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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of the weirdest movies ever produced in the 1940s
Not too many films can grab your attention with an atypical discussion of individualism, inspire you with a character's strength of will, disturb you with that same character's cold attitude towards humanity, and make you laugh at the script's stiffness and awkwardness at the same time. I don't really know how to approach my commentary on this strange film, so I will just list several of my observations.
--- I first learned of this film while watching a documentary on AMC about screenwriters' experiences in Hollywood. This film was chosen by the documentary as an example of what a screenplay shouldn't be! Indeed, the dialogue is melodramatic and positively stilted, since it is delivered by characters that exist primarily as vessels of philosophical thought, not real people that interact with each other. Does Dominique have any favorite hobbies, books, or radio programs? Or does she just sit around all day fretting about the inanity of the mindless masses, only taking a break now and then to throw a valuable statue out her window and onto some poor pedestrian's head because, as she says, she "loves" the statue? Gary Cooper even stuttered a lot of his lines like a robot, especially in that long-winded courtroom "climax". By the way, Cooper's character never seemed to be having fun except when he was getting fondled by Dominique or watching her trip and nearly kill herself while trying to run away from him.
--- At times, the film came close to acting as a successful examination of themes like resisting convention and finding one's internal independence and freedom, a la Chopin's "The Awakening." There are some provocative quotes that make good points on these issues. But the heavy dose of Randian anti-altruism that the script administers adds a pallor of mean-spiritedness and unlikeability to the characters and the screenwriter's points.
--- Rand apparently had a pessimistic view of humanity that was morbid and spiteful in the extreme. Are we to believe that all but a few people comprise an incitable, easy-manipulated, stupid mob of people? The scene where Wynand finds himself opposed by all 15 of his board members, all of whom are apparently spineless 'fraidy cats, typifies the exaggerated "It's everybody against one of me!" mentality that pervades the main characters' lives.
--- The direction was much better than I anticipated. And Robert Burks scored big with his cinematography. The modern black-and-white scenes must have provided him with lots of opportunities.
--- Zaniest quote (not word for word): Dominique is taken aback at how Gail Wynand bribed Peter Keating to break off his engagement with her. Wynand: Oh, people do this sort of thing all the time. They just don't talk about it.
--- Max Steiner's score is like Bernard Herrmann's score for "Marnie" --- it is pretty good and exciting to listen to on an album, but it is too emotional and high-strung for the screen. Oh, did anyone else notice how the piano player at the Enright Building's housewarming party was playing the movie's theme song?
--- Not enough attention was paid to the changes that the Gail Wynand character experienced. He went from strong amoral capitalist to redeemed supporter of the little guy to weak amoral capitalist in mere scene-changes!
--- How could Ellsworth Toohey, who is just a writer for a newspaper, manage to essentially take over the entire newspaper staff? How come Toohey never smiles or drops his scowl? And does he take some pride from the fact that he looks like and dresses like an evil John Quincy Adams with a mustache? Also, how does he have a hand in so many architecture projects? He's just a critic! Are we to believe that a cackling Roger Ebert hangs around the film studios in Hollywood and wields sinister influence over the producers and the films that they make?
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