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The Fountainhead (1948)

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Does anyone else think that casting Gary Cooper as Howard Roark ruined the movie?

He was 48 years old when the movie was filmed, he read the lines without any feeling...He just didnt get it.

I wonder how Miss Rand could have made such a big mistake casting him in that role. Cooper never came close to capturing the spirit of Roark. Or the youth, the passion and the vision he had in her book.

--O

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I mostly agree. I don't think the movie was ruined -- it's still better than most movies.

But yes, Cooper just did not get it. It wasn't that he read the lines without feeling, it's more than the feelings portrayed weren't what Roark's would have been. The only scene I can point to (without re-watching the movie) was when Roark was finally offered a commision... on the condition that he make major changes. In the movie Cooper's Roark agonized over the decision; the real Roark, though maybe heatbroken, didn't have to think for a second. The decision was a foregone conclusion.

Etc.

Cooper just didn't get it (which was a shame. He was great in High Noon, among others.)

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I mostly agree. I don't think the movie was ruined -- it's still better than most movies.

But yes, Cooper just did not get it. It wasn't that he read the lines without feeling, it's more than the feelings portrayed weren't what Roark's would have been. The only scene I can point to (without re-watching the movie) was when Roark was finally offered a commision... on the condition that he make major changes. In the movie Cooper's Roark agonized over the decision; the real Roark, though maybe heatbroken, didn't have to think for a second. The decision was a foregone conclusion.

Etc.

Cooper just didn't get it (which was a shame. He was great in High Noon, among others.)

Dont you think he was too old to play the part as well? He was 48, Roark was a man in his early 20's to 30's. His facial gestures are what bother me the most. I just feel it had a chance for greatness and it was ruined by Cooper. Anyone who watches that would get the wrong impression about the spirit of a man like Howard Roark.

-O

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The only scene I can point to (without re-watching the movie) was when Roark was finally offered a commision... on the condition that he make major changes. In the movie Cooper's Roark agonized over the decision; the real Roark, though maybe heatbroken, didn't have to think for a second. The decision was a foregone conclusion.

That is absolutely not true. Thinking was precisely what Roark did have to do. He was struggling with the toughest decision he ever had to face. What decision? His very real need of the commission and the integrity of his building. In order to make that decision, he had to exercise effort -- the effort of holding in his mind the full context of the decision.

Turning now to action, any individual, however rational, may experience temptation at times. He may be tempted to take a wrong action by an out-of-context emotion. This is in no way immoral, so long as the individual does not act on the emotion, but looks at reality and summons the full context to consciousness, thereby reclaiming his knowledge of the action's harmful consequences. When a rational man thus reasserts the facts, the temptation vanishes (assuming he holds no subconscious contradictions on the issue). In purely physical cases, the pattern is obvious to everyone. A person may be eager to eat a succulent pie; but not if he discovers that the juice is poison. For Objectivism, moral evil is the spiritual equivalent of poison. There is no element of soul or body urging men to succumb to such a thing; there is no inbuilt attraction to falsehood, brainlessness, or suicide.

The challenge of a man's life is not to struggle against immoral passions, but to see the facts of reality clearly, in full focus. Once a man has done this in a given situation, there is no further difficulty in regard to him acting on what he sees. When integrity is recognized to be a matter of self-preservation, <opar_262> its practice comes to seem irresistible. Thus Ayn Rand's eloquent reply, when she was praised for her courage in fighting the Establishment. "I am not brave enough to be a coward," she said. "I see the consequences too clearly."

(OPAR 261)

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DPW wrote "That is absolutely not true. Thinking was precisely what Roark did have to do. He was struggling with the toughest decision he ever had to face. What decision? His very real need of the commission and the integrity of his building. In order to make that decision, he had to exercise effort -- the effort of holding in his mind the full context of the decision."

I re-read that portion (page 206 of my edition) and stand by what I said. Although I may have been sloppy in describing it -- of course Roark had to think; any decision requires thought. What I meant though is that in the movie Gary Cooper looks to be tortured by the decision. My impression in the book is that the decision is already made, by virtue of Roark's integrity, and Roark is merely portrayed enduring contemplating the hardship that is inevitable. Even then, the decision making process takes only a few sentences: "Yes or no, Mr. Roark?" Roark's head leaned back. He closed his eyes. "No," said Roark.

The movie version's Roark has Cooper agonizing: "Should I take the job? Should I change this building? Roman porticos and Greek ornaments aren't really that bad, and I'd sure like to be rich and famous. ... no no no! C'mon Roark, remember your integrity!" etc.

I magine the real Roark's thoughts sounded something more like "What are these people thinking? Have they no integrity? Why would anyone want a building like that? Perhaps they can be convinced of the paramount importance of a building of integrity. No, apparently not. Well, this is going to be a long hard slog; I'd better give these folks the obvious answer and move on. Sigh. 'No'"

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My impression in the book is that the decision is already made, by virtue of Roark's integrity, and Roark is merely portrayed enduring contemplating the hardship that is inevitable.

The rest of your post is fine, but this is a very dangerous sentence. It implies that Roark has integrity, and so his decisions will fall in line with his integrity. But this is wrong, at least as stated. Roark's integrity isn't what causes him to make the choices he does. It's making the choices he does that allows us to say he has integrity. To put it another way, the fact that Roark had integrity up until that point did not change the fact that he could have evaded in that moment. Yes, even Roark had the power to evade. The reason he didn't wasn't because of his character...it's because he chose not to.

Now, there is such a thing as character, which can make it easier or more difficult to act according to your conscious convictions. When you have internalized and automatized certain premises over the cousrse of a lifetime, virtue -- while never automatic -- becomes what Aristotle called "second nature." So Roark's integrity was second nature, but in this most extreme case, it still took a great effort for him to make himself see the facts clearly, to hold in his mind the full context. His greatness came from the fact that he did do it.

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I have not seen this movie as of yet, although I am trying to find a copy of it so that I can remedy this gross crime! :kiss:

I am just wondering though, do any of the actors in this movie really stand out in your opinion? Cooper does not (despite being in the lead role...sigh) it would seem, but I am hoping someone does at least. Note that I have not finished the book yet either.

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I am just wondering though, do any of the actors in this movie really stand out in your opinion?

Patrecia Neil (sp?) who played Dominique was quite good, I thought. And the guy who played Toohey was wonderful.

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DPW wrote: "...It implies that Roark has integrity, and so his decisions will fall in line with his integrity. But this is wrong, at least as stated. Roark's integrity isn't what causes him to make the choices he does. It's making the choices he does that allows us to say he has integrity. To put it another way, the fact that Roark had integrity up until that point did not change the fact that he could have evaded in that moment. Yes, even Roark had the power to evade. The reason he didn't wasn't because of his character...it's because he chose not to."

Good point. Sure, Roark could evade, and there would be little drama in a tale about a robot whose decisions are made in advance by his programming. My larger point was only that I didn't think this portion of the Fountainhead dramatized an agonizing decision, but rather an agonizing realization of what would follow the decision.

...Okay, gotta run: hurricane's a-comin'.

:kiss:

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Patrecia Neil (sp?) who played Dominique was quite good, I thought. And the guy who played Toohey was wonderful.

Ah good, it is good to hear that some of the actors in the movie stand out then.

I forgot to ask this before, but overall, what is your impresson of the movie? It is quite accurate to the novel? What might you rate it out of ten?

Your opinion of it will not affect whether or not I see it, but I would like to have a better idea of what to expect than what I can gather from less reliable sources.

Edited by Prometheus98876

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Ah good, it is good to hear that some of the actors in the movie stand out then.

I forgot to ask this before, but overall, what is your impresson of the movie? It is quite accurate to the novel? What might you rate it out of ten?

As to its accuracy, it was as faithful to the novel as one could expect from a two-hour movie. This, of course, is thanks most of all to Ayn Rand's valliant efforts to ensure that the film was shot exactly as she wrote it. But the film did not have any real emotion to it. I didn't buy that Cooper loved architecture and that basically ruined the movie for me. Overall, I would say that while it repeats the events of The Fountainhead, it misses its essence. If I tried to judge it purely on its own merits, however, I would give it a five.

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As to its accuracy, it was as faithful to the novel as one could expect from a two-hour movie. This, of course, is thanks most of all to Ayn Rand's valliant efforts to ensure that the film was shot exactly as she wrote it. But the film did not have any real emotion to it. I didn't buy that Cooper loved architecture and that basically ruined the movie for me. Overall, I would say that while it repeats the events of The Fountainhead, it misses its essence. If I tried to judge it purely on its own merits, however, I would give it a five.

I got the same impression and chalked it up to the period. I very rarely believe the acting in old movies.

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For me, Gary Cooper's performance was the most disappointing element of the movie. I have watched it once (15 years ago), and have no desire to re-watch it, because I don't wan't to contaminate my mental image of the novel with those from the film. I thought that Cooper's courtroom speech was poor, as if he was reading the script against his will. I think that the performances of Dominique and Toohey were good, but that's not adequate compensation.

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My two cents is that the above posts are too hard on Gary Cooper. I agree that he was probably too old for the part, but I thought he gave a reasonably good performance. Gary Cooper had a reserved demeanor and non-argumentative style that wasn't well suited to conveying intellectual positions; he was a lot better with movies like Sergeant York and High Noon, where the heros really were Gary Cooper vehicles. Probably someone else would have been better, but his star power was tremendous and I don't think his contribution ranks near the top of the movie's problems.

Audiences of that period would have understood that every word out of Gary Cooper's mouth was important, and they would have listened closely and considered that if Gary Cooper was saying it, it must have credibility. Of course you want the audience to THINK and understand the argument for themselves, and a better delivery would have helped that, but a factor like the credibility Gary Cooper brought to a movie is not to be discounted. And though he was older, he did have "the look" of substance Rand properly wanted. He was fully identified as an American Hero because of his demeanor and the characters he played, and the audience would have identified with him in this role as another variation of that All-American style.

True, Cooper's delivery of the courtroom speech was not the best, but I disagree about the scene with the committee adding the Greek ornament. I thought Cooper played that fine -- any flesh and blood person sentencing himself to close down his business would also have to grit his teeth before pronouncing the sentence.

My nominee for best actor is definitely Robert Douglas, who played Toohey. I've seen Douglas in a number of other films and he was excellent playing bad guys. He didn't seem to have any trouble understanding HIS character. He really did a good job of portaying the depravity of the sneering leftist intellectual style.

Then there's Raymond Massey (Gail Wynand). He's a very formidable actor and generally is good with strong roles, but I think he comes across as a robot in this movie. I don't think he's terrible, and sometimes he delivers well (like when dictating to his secretary the part that ends "And where do we find it-- in a man like Howard Roark!). However, sometimes his lines are delivered in matter-of-fact monitone that's really detracting... as in the scenes where he is talking to Roark in his office, or that scene where he kisses Dominque and she turns away, which leads me to:

I also think Patricia Neal (Dominique) was one of the weaker perfomances. She comes across as borderline psychotic at certain points of the movie (eg - when Wynand tells her that he has given Roark the commission for their house). It's been a while since I've reread Fountainhead but I don't remember the real character ever to approach anything I would characterize as hysterical. And there are a couple of scenes where that word would apply to Patricia Neal.

My own personal experience is that it helps immensely if one sits down in a dark room with this movie and CONCENTRATES on it, rather than being distracted with the dog, the cat, the telephone, etc. Just like her books, every word and every scene is important, and if one's attention strays while watching it then it's hard to appreciate the full effect. If you go in realizing that this isn't a normal 2000's movie with lots of fluff and tangential humor and trivial characterization, then you come away thinking the film is pretty good. If you sit down with a beer and a magazine and glance up at it occasionally, you'll think it's awful.

PS -- the music is very good too.

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Dont you think he was too old to play the part as well? He was 48, Roark was a man in his early 20's to 30's. His facial gestures are what bother me the most. I just feel it had a chance for greatness and it was ruined by Cooper. Anyone who watches that would get the wrong impression about the spirit of a man like Howard Roark.

-O

i thought Cooper was excellent in capturing the essence of a strong man...I was riveted by his performance, age nonewithstanding

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There is a moment of real splendor in the film, and that is when Dominique wakes up in her house the next morning after Roark's passionate visit. The fully self-assertive way she walks to the window and throws open the curtain, as if signifying that the world has something of value to offer her, is magnificent.

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There is a moment of real splendor in the film, and that is when Dominique wakes up in her house the next morning after Roark's passionate visit. The fully self-assertive way she walks to the window and throws open the curtain, as if signifying that the world has something of value to offer her, is magnificent.

i don't remember that scene, and i can bet i wouldn't have read into the metaphoric sense of the curtains being drawn as u did! ur probably right though

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I believe Ayn Rand admired Cooper more for his conformity to the physical ideal of masculinity than for his acting. Personally, I think he was a poor actor, the Kevin Costner of his era. Sadly, this movie simply could not be The Fountainhead with him at the helm.

With all due respect to those who have stated otherwise, I also believe that the actor who portrayed Toohey really didn't "get it." In the novel, Toohey is so dangerous because of his misapplication of great insight and intellect (driven by his bankrupt core values). The actor in the movie to my view played him more as a straight heel, oblivious to the nature of a true Toohey - a serious misrepresentation.

Lastly, I just don't think the novel could translate well into a Hollywood-friendly length film, although I admire the ambition to accomplish this. I rented this movie maybe 15 years ago to show to a group of friends, knowing that Rand thought it a proper reflection of her work and hoping to introduce them to Objectivism through it. Unfortunately, it just left them scratching their heads. They simply found it to be a mediocre movie, as (regretably) did I. The gap between what I wanted to think and what I actually saw was unbridgeable; the reaction of 3 intelligent friends showed me that the film didn't adequately transcend its limitations to communicate the Objectivist world view.

Again, I am not trying to be disrespectful. I know I am new here and am not simply trying to make waves; I was sincerely disappointed by the movie, though, and could not recommend it.

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I believe Ayn Rand admired Cooper more for his conformity to the physical ideal of masculinity than for his acting. Personally, I think he was a poor actor
Maybe. But take a look at von Sternberg's Morocco. Cooper turns in a beautiful portrayal of supercilliousness. And how can anyone not savor the sexual tension between Cooper and Dietrich?

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The other criticism I have of The Fountainhead is that, for some inexplicable reason, the movie starts with Roark relegating himself to the quarry run by the Francons.

I realize that Rand wrote the screenplay, but for me, it misses some valuable content of the original book.

I also found Gary Cooper to be a disappointing effort in this movie. However, Raymond Massey's Gail Wynand and Patricia Neal's Dominique were superb!

Edited by Yes

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I haven't seen this posted anywhere: The Fountainhead is scheduled for release on DVD the first week of November.

The Fountainhead @ Warner Home Video (I hope this isn't considered unwelcome advertising.)

I know that opinions of this have been mixed, to say the least, but I'll be picking this up, as I've never had the chance to see it for myself.

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The other criticism I have of The Fountainhead is that, for some inexplicable reason, the movie starts with Roark relegating himself to the quarry run by the Francons.

I realize that Rand wrote the screenplay, but for me, it misses some valuable content of the original book.

I also found Gary Cooper to be a disappointing effort in this movie. However, Raymond Massey's Gail Wynand and Patricia Neal's Dominique were superb!

How can a screenplay possibly cover such a lengthy tome as The Fountainhead?! Ayn Rand did cover all the "valuable" content -- what was missing for you then?

The inexplicable is quite explicable. Roark working at the quarry shows he is not afraid of work, that a man must produce for himself and not live off of another man, even if that means labouring in the quarries. It also has the effect of showing a great character arc; Roard becomes a sublime architect.

Gary Cooper disappointing you is something that I can't argue with as that is more opinion than anything; I liked his performance immensely. I see the ideal man as being a little stiff.

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I liked Cooper. I thought he did a good job portraying Roark. I liked Wynand, too. I thought the woman who played Dominique Francon did a poor job. I was hardly convinced.

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Howdy All, Whilst perusing the stacks in the rather extravagant collection of DVD’s at my local library today, I stumbled upon a DVD copy of the 1948 “The Fountainhead”, staring Gary Cooper as Howard Roark. I only mention this because I scour the DVD stacks; as I scour the rest of the library, two or three times a week, and though I have many times stumbled across the five copies of “The Passion of Ayn Rand”, I have never stumbled across “The Fountainhead”, not even once. Now I have never seen this movie, although I have read the book, and just recently finished the unabridged audio book. So I have the story reasonably fresh in my mind. First off let me express my jealousy of Ayn Rand. As one that is making the journey to forty, I am jealous of her for not only publishing a novel before 40, but also writing the screenplay and having it made into a movie well before 50. Like Gaius Julius and the statue of Alexander; many times I think of Ayn Rand, shake my head and vow to do something great. As for the movie, I think it was pretty damn good. It is by no stretch the book. However since the screenplay is written by Rand, the message was brought across if in a somewhat Hollywood way. In fact the one thing that really came across to me in the writing is that there is a tacit assumption that the viewer knows a least something about the story, or has in read the novel. At the same time there is no apology made for the movie not being the book. I think perhaps for it’s time this is the best translation of a novel into a book that I have seen. Although I by no means claim to be an expert in historic cinema, so watch the movie for yourself, and decide on your own. SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! Now I do have a few gripes with the movie. Most are just my own picky expectations. One though that stands out is the final scene with Gail Wynand. I know it is the movie and not the book, but did I miss something? I know Wynand is first introduced in the book as thinking of suicide, but unless I missed something he chooses to live at the end. I could be wrong, I may be mistaken, but the final scene with Wynand in the movie really threw me for a loop. Gripes and nit picking aside, I would recommend this movie to any that claim to be fans of Ayn Rand. I consider it as time well spent, and that is a recommendation that I do not give lightly.Rob

[repetition whacked: d.o.]

Edited by DavidOdden

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