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The Fountainhead (1949)

Approved | | Drama, Romance | 2 July 1949 (USA)
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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.

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(screenplay), (novel)
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Kent Smith ...
Robert Douglas ...
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Moroni Olsen ...
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Jerome Cowan ...
Alvah Scarret
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Storyline

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>

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Monumental Best-Seller! Towering Screen Triumph! See more »

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Drama | Romance

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Approved | See all certifications »
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2 July 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Le rebelle  »

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(RCA Sound System)

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1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

It only took 59 days to shoot the movie. See more »

Goofs

When the Banner prints its front page story "The Truth about Howard Roark", a six-paragraph story is shown - but the first three paragraphs of the story are exactly the same as the last three paragraphs. See more »

Quotes

Howard Roark: [delivering the closing statements of his own defense] 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, but he left them a gift they had not conceived of, and he lifted darkness off the earth. Through out the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision. The great creators, the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors, stood alone against ...
[...]
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Connections

Referenced in Lost in America (1985) 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.


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