In Ayn Rand’s classic tale of “The Fountainhead,” brought to life on the silver screen in 1949, Gary Cooper plays the part of Howard Roark, an idealistic young architect who believes in not compromising his aesthetic tastes in architecture to please the general public as well as his critics. It is believed that the character of Howard Roark is modeled after the great Frank Lloyd Wright.
Patricia Neal plays the part of Dominique Francon, who writes a column in the newspaper called “The Banner,” approves of Howard Roark’s work against the opinion of the newspaper’s architectural critics. Dominique has never met Roark, yet fights for his right not to conform to the public’s taste.
While less talented architects are receiving huge commissions, Howard Roark is forced to do menial labor in a marble quarry in order to make money. It is here that he meets Dominique Francon, whose father owns the quarry in New England and has a summer retreat nearby. Dominique needed to get away from people and has other peculiar characteristics. For instance, she shies away from loving anyone or anything, and tends to walk away from a relationship that involves mutual love. The couple realize at their first meeting that they have a strong attraction to each other. Dominique is still unaware that her newfound friend is Howard Roark.
Roark is finally offered a job in New York and leaves without mentioning it to Dominique. At the opening of the new building, Dominique is present and learns that her quarry friend is actually Howard Roark. It is then startling to learn that she chooses to marry her most recent suitor, Gail Wynand (Raymond Massey), the wealthy publisher of “The Banner,” whom she does not love, rather than to become involved with someone she loves, such as Roark.
Peter Keating (Kent Smith), an old school friend and mediocre architect, asks for Roark’s help with a huge housing project. Roark agrees with the stipulation that Keating must take entire credit for the building as well as the commission, and Roark will brook no interference in his design, and his name must not be attached to the project.
All hell breaks loose when his design is altered. With help from Dominique, who conveniently has re-entered the picture, Roark manages to blow up the housing project and is arrested immediately. Roark acts as his own defense lawyer and gives a speech defending his right to produce an architectural design according to his own specifications.
In today’s world, I believe the ending to this film would be booed. It would never be accepted. Other implausible tie-ups also exist at this point, making this film an anachronism in the 21st century.
The Fountainhead (1949)