more »


Ellsworth Toohey: I play the stock market of the spirit and I sell short
See more »


Featured in Shirtless: Hollywood's Sexiest Men (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

King Vidor Does the Impossible with Ayn Rand's Help
12 August 2008 | by (Vulcan) – See all my reviews

Veteran director King Vidor was assigned the impossible project by Warner Brothers - Make a film out of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. Broadly supported by actors and other subversive elements in the film industry, The Fountainhead is sort of a grandfather to the well-budgeted, big-studio supported "Independant" film so often made today. Gary Cooper, who was close to the pinnacle of his career at the time, all but volunteered to play Howard Roark after reading Rand's novel. Rand herself wrote the screenplay, and offered the same deal Roark so often repeated in the film - "It's my way or the highway".

Remarkably, Vidor managed to hybridize Rand's intensely philosophical and political dialogical essay (in the guise of a novel) with his own superb visual skill, and came up with a movie which, though it has its problems, remains interesting, entertaining and relevant.

Like Rand's novel, the film is about the noble struggle of the individual against society - and amounts to a socratic dialog between several intensely powerful intellects: Visionary modern architect Howard Roark (Cooper); erstwhile defeatist social critic Domenique (Neal); Contemptuous nihilist Wynand (Massey) and brilliant sociopath Toohey (Douglas). Although the film, like the book, contains a lot of overblown soliloquies and philosophical prose which places components of the story fairly far from reality, Vidor's visual style and uncompromising directing made the film work.

Howard Roark is a modernist amidst an increasingly collectivist neo-classicist society. Roark will compromise nothing of his own integrity, and will not lie, compromise or entertain any notions about doing anything for the common good. He is an embodiment of Rand's individualist-capitalist political philosophy, and eventually inspires even those who defy him to question themselves. But what will Roark have to sacrifice to fulfill his calling? And will he be able to do so despite his uncompromising approach to life?

Although many have derided Cooper's performance and have stated that he was miscast,I do not really agree. Cooper himself was disappointed in the lengthy soliloquy he delivered near the end of the film, and it is clear that he was not given enough time to make this scene as good as it could have been. By the standards of the time, a one-day shoot for a scene like this must have seemed like an eternity. However, today, I would not be surprised if a contemporary director would give an actor of Cooper's ability and stature several days and multiple cuts. Roark is a man of deeds, not words, and Cooper's unassuming, almost humble, matter-of-fact approach to the character is a surprising and consistent take on Rand's great protagonist. Nevertheless, Cooper is, in terms of acting, the weakest member of the principal cast. Neal is excellent, and Massey and Douglas are both unforgettable in their support roles.

Recommendation: Great fun for Rand fans, and those who enjoy politically and philosophically charged dialog. Not recommended for art-film fans as anything but an historic curiosity. Not recommended for fans of action films.

35 of 53 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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