Re: Gary Cooper movie info request. (The Fountainhead and not Peter Ibbetson)

From: David P. Hayes
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.past-films
Date: Tuesday, December 16, 1997 5:58 PM

In article <, (FilmGene) wrote:
> …"The Fountainhead"… styles itself as an intellectual epic. The director of the
> film, King Vidor, was in what I call his "hysterical" period, beginning with
> "Duel in the Sun" and including "Ruby Gentry", "Beyond the Forest" and "The
> Fountainhead". …
> … The acting is uniformly good considering the
> circumstances and the foolishness that the characters constantly spout.

It's odd how opinions vary about the acting. Leonard Maltin in "Movies & Video Guide" says that the "cast does what it can with the script." Bruce Eder, commenting on Kent Smith in the commentary track for "Cat People," says Smith's performance is one of the few good things in the movie. A Cooper bio says that Coop didn't read the book of "The Fountainhead," and instead relied on advice on the set for interpretation. Not until he saw the completed film did he understand how he should have given his performance.

The acting does seem like mouthings of the dialogue. I don't blame this on Rand's screenplay nor on Vidor's socialist leanings. I've heard of Ayn Rand fans griping that King Vidor either didn't have it in him to, or deliberately wouldn't, allow a more emotionally-genuine conveying of the dialogue. I don't buy this. King Vidor's strength in visuals weren't matched in his abilities to coax performances from his actors. A good instance of this is in the pro-socialist film he sought to make: "Our Daily Bread." Therein, the acting is unconvincing, the emphasis wrong. (The visuals are striking, however; the final segment--the efforts to build the aqueduct--done without dialogue but with energetic music and incredible pacing that let's the viewer experience the reawakened enthusiasm of the workers as their apathy transforms into exhilaration--is among the most inspiring of film sequences.)

> And it isn't that the film is hard to understand -- it's just that you cannot
> believe what you are hearing. Cooper's speech at the trial is muddled and
> completely unconvincing. He appears to be saying that he blew up several blocks
> of a large city because his artistic integrity was violated. The jury
> ludicrously acquits him of the crime he admitted. It's a little like Timothy
> McVeigh being acquitted because the jury agreed with his philosophy.

It doesn't matter how many blocks (it's all the same development) as the trial is strictly on whether a criminal act was committed. The judge specifically instructs the jury that financial loss was not to be considered by them. Monetary damages would be determined at a civil trial later, the judge tells them.

In the post-trial scene, the developer played by Ray Collins tells the acquitted architect that Collins has bought the dynamited site and the plans; this settles the financial matter. Collins's belief in Cooper's architecture has prompted him to accept the additional expense in order to secure Cooper's creation of more structures for him.

Cooper's defense of the criminal charges rest on non-payment to him of the terms previously accepted by all parties, and the spurning rebuffs of the unresponsiveness, callous bureaucrats who brazenly contend that their noble cause justifies the trampling of (negotiated) rights. An alternative for redress was denied.

The dynamiting of the housing project takes place when no people are present (other than a volunteer witness, the architect's lover); even the night watchman is dispatched on a ruse. There weren't hundreds of people in the building, as there was at that Federal Building a few years ago.

The Oklahoma City bombing in which McVeigh and Nichols participated (allegedly, I hesitate to add, as one of them has yet been judged guilty in court) differ in these regards. McVeigh and Nichols are said to have chose the hour of their destruction specifically to affect the most people and to attract the most attention. (A few hours earlier, office workers would have still been at home, yet the cleaning crew would have finished for the night. What's weirder still is that McVeigh and Nichols were allegedly trying to promote a white-supremacist cause, yet the bombs were detonated when the Federal Building was populated by the mostly-white office workers and not the mostly- minority cleaning crew. The bizarre thinking of the radical has the makings of a psychology dissertation. End of digression.)

Gene, you had reasonable cause to bring up the McVeigh and Nichols actions. There is at least a superficial similarity. I contend that it is only a similarity of particulars, not underlying purpose, and that the two cases warrant different evaluations.

-- David Hayes


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