The Fountainhead 1949

The Fountainhead

Critics Consensus

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83%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 12

74%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,172

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Movie Info

Unconventional and arrogant architect Howard Roark (Gary Cooper) sees himself as misunderstood, having been openly criticized by writer Ellsworth Toohey (Robert Douglas). Taking a job at a quarry in lieu of compromising his vision, Roark becomes involved with rich, married socialite Dominique Francon (Patricia Neal). As he struggles to preserve his ideals and projects while competing for the heart of a married woman, Roark's reactions become increasingly complex and dramatic.

Cast & Crew

Gary Cooper
Howard Roark
Patricia Neal
Dominique Francon
Kent Smith
Peter Keating
Robert Douglas
Ellsworth Toohey
Henry Hull
Henry Cameron
Ray Collins
Roger Enright
Jerome Cowan
Alvah Scarret
Paul Harvey
Opera businessman (uncredited)
Ayn Rand
Writer (Novel)
Max Steiner
Original Music
Robert Burks
Cinematographer
Edward Carrere
Art Direction
William L. Kuehl
Set Decoration
Milo Anderson
Costume Designer
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Critic Reviews for The Fountainhead

All Critics (12) | Fresh (10) | Rotten (2)

Audience Reviews for The Fountainhead

  • Feb 12, 2016
    Utterly ridiculous yet strangely compelling. The characters are caricatures of philosophical concepts to the point that the situations they find themselves in seem to be fabrications just to showcase their singularity. Consider the opening montage of scenes, where different people are attempting to make the ultra-individualist protagonist conform to public taste. They are so overdone that one cannot take the drama seriously. A character like Roark (Gary Cooper) is an unstoppable force of nature, an iron will - it cannot possibly be good material for a drama. What is compelling though is how secondary characters react to him and how they are magnetized to his personality like Wynand does (Massey). At least Wynand faces some internal struggles. I suppose Ayn Rand wants us to see Roark as an exemplar, but he is no realistic character and he lacks depth - he is not human in other words. He is her interpretation of the Overman. However, Nietzsche would be horrified by how Ayn Rand sees his philosophy of individualism and when she tries to link this philosophy to American values and capitalism (see Roark's monologue in the court), the whole endeavor seems ludicrous. However, the strong direction by King Vidor matches the exuberance of the script and manages to create an interesting world full of tall buildings for the characters to dwell in. The beautiful cinematography helps too. No matter its failings, the film will make you think, although not neccessarily in the way Ayn Rand would like you to do.
    George M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 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
    Cameron J 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.
    Sylvester K 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.
    Pierluigi P Super Reviewer

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