• Unrated, 1 hr. 54 min.
  • Drama, Classics
  • Directed By:
    King Vidor
    In Theaters:
    Jul 2, 1949 Wide
    On DVD:
    Nov 7, 2006
  • Criterion Collection

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The Fountainhead Reviews

Page 1 of 17
Bob S

Super Reviewer

April 9, 2007
could really get one star, it's that overbaked
Pierluigi P

Super Reviewer

May 23, 2012
Although the message it carries is indeed powerful and still relevant, the execution seems to fall short, as cinema just can't get a hold on that much philosophy, therefore most characters look like stereotypes, they are all too smart and sensitive to be perceived as people we could identify with, this same issue affects King Vidor's direction, it feels a bit stagy. Nevertheless the script has great quoteable lines and the art direction and cinematography are impressive.
dietmountaindew
dietmountaindew

Super Reviewer

January 29, 2009
fountainhead the novel has tackled into the oppositional conflicts between individualism and collectivism through four characters: peter keating, the second-hander; ellsworth toohey, the crooked intellectual who patronizes collectivism for profits; gail wynand, the egoist who scrifices his own individuality for power; howard rourke, the man of men, the individualist who stands firm on his own ground, the sublime presentation of american modernism. ayn rand's literature has been degraded by some as propanganda since the characters in her novel could merely be representations of her philosophical notions in human forms, and all these together are etwined into an illustration of objectivist philosophy, an ayn rand utopia, which praises personal interests and the virture of selfishness, BUT the unique difference is rand's brand of individualism as well as selfishness is a responsible one, just like sartre's existentialism with an (russian-)american twist.

as i mentioned in the review of gone with the wind, david o salznik once noted that any social problem would be solved in the movie as long as it's blended with a romance, which aims to consummate. so is the case of fountainhead the movie, which is a vehicle to demonstrate the mighty magnitude of gary cooper's machismo. audience probably walks off the theater in a pleasant mood due to the sparkling chemistry between cooper and the divinely sultry particia neal. in the original novel, howard rourke was acquited because the jury doesn't believe anyone who ernestly has such faith in individual integrity could be sane, thus rourke is not mentally prepared to pay the consequence of blowing off a building. ha. quite an irony, right? is ayn rand intended to provoke anarchy?

beside the fact that fountainhead is a cinematic adaptation of tour de force by director king vidor, its failure to deliver its philosophical concepts just bares the limit of cinema as an apparatus to sharpen human wits, on the contrary, cinema could blunt the human wits due to its overt saturation of images (respresentation) and fluent narratology which aim to exhilarate your percpetive sentiments instead of triggering your mind into meditation. in the case of fountainhead, it simply becomes a sensual legend in the celebration of the potency of masculinity: it's about an architect who raises his chin up to cope with all the obstacles, and him alone against the world. at last, the phallic male is rewarded just like all the old-hollywood pieces. he succeeds and walks home with the most beautiful woman in the scene. seriously, would you probe the meaning of being an individual or american collectivism after viewing the movie?

does cinema make you think? even it does guide you into thinking, could it be more than an elaborate indulgence of avant-garde aesthetism or blind-fold you into identifying with an ideology by this compelling aesthetics?
Apeneck F

Super Reviewer

July 21, 2007
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Ayn Rand's script based on her novel is not perfect by any means, nor is this film. But ... its point, its directness, its dynamic, its resonant impact is seldom seen and hard to ignore. A must see.
AJ V

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2010
A fantastic story about individuality in the industrial world, but the romance tries to steal the show. I liked it, but it would have been better if they could have balanced the drama and romance better.
jjnxn
jjnxn

Super Reviewer

March 23, 2008
Heavy handed psycho babble given the Hollywood treatment. Patricia Neal looks beautiful even though her acting here is often overwrought something that is rare for her, one of the great naturalistic actress. Cooper is adequate but he and Patricia Neal share very little on screen chemistry, odd since they had a torrid affair off screen that almost destoyed Cooper's marriage. Massey is terribly wooden which may have been a choice the actor made to show the constriction of the character but it's distracting. There is one really fine performance contained herein and that's Robert Douglas as the venal and amoral writer, he oozes slime whenever he's on screen. The film itself isn't bad but it does get mired in long talky patches.
Ken S

Super Reviewer

May 5, 2007
A Rand-ian call to arms!

Cooper is amazing (as usual) and the art direction is even better.
Michael G

Super Reviewer

January 25, 2007
I can't say exactly why I love this movie. The cinematography and set design are amazing. The philosophy'a also interesting. The hammy overacting and often extreme plot definitely help. But I think the "world" of this movie is great as is its dynamicism. Gary Cooper is great and as much as I liked Patricia Neal, I would've loved to seen Barbara Stanwyck in that role.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

July 20, 2014
I heard that this guy is a passionate architect, but he must really love his job if he built a fountain for his head. Man, that sounds stupidly surrealistic, but no, this isn't exactly what I was expecting from David Lynch's first film, although I don't guess you can ever predict what kind of film a three-year-old will make. Yeah, this is too old to be as trippy "Eraserhead", which is bogus, because you're going to need some audacity if you're going to be adapting an Ayn Rand novel. Granted, I haven't read any of her books, because, you know, contrary to what many may believe based on my watching so many blasted movies, I have a life to get to eventually, but she did know how to push the envelope further than they were capable of doing in Hollyweird, circa 1949. ...Mind you, she actually wrote this screenplay, but she went on to do the critically panned, yet oddly commercially triumphant "Atlas Shrugged", so maybe her dramatic competence was beginning to slip by the end of the '40s. Yeah, people, I think we can all agree on what is truly the most satisfying adaptation of Rand's "The Fountainhead": Rush's "2112" album. I don't exactly know how this novel relates to that album which Neil Peart says was largely inspired by Rand's works, or rather, "genius" (He must have found something better to do than read "Atlas Shrugged"), but I'll take it, because this film isn't exactly doing anything for me, though not for a lack of trying.

This film offers a good bit of style and a great deal of limitations, and heights in both go reflected within Robert Burks' cinematography, which both held back by and thrives on a black-and-white color palette, which falls over crisp definition and occasionally ingenious plays on lighting in order to establish an almost noirish flavor that is handsome, if not captivating throughout the drama. This visual style, in addition to such other artistic touches as nifty visuals, supplement the aesthetic value which is decidedly as impressive, if not more impressive than anything else in this narratively sloppy affair of respectable style. Of course, if inspiration stands so firm in directorial style, then King Vidor can go only so far with his shortcomings in directorial storytelling before hitting highlights, and sure enough, when Vidor hits, entertainment value is sustained, occasionally augmented by genuine dramatic tension. Make no mistake, much more often than not, Vidor falls flat, and about as often as he hits highlights, he just about embarrasses with his dated, if not outright incompetent missteps, yet the fact of the matter is that highlights stand, helping you in seeing the potential here. Although I have not read any of Ayn Rand's classic material, I don't suppose her dramatic competence was ever even close to the level of her thematic competence, for even in concept, this story is a hopelessly melodramatic affair whose sloppiness will be touched more upon later, and whose genuinely worthy aspects are very much worthy, in their establishing some biting histrionic intrigue, and plenty of intriguing themes regarding business' and society's interpretation of questionable innovation, and how innovators interpret the critical. While more limited than fans of the original, ostensibly non-cinematic like to think, potential stands, and it's hard to deny that when it comes in glimpses through commendable style and heights in substance. Still, on the whole, the final product is surprisingly mediocre, being a misguided take on a misguided story which isn't even sharp enough to be as thorough as it ought to be with its characterization.

Over-celebratory of its themes and shamelessly manufactured with its dramatics, this film needs more than just adequate flesh-out in order to thrive as a character study, and the characterization here, with its lack of immediate development and shortage on gradual exposition, simply isn't up to the task of getting you invested in contrived and thin characters. Nonetheless, as undercooked as the film is, it, at just shy of two hours, still has plenty of time to drag its feet, not just through cold spells in King Vidor's direction, but through meanderings in Ayn Rand's script, whose bloating in plot layering doesn't exactly gel with all of the aforementioned expository bumblings. Rand's over 700-page epic is adapted into a two-hour melodrama which is all over the place with its pacing and structure, with enough of the source material's dynamicity retained for the messy structuring to lead to some serious focal inconsistencies which make the final product almost exhaustingly convoluted. Still, there is something consistent throughout the storytelling, and that is conventions, because even though there is a potential for uniqueness, the execution of a promising story is so riddled with tropes that the final product stands as just plain trite, with nothing new, - despite its following themes of rejecting conformity to artistry - and most everything questionable about Hollywood formulas of this time. I don't know if it's simply the test of time doing a number on the filmmaking abilities of this drama, or sheer incompetence which modern critics disregard, but I'm just not comfortable with this film's very Hollywood lack of subtlety, which draws thin roles for too many of the performers - save decent leading man Gary Cooper - to portray questionably, and too many embarrassingly shoddy dialogue pieces and obvious visuals and set pieces for you to get past the contrivances which are even found in concept. Again, Rand's dramatic writing seems to have always been beneath her thematic writing, and this film reflects that through a layered, but startlingly melodramatic and occasionally unfocused plot that thematic value could make up for, and perhaps would have made up for if it wasn't for all of the incompetent miscalculations in structuring and subtlety which betray thematic value, and further stress the blandness and misguidance of this story, until the final product is barely ever truly engaging. Sure, there are compelling moments found here and there throughout the film, and there's enough of them for the final product to all but achieve a decency which is ultimately lost by utterly erroneous filmmaking that make the final product yet another misfire of an overrated classic.

Overall, handsome visual style and other attractive stylistic touches to direction which hits a few dramatic highlights to do a degree of justice to intriguing subject matter, thus, the final product borders on a decent state that is ultimately lost amidst the thin characterization, bland dragging, exhaustingly convoluted unevenness, genericisms, and dramatic incompetence which, behind a hopelessly melodramatic and overwrought story, make King Vidor's "The Fountainhead" a mediocre piece of dated, melodramatic filmmaking.

2.25/5 - Mediocre
Sylvester K

Super Reviewer

May 24, 2014
A rather superficial film that does not convey the philosophy of Ayn Rand to the full extent. Ayn Rand is not destined to write screenplays. The Fountainhard is about an individualistic young architect named Howard Roark who refuses to conform to the collectivist world by going against the restriction from the society to achieve freedom and self actualization. Now Ayn Rand's book was so much in depth that cannot simply be adapted to a 2 hour film, there are so many important events and characters missing. Despite Rand allegedly admitted he enjoyed the film's adaptation, she criticized the film for acting, production design and editing. I have to admit I agree with her. Production design was really bugging me, I hated the set, it was not what I expected to see in my vision. The rooms of the offices were too big, characters felt uneasy moving abouts. Also the rooms seemed too modern to begin with (even though Wyland did like Roark's design but he did not know about it at first). But the quarry was improvement from my vision, I liked the solidity and sharpness of the rocks. The editing seemed superficial, it simply only focused on conveying the emotions and actions of the characters but not the underlying messages. E.g. the continuous shift between the characters in the courtroom when Roark was delivering his climatic speech. The acting was awful, not that the actors are horrible (I would never in a million years say Gary Cooper is a terrible actor) but they did not follow what I would expect to see the behaviours of the characters (Also Cooper was too old to play Roark and he was meant to be redheaded to show how different he is from others). I felt Rand made the script too general for the public instead of conducting her philosophy. However, I thought it was ambitious and a nice adaptation that stayed faithful to the novel.
Anthony V

Super Reviewer

January 23, 2008
Not even half as good as the book, but has its moments.
August 17, 2012
There were moments of brilliance because of the content of the novel, but it was undermined by the rushed plot and Gary Cooper being his awkward self in struggling through lines. I thought that Patricia Neal stole the show with her melodrama.
August 27, 2012
Bracing, majestic adaptation of Ayn Rand's famous novel! Rand's famous (or infamous!) philosophy comes into play more towards the end. The rest of the film is high melodrama, but beautifully executed melodrama! The combination of Rand's script and Vidor's direction prove perfect. Max Steiner's magnificent score rings throughout, and Robert Burks cinematography is among the greatest in black and white film. This is the melodrama that "Citizen Kane" should have been!
April 25, 2010
Interesting overall concept, but NOBODY talks like these people in real life. NOBODY is this blunt and honest, so the lines were laughably horrid most of the time.
jes25924
September 8, 2008
If Ayn Rand had just written super hero comics, she might have been better accepted in general, or her characters might have found their more natural fit. Looking for real people in her writing is like looking for real people in Batman or Superman. A...(read more) ctually come to think of it, "The Fountainhead" may be closer to "The Watchmen", in reverse....

Anyway, it's not as good as the book, but it's a pretty decent summary. Rand wrote the screen-play herself...
rich17404
February 17, 2008
The book was better but Gary Cooper is so Gary Cooper cool in this movie and it is a great story based on the Ayn Rand novel.
February 12, 2008
This film is wonderfully bad. Actually it wouldn't have caught my attention hasn't Ayan Ran been the script write. Turns out to be quite similar to Soviet 1950s propaganda where a young man sacrifice himself for the greater good, except that this time the ideology is different. This super man following his ideal is totally ridiculous. But some scenes are just precious for instance when half naked, sweating and muscled Gary Cooper is stared at with lust by Patricia Neal while he is manipulating a jackhammer. Other than that it is really worth forgetting.
November 29, 2007
In terms of the movie itself, it was pretty good, but for me it was very hard to judge based only on the movie. I've read the book, and it is one of the greatest book ever written. The movie did a pretty good job of slaughtering the book though, which if you read the book and understand the story itself, i's very ironic. Ayn Rand wrote the book about Howard Rourke, an architect who allows no compromise in his work. He was made out to be the ultimate hero, the greatest of all men, the irony comes from the fact that Ayn Rand wrote the screenplay that was full of compromises. To begin with, basically the entire first half of the novel wasw thrown out the window, save a few, very few, key points. All contraversy was removed, save a single scene, which was severly watered down. Events occured obscenely out of order. Every character was severly weekend, especially that of Dominique. A plus was that the 2 most powerfull speeches of the book were left in, edited, by keeping ther effect. The biggest injustice of all was the abscence of cruelty, The Fountainhead is a very cruel book in so many ways, yet rightous in it's cruelty, it speaks the truth. The book is part of a foundation for an entire philosphical theory, the movie is little more than your typical B+W love story, not that I have any problem with those, but this was Ayn Rand betraying her own work, she sacrificed something graet for something average, those who know Ayn Rand know what an atrocity this is.
moviegirl50
June 30, 2007
Strange, riveting, tragic, & fullfilling. A little on the humanistic side, but I still found it to be an interesting film.
August 2, 2014
I saw this movie a few months ago it has an interesting storyline a little futuristic
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