The Fountainhead

  • 1949
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

Ayn Rand scripted this adaptation of her own 1943 blockbuster, which did not help to clarify her obtuse Freudian symbols and her own philosophy of Objectivism. Cooper stars as Rand's hero, a single-minded architect who will not compromise his designs. Cooper is working another job rather than knuckle under to a design firm's stipulations when he meets architecture...read more

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Ayn Rand scripted this adaptation of her own 1943 blockbuster, which did not help to clarify her obtuse Freudian symbols and her own philosophy of Objectivism. Cooper stars as Rand's hero, a single-minded architect who will not compromise his designs. Cooper is working another job rather

than knuckle under to a design firm's stipulations when he meets architecture critic Neal. The two fall in love, but Cooper suddenly leaves Neal in the lurch when he heads for New York to take a commission. She rebounds into the arms of Massey, the arrogant, filthy rich publisher of The Banner,

which attacks Cooper's radical buildings once the architect's star has risen. But after Cooper creates a public housing project for an unscrupulous society designer (Kent Taylor)--on the strict proviso that the buildings never be changed--he befriends his onetime enemy Massey, while Neal makes

eyes at her ex-lover. Cooper eventually finds that his housing project has been altered drastically and blows up the unfinished buildings with dynamite, which lands him in court. In emotion-packed scenes he defends himself and wins, but before that time Massey, feeling helpless in his desire to

aid Cooper's cause, commits suicide. That leaves Cooper to wed Neal and begin building his "mile high" skyscraper in Manhattan. The final scene shows Neal taking a construction elevator up the unfinished, cloud-surrounded tower to Cooper, who stands triumphant at the top.

Swamped in the sea of words provided by Rand's garrulous script, Cooper is wholly miscast as the eloquent architect (based on the maverick Frank Lloyd Wright). Massey overacts, as does Neal (this was another of Warners' failed attempts to make her a star), and the entire production is bloated with

symbols (especially the phallic buildings and construction equipment) and pretentious dialog. On the plus side, however, Carrere and Kuehl provide sumptuous sets and designs, Steiner's score is brilliant, and the film is directed by the talented King Vidor. Vidor did what he could with the

unmanageable script, but it was a losing battle, made tougher by Cooper's obvious discomfort in a role that prohibited his usual monosyllabic approach. Vidor later told Sight and Sound, "I didn't think that Cooper was well cast but he was cast before I was. I thought it should have been someone

like Bogart, a more arrogant type of man. But after I forgot all that and saw it several years later I accepted Cooper doing it.") THE FOUNTAINHEAD features good performances from Smith, as a split-the-difference architect; from Douglas, as a venomous columnist; and especially from Hull, who is

electrifying as the old idealistic architect beaten down by convention and conformity. But their efforts couldn't save this film bent on confusing public and critics alike, which lost big at the box office.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Ayn Rand scripted this adaptation of her own 1943 blockbuster, which did not help to clarify her obtuse Freudian symbols and her own philosophy of Objectivism. Cooper stars as Rand's hero, a single-minded architect who will not compromise his designs. Coop… (more)

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