Gary Cooper as Howard Roarke

The Fountainhead was a serious effort to make a good movie.  It’s so silly because it takes itself so seriously.

The book and movie are vehicles for Ayn Rand’s controversial philosophy, which says greed is good, and strong people take what they want without apology. She influenced today’s privileged “1%”and conservative Republicans, who read her when they were young, and quote her now.

Rand’s philosophy is still respected, and taken seriously by many people.  Others call her a tin horn fascist

The Fountainhead stars top actors Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, and Raymond Massey.

It is one of the worst movies ever made, and my candidate for the silliest ever, because it takes itself SO DARN SEROUSLY.

My best friend Corinna West, the smartest person I know, was one of many adolescents

Corinna West

who admired and embraced Rand’s “objectivist” philosophy. She has not let it go completely, even though she’s against most of the corporate “1%” whose leaders read Rand as adolescents and now say she influenced them.

Corinna thinks it’s wrong to blame Rand for the selfish greed that governs our corporations and Republican Party today.  The corporate boards and right wing politicians are misapplying her ideas, she says.

“[Rand] did not believe corporations should have human rights,” she says.

Rand was also not against helping the poor, elderly, and people with illnesses and disabilities, Corinna said.  ”[Rand] just thought the help should come from private charity, not the government.”

That’s a seductive argument, internally consistent and hard to argue against, but there has never been a time in human history when private charity came close to meeting the needs of society’s deserving poor, whose poverty is not their fault.

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Cooper and Patricia Neal: Love and Rape

Here are some reasons I think The Fountainhead is a bad, silly movie:

1.  The dialogue is among the silliest ever put on a screen.  People don’t talk anything like that. No screen writer would have written such wooden, unnatural lines for actors. It sounds like much of it came directly from the book, Rand’s writing style.

2.  The female lead, played by Patricia Neal, falls in love with the male lead, architect Howard Roarke, played by Gary Cooper, after he rapes her.  She admires a man who takes what he wants with no apology.  Apparently, rape, as well as corporate greed, are signs of a real man.  (Selfish corporate greed is embodied in the movie by the Raymond Massey character.)

3. Roarke designs a low-cost housing project. When a committee hangs balconies outside the apartment windows, Roarke blows up the whole development.

4.  Roarke’s defense in court is that the design is his. When people changed it without his permission, he had a right to blow up all the buildings.

5.  A long speech for Cooper in his movies is “Yup” or “Nope.”  But his climactic courtroom speech is several uninterrupted minutes of pure Rand rhetoric and philosophy.  When Cooper first saw the script, he reportedly said, “Lotta words. I’ll learn ‘em.”

5.  In that speech, he pronounces the word architect Are-Key-Tect.

5.  He gets acquitted.

The final image in the movie shows Neal riding an elevator up the side of Cooper’s enormous skyscraper  with Cooper staring down at her with his fists on his hips.  Two phallic symbols in a single frame.

It’s silly, because it takes itself so seriously.

3 Comments for this entry

  • Ken!Brait1 says:

    Hi ken,

    I still think you completely missed the point of Ayn Rand’s message. It’s a pretty one sided essay. Any Rand hated the movie, too. She didn’t think it was a great adaption either. Playboy did a long interview of her which you could probably google to see her thoughts on the the movie.

    You also have to put her in context of her times – in the 40′s when she was writing there seemed to be a pretty black and white choice between capitalism and communism. As a Russian escapee, she was coming down on the side capitalism with clear arguments that weren’t being made at the time.

    I’m starting to think that private charity is a lot better than government charity. 93 percent of mental health costs go towards disability payments. Whose recovery does that help?

  • urbisoler says:

    Ken – I see where we obviously disgree on other issues – Ayn Rand being the most recent (although I still need confirmation re: the DH). You are correct when you say that private charities can not even approximate the needs of the (deserving?) poor. What you didn’t say was that neither can Government provide for the poor and Government administrators take their (fair?) share up front. In fact, there is not and “never will be” enough resources to provide for the poor. You can tax the so-called 1% up to 99% of their earnings and will never be enough. Indeed, if you up the ante to 99%, then the 1% will be on the dole as well.
    There was a time when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were able to contain population growth. No more. Science has provided the means by which we often outlive our productivity. With 7 billion souls competing for resources, it is the considered opinion of Stephen Hawking that we will never succeed. His solution? Conquer and colonize space. Do you suppose we should divert critical resources for the poor in order to find another paradise in space? Ciao!

    • Ken!Brait1 says:

      My policy on political comments is to post them all as written, and not to comment on them. However, as a person with a disability who has collected government benefits, I find your use of “(deserving?) poor” highly offensive.

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