The Fountainhead (1949) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Fountainhead1949

The Fountainhead (1949)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

In this adaptation of Ayn Rand's novel, Gary Cooper stars as Howard Roark, a fiercely independent architect. Rather than compromise his ideals, Roark takes menial work as a quarryman. He falls in love with heiress Dominique but ends the relationship when he is finally able construct buildings according to his own wishes.

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Gary Cooper
as Howard Roark
Patricia Neal
as Dominique Francon
Raymond Massey
as Gail Wynand
Kent Smith
as Peter Keating
Robert Douglas
as Ellsworth Toohey
Henry Hull
as Henry Cameron
Ray Collins
as Enright
Moroni Olsen
as Chairman
Jerome Cowan
as Alvah Scarret
Paul Harvey
as Businessman
Thurston Hall
as Businessman
Harry Woods
as Superintendent
Paul Stanton
as The Dean
Bob Alden
as Newsboy
Tristram Coffin
as Secretary
Roy Gordon
as Vice President
Louis Austin
as Woman Guest
Isabel Withers
as Secretary
Almira Sessions
as Housekeeper
Tito Vuolo
as Worker
Dorothy Christy
as Society Woman
Harlan Warde
as Young Man
Jonathan Hale
as Guy Franchon
Frank Wilcox
as Gordon Prescott
Pierre Watkin
as Official
John Doucette
as Gus Webb
John Alvin
as Young Intellectual
Fred Kelsey
as Old Watchman
Paul Newlan
as Policeman
George Sherwood
as Policeman
Lois Austin
as Woman Guest
Morris Ankrum
as Prosecutor
Ann Doran
as Secretary
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Critic Reviews for The Fountainhead

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (1)

Potboiler of potboilers.

July 26, 2003 | Rating: 4/5
Top Critic

The Fountainhead is by turns exciting, handsome, astoundingly awkward, fully committed, untowardly relentless, very strange, and a little creepy in its compulsive watchability.

January 20, 2012 | Rating: B | Full Review…

King Vidor's melodrama about individualism and creativity works better as cinema than as literature (it's based on Rand's novel).

July 15, 2009 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

It's the kind of dazzling film, shot in a fascinating German Expressionist style, that veers from being silly to being provocative.

October 6, 2008 | Rating: B | Full Review…

It remains one of the strangest and most florid pictures of its time, possibly of all time. It's also immensely enjoyable and startlingly steamy... a stylish, fascinating curio.

January 12, 2007 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Irresistibly campy Ayn Rand adaptation.

November 11, 2005 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for The Fountainhead


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 Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

fountainhead the novel has tackled into the oppositional conflicts between individualism and collectivism through four characters: peter keating, the second-hander; ellsworth toohey, the crooked intellectual who patronizes collectivism for profits; gail wynand, the egoist who scrifices his own individuality for power; howard rourke, the man of men, the individualist who stands firm on his own ground, the sublime presentation of american modernism. ayn rand's literature has been degraded by some as propanganda since the characters in her novel could merely be representations of her philosophical notions in human forms, and all these together are etwined into an illustration of objectivist philosophy, an ayn rand utopia, which praises personal interests and the virture of selfishness, BUT the unique difference is rand's brand of individualism as well as selfishness is a responsible one, just like sartre's existentialism with an (russian-)american twist. as i mentioned in the review of gone with the wind, david o salznik once noted that any social problem would be solved in the movie as long as it's blended with a romance, which aims to consummate. so is the case of fountainhead the movie, which is a vehicle to demonstrate the mighty magnitude of gary cooper's machismo. audience probably walks off the theater in a pleasant mood due to the sparkling chemistry between cooper and the divinely sultry particia neal. in the original novel, howard rourke was acquited because the jury doesn't believe anyone who ernestly has such faith in individual integrity could be sane, thus rourke is not mentally prepared to pay the consequence of blowing off a building. ha. quite an irony, right? is ayn rand intended to provoke anarchy? beside the fact that fountainhead is a cinematic adaptation of tour de force by director king vidor, its failure to deliver its philosophical concepts just bares the limit of cinema as an apparatus to sharpen human wits, on the contrary, cinema could blunt the human wits due to its overt saturation of images (respresentation) and fluent narratology which aim to exhilarate your percpetive sentiments instead of triggering your mind into meditation. in the case of fountainhead, it simply becomes a sensual legend in the celebration of the potency of masculinity: it's about an architect who raises his chin up to cope with all the obstacles, and him alone against the world. at last, the phallic male is rewarded just like all the old-hollywood pieces. he succeeds and walks home with the most beautiful woman in the scene. seriously, would you probe the meaning of being an individual or american collectivism after viewing the movie? does cinema make you think? even it does guide you into thinking, could it be more than an elaborate indulgence of avant-garde aesthetism or blind-fold you into identifying with an ideology by this compelling aesthetics?

Veronique Kwak
Veronique Kwak

Super Reviewer


The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Ayn Rand's script based on her novel is not perfect by any means, nor is this film. But ... its point, its directness, its dynamic, its resonant impact is seldom seen and hard to ignore. A must see.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

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