The Fountainhead was first published in 1943, and it’s had quite an impact ever since. Its story is so epic and contains so many elements that entire films have been made about plot points that are only small parts of the overall book. Let’s identify six movies contained within it to marvel at just how many types of stories spring from The Fountainhead.
I already covered this one in depth in another article, but (to recap) the story at the heart of The Fountainhead is what happens when a mediocrity paradoxically hates and worships his superior. In Amadeus, it’s Antonio Salieri recognizing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s musical genius while in The Fountainhead it’s Peter Keating and Ellsworth M. Toohey coveting Howard Roark’s unmatched architectural skill. In both cases, the mediocrity gets unwarranted help from his better, takes his clients, plots his destruction, and ends up a miserable, forgotten shell of his former glory.
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House isn’t exactly the most well-known Cary Grant film, but it’s been remade several times in the forms of The Money Pit and Are We Done Yet? So it has quite a legacy. The original film involves a family buying an old property that they demolish and replace with something brand new. All sorts of horrible problems get in the way of the construction, turning it into an expensive, time-consuming project. But in the end the house is completed, and the family is content.
This is much like Part 1 Chapter 13 when Howard Roark is contracted to design and build a house for Whitford Sanborn. It is an extremely painful process because Sanborn’s wife insists on making numerous changes to Roark’s plans. The construction process is long and tedious, and Roark actually loses money on the commission because he personally pays for a major last-minute redesign to part of the house. When it’s completed, only Sanborn’s son agrees to live in the house.
The Princess Bride
In Part 2 Chapter 1 of The Fountainhead, Howard Roark finds himself destitute and forced to work in a rock quarry on the property of Dominique Francon, a beautiful young woman. She is entranced by his physical good looks, and she is confounded by how formally he treats her during their conversations. He keeps everything professional on the surface, but he secretly loves her. The way he reveals his feelings for her isn’t as romantic as the way Westley shows his love for Buttercup in The Princess Bride, though. But that film also has a young man working in a job that is far below his talents. He gets separated from the girl he loves for many years, she marries another man (more or less), and yet they end up together in the end. The love story of Roark and Dominique follows basically the same pattern.
Part 3 of The Fountainhead is incredibly similar to Indecent Proposal. Peter Keating essentially sells his wife Dominique to a rich newspaper mogul named Gail Wynand in exchange for a big housing project commission. Dominique goes on a cruise aboard Wynand’s yacht and the two fall in love with each other. She soon divorces her husband and marries Wynand. As a result, Keating falls into a deep depression, and his life soon falls apart. The only real difference between this and Indecent Proposal is that Diana Murphy didn’t marry John Gage, and she returned to her ex-husband in the end.
Part 4 Chapter 1 opens with a dramatic exhibition of Howard Roark’s skill as an architect. He designs a summer resort called Monadnock Valley for a shifty board of directors. He makes it unique from any other resort, and the board is shocked when it becomes spectacularly successful. They had hoped that it would fail because they had fraudulently sold 200 percent of it to investors with the expectation that they would never have to pay out any profits to them because it would go bankrupt. They built in the wrong location at the wrong time with the wrong architect. Where did they go right? Roark laughs uncontrollably when he learns that the whole thing was a scam. He’s right to see the comedy in that situation. Mel Brooks did, too, many years later when he wrote and directed The Producers (1968) about a couple of lousy Broadway producers who pull a similar scheme and get sent to jail for it.
Tucker: The Man and His Dream
Tucker: The Man and His Dream is a forgotten but excellent film by Francis Ford Coppola that explores the life of a genius who practically created the modern automobile. Preston Tucker’s cars were revolutionary, including all sorts of safety features that are now standard on cars (like seatbelts and disc brakes), but that were completely unthinkable at the time in the 1940s. Tucker fights everyone from the Big Three car manufacturers to the federal government to get his cars made. However, his board of directors makes unauthorized changes to his designs and he is taken to court for fraud. The media lies about Tucker to try to get him convicted on false charges, but he makes an impassioned speech at his trial and the jury acquits him. Unfortunately, his cars never caught on, but he did leave a lasting legacy with his innovations.
This is almost exactly how Part 4 plays out. Howard Roark comes up with a radical design for government housing that is not only inexpensive, but remarkably nice to live in. He is promised that nothing in the plans will be altered, but when the government gets involved, all sorts of changes get added. As a result, Roark dynamites the housing project while it’s under construction and stands trial for his actions. Every newspaper denounces him, and it looks like he’s going to be sent to jail. But at his trial he gives an impassioned speech and the jury acquits him. Whoa. Déjà vu. Anyway, he gets to build his housing units as he originally designed them, and he continues to have a successful career as an architect. So The Fountainhead has a happier ending than Tucker’s bittersweet one.
So Many Stories in One
We’ve got dramas, comedies, and biopics, and I’m sure there are other films contained in The Fountainhead. The point is that this book is special. There’s a lot going on in it. If you get a chance, it’s worth a read. It’s not necessarily Ayn Rand’s best work, but that’s hardly a knock against it because it’s still overflowing with great storytelling and insightful lessons.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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