197 of 204 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Gets Better Every Time!
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"...
Published on December 20, 1999 by Jack Greene
100 of 110 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good "summary" of the classic novel
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...
Published on May 21, 1999 by Brian W. Fairbanks
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197 of 204 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Gets Better Every Time!,
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!
87 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You don't need to know about the book to enjoy this film,
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.
100 of 110 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good "summary" of the classic novel,
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.
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stark, beautiful, inspiring,
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 !
37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No, see the movie first, then read the book!,
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.
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow: a gorgeous film with fantastic monologues,
Regardless of whether you've read the Ayn Rand book by the same name, you can easily follow and enjoy FOUNTAINHEAD.
A black and white 1949 film that on the surface is about a modern architect, a newspaper writer/socialite and their tortured love for each other, FOUNTAINHEAD is actually a dramatization of Rand's controversial objectivist philosophy that promotes individual rights.
That, however, is not what makes this a highly recommended film. What makes FOUNTAINHEAD great are the overly dramatic film noirish scenes where ice princess and newspaper gal about town, Dominique Francon (played by Patricia Neal) rattles off long monologues that leave the viewer and innovative architect Howard Rourke (played by Gary Cooper) charmed.
Plus the film is just gorgeous. The scenes and locations are indescribably beautiful, particularly the party celebrating the opening of the Enwright House. That is one breath-takingly stunning apartment and yet all the stylish people floating through it have looks of horror on their faces. "It just isn't homey," one snobby lady notes as she searches for the neoclassical embellishments she's more familiar with.
Perhaps my favorite character is Gale Wynand, Dominique's husband and the owner of the Banner, the city's scandal-obsessed tabloid newspaper. A self made man, Gale hires Rourke to build a country home as a testament to his love for icy, idealist wife. No matter how many times I see this film I will never grow tired of the monologue Wynand offers to explain the "unspeakable struggle" that brought him from destitute poverty growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen to fabulous wealth.
Two other characters are worth noting here. One is Ellsworth Toohey, the power-obsessed architecture columnist, who uses his pulpit to control and manipulate public opinions and the minds of weak architects like Peter Keating. An architecture school contemporary of Howard Rourke, Keating is Rourke's polar opposite philosophically. A follower, who will literally build anything someone will pay for, Keating lacks the soul and vision that makes Rourke such a compelling masculine ideal.
I could go on and on writing about this fantastic film but I will restrain myself. Still I will say if you like the 1940s, film noir, gorgeous design, lady-like clothing and the good old days when men were men and women were stylish, prim and complicated, rent the FOUNTAINHEAD. It's a gem.
If you get disturbed when films do not follow precisely the books they are based on, this will could drive you crazy.
- Regina McMenamin
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wildly Excessive Melodrama Captures Ayn Rand's Diatribe Against Collectivism at a Feverish Pitch,
This review is from: The Fountainhead (DVD)
There is no getting around the fact that this 1949 movie is great fun, and a pristine print is finally available on DVD from Warner Home Video. It should come as no surprise that the film is so faithful to Ayn Rand's eminently readable, marathon 1943 novel since Rand wrote the screenplay herself and in true individualistic fashion, demanded that not a word of it be changed during the filming. Consequently, every scene is full of dialogue with her cerebral polemics, sometimes heavy-handed but often sharply clever, much of it highlighting her philosophy of objectivism. She has the ideal partner-in-crime in director King Vidor, who brings his trademark melodramatic flourishes to a feverish pitch here. The result is often laughable for its excesses but irresistible for the Baroque style Vidor fluidly instills with every preposterous story turn.
At the core of the time-spanning plot is Howard Roark, a supremely talented, uncompromising architect whose ego reigns supreme and whose selfishness ultimately marks him as a true success in his field. Interestingly, while Roark's designs bear a deliberate resemblance to Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie style, they more importantly retain a timeless, contemporary feel. His philosophical adversary is Ellsworth Toohey, an architectural critic for the New York Banner, a pompous elitist who values mediocrity as a means to subdue the masses. In between Roark and Toohey is the Banner's owner, tycoon Gail Wynand, whose successful climb out of his Hell's Kitchen background has given him unprecedented power to influence the masses. While he is Toohey's boss, Wynand gradually comes to admire Roark's talent and individualism.
Complicating matters considerably is Dominique Francon, the headstrong daughter of a successful architect, whose primal attraction to Roark is mixed with self-loathing over what she envisions as his doomed visions. Roark's polar opposite can be found in his former classmate and rival architect Peter Keating, a man devoid of ideals and more than willing to accommodate the masses to ensure his livelihood. Their various interactions eventually lead to a melodramatic climax which has Roark secretly designing an expansive low-income housing project only to see it bastardized in construction. His fate hangs in the balance as he cannot reconcile the compromise made to his vision.
While obviously too old in the early scenes, Gary Cooper is able to tap into Roark's darker side while dexterously maintaining his heroic standing. In quite a contrast to the amiable speech he gives in the climax of Frank Capra's "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town", he delivers the particularly lengthy, verbose courtroom speech with conviction. In only her second film, a 22-year old Patricia Neal is certainly a sizzling, glamorous presence as Dominique, and she makes the most of her rather impossible role even though Vidor seems to be encouraging her to go overboard frequently. Nowhere is this more evident than the hilariously over-the-top first encounters between Roark and Dominique when she thinks he is a lowly, testosterone-charged quarry worker (with one big gyrating drill!)
As Wynand, Raymond Massey is able to lend surprising humanism to a man who finds in Roark his one opportunity to take a heroic stand. Robert Douglas overdoes Toohey's effete manner, but he does become the villain you love to hate. The weak link in the cast is Kent Smith as the simpering Keating, melting way too easily in the background. Adding immeasurably to the film's Baroque dimensions are the crescendo-filled music of the legendary Max Steiner, the deep shadows pervasive in Robert Burks' masterful cinematography, and the almost expressionistic sets by Edward Carrere and William L. Kuehl (note how ludicrously huge Wynand's office is). With no accompanying commentary track, the 2006 DVD contains just two extras - the original theatrical trailer and a strictly by-the-numbers short, just eighteen minutes, on the making of the film.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pressure can have unintended consequences . . .,
This review is from: The Fountainhead (DVD)
Is what Howard Roark (Gary Cooper) tells Dominique Francon (Patricia Neal) about her fireplace. They're talking about er...marble.
This is in a scene which occurs shortly after their first encounter, when Dominique spots Roark and his muscular forearm working at a quarry operating a drilling machine into the stone.
After a long and prolongued silence which ranks among the best moments in cinema, she asks, from her height above the pit: "Why are you looking at me?" Roark replies: "For the same reason you're looking at me."
And if you think that's a good moment, wait till Roark's climactic speech to the jury. Over five minutes long. (What! A movie audience sitting still through a speech? Impossible!) and absolutely spellbinding.
The film version of Ayn Rand's bestselling novel was directed by the expressionist master, King Vidor, and the screenplay written by, of all people, Ayn Rand.
Who, during a pre-production party accosted Jack L. Warner and warned him that if he cheapened or otherwise dumbed down her work, she would dynamite his studio. She nmeant it. Jack smiled and gave her a cigar.
The Fountainhead is the story of a hero who wins.
By hero, we mean an uncompromising man of genius and absolute integrity. This seems as far fetched to us as Cyrano fighting a hundred armed swordsmen---and winning! (Rostand was a major influence for Rand ) It's clearly impossible. He's not in Russia, so he won't be shot, it's not that explicit--it's America, he's bound to quietly fade into obscurity and failure. It would be naive to suppose otherwise, so how can this be a triumph instead of a tragedy?
Thematically that's the question that Roark's alter egos Gail Wynand (Raymond Massey) and Dominique Francon ask themselves. Gail is the billionare owner of an "Enquirer" type of news rag who rose from poverty by giving the suckers what they wanted. He lives by the credo "Oppress or be oppressed."
Dominique wants to want nothing, the logical credo of a beautifull woman who is convinced that beauty and greatness have no chance at all in this world. We first meet her as she's destroying of a statue of a Greek god. She's fallen in love with it and can't bear the pain of neeeding it, or anything else.
As usual with Rand, these are tortured giants, not the "folks next door"
Critics of Rand are right in stating that they are improbable beings. (Name a great man or woman of history who isn't).
Roark does make Conan the Barbarian look like a wimp by comparison. But you see, that's the fun of it. As are her villains, who are NOT romanticized ( forget "Bonnie and Clyde" , "The Godfather" and the rest of zillions of ever so cool bad guys we've been fed by Hollywood for decades) they are chilling parasites, exemplified in the character of Ellsworh Toohey.
I'ts Ayn Rand, people. Teenage girl sexual fantasies out of Danielle Steele combined with the mind of an Aristotle! A strange but wonderfull combination.
And as to Cooper, Neal and Massey, their acting is phenomenal. Perfect casting and flawless directing by Vidor.
A true classic.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marred only by an imperfect performance,
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Ayn Rand, author of *The Fountainhead*, did a great job of adapting her novel for the silver screen. The screen play does a supurb job of picking the crucial lines and events, so that the plot of a 700 page book fits comfortably in a 2 hour movie. I highly recommend this film to the seasoned Rand fan and the newcomer alike.
Unfortunately, the tight plot and excellent screenplay are marred by sub-par acting and delivery. Lines early in the movie are delivered by actors who appearantly don't understand their meaning. The lack of proper intonation, emphasis, and pause make the plot more difficult to follow (so much so that it helps to read the book first). On the positive side, Patrica Neal put in an impressive performance as Dominique. Gary Cooper is also a relatively good fit for Howard Roark, although his delivery of Roark's courtroom speech and his expression in the final scene leave much to be desired.
In spite of these flaws, *The Fountainhead* and its theme are too good for anyone to miss. This is a great movie to see and a good one to keep.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Skyscraper Full of Symbolism,
This review is from: The Fountainhead (DVD)
I saw this movie the other night and I was quite impressed with a number of its' aspects. What struck me the most was the symbolism. There was a rather bold bit of sexual symbolism about a fourth of the way into the movie. There was a scene at a marble quarry with our hero, Howard Roark (Gary Cooper), drilling away into the rock. This image enraptures Patricia Neal who was watching from above. She's back the next day with her riding crop (but no horse). They banter back and forth visually like this culminating in a rather violent climax. This series of scenes may seem corny to many but it is an example of what movies used to do very effectively; show suggestive material without hitting us over the head with us. This is just the sort of artistic use of visual symbolism that modern American film directors seem totally unable to utilize. Modern American film tends to put it all up on the screen for everyone to see. Very little is left to the imagination with the result that most movies are unfit for juveniles to see. I'm not sure I know many juveniles that would want to sit through "The Fountainhead" but there's nothing in the movie that would give it anything other than a "G" rating. This despite the bold sexual imagery that it displays.
There is a lot of strong acting in the movie which is fitting because the movie is about strong individuals. The storyline is that society represses the strength and artistic abilities of the individual. The old adage; "to get along you have to go along" works to maintain the status quo. The person with truly new ideas is chased out of town because society abhors change. This is the premise at least. I don't happen to agree with it. Most of us recognize the moment we get married (if we didn't already know it by then) that compromising for the better good of all is the way that works the best. Some may say that society has compromised way too much but the world view that "The Fountainhead" portrays gets to be a wee bit too totalitarian. Nonetheless, the movie does an excellent job of portraying an eclectic group of individualists and makes a statement by showing the breaking point of each. The one survivor is honored by a quite spectacular ending. This may have been the ultimate in sexual symbolism.
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The Fountainhead by King Vidor (DVD - 2006)