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Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Fountainhead (1949)

An idealistic architect (Gary Cooper) who rejects traditional architecture refuses to compromise his integrity in any way. He takes work as a manual laborer rather than compromise his individualism by designing mediocre buildings for the masses. But his life will soon change when he's given carte blanche to design a building by an admirer (Ray Collins) and he meets his match in a willful woman (Patricia Neal) who shares his ideology. Based on the best seller by Ayn Rand (who did the screenplay), the director King Vidor manages to balance Rand's dubiously wonky ideas about "the individual versus the collective" with the slick sheen of a Hollywood melodrama with a touch of the deliriousness he brought to his DUEL IN THE SUN. Practicing her own philosophy, Rand had it in her contract that her screenplay was not to be changed and despite some interference, it wasn't. At 47, Cooper was too old for the ambitious young architect of Rand's novel but he brings a sadistic sexuality to his scenes with Neal. There's genuine heat to their performances (why wouldn't there be? They became lovers during the filming) and it's Cooper's last sexually charged performance before turning into the sexless leading man he became in the 1950s. Neal is pretty spectacular here. One of the few naturally carnal actresses in cinema. The stunning underscore, one of his very best is by Max Steiner. With Raymond Massey, Kent Smith, Robert Douglas, Henry Hull, Jerome Cowan, John Doucette and Ann Doran.

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