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Howard Roark Rises: The Fountainhead

When The Fountainhead went before the cameras, Ayn Rand had written two screenplays that had been produced, had done considerable work on a proposed movie about the development of the atomic bomb9, and had been one of several writers employed on The Conspirators but little or nothing of her work on the latter survived rewrites and she was not among the two credited on screen.  (Read this author’s report on the film and his speculation he made about Ayn Rand’s contribution to it based on some coincidental similarity to her known work.  This was written prior to the author learning how little of hers is in the final film.)  For her, such work was a job, and she would write a friend that this employment was a step she was taking to rise to a position where she could oversee a resurgence of romantic art on screen.10  She didn’t deny that the money she earned was an enticement.  The studio hierarchy, she said in this letter, “like my work—and I don’t like it.  I don’t like the fact that what actually reaches the screen is just a distorted mess of what I had intended.  Not so much because they rewrite it—no, it’s more stupid than that.  They okay a script as I did it—then the actors and directors on the set adlib it out of all sense; then the producer cuts it in the cutting room in such a way that what is left doesn’t make the sense intended.  However, I expected all that, so I’m not whining.”

If she “expected all that,” it was because most writers before her had experienced this.  Producers had their own judgments about what content should be in the pictures they oversaw and dictated that this content be integrated into scripts.  Hal Wallis seems to have been determined at the time that all of his pictures have a positive reference to Christianity.  Ayn Rand apparently obliged, for the one religious touch in each of her two produced Wallis scripts fit so well into the completed films that they appear the work of the same mind which composed each film as a whole.  In You Came Along, in the film’s one brief scene to take place in a church, after the priest asks his parishioners to pray, Ivy looks reverently upward and (in a voiceover) her inner mind states, “Dear God, I thank you for every day I have him.”  Bob looks at her with appreciation and then (in his own voiceover) he relates to himself and to the audience his own religious thought: “I am grateful for the happiness you’ve given me.  I have nothing to regret and nothing to ask.”  Quite apart from the implication that these characters recognize a supreme being, Ayn Rand (or the contributor who actually wrote these lines) nonetheless also conveyed to the audience the value one human being can have to another and that a good man doesn’t look to God for an evaluation of his moral worth nor does he seek what he cannot himself earn.

A visit with a bishop in Love Letters prompts Singleton to mention that she reads the Bible and that she enjoys it very much.  In communicating what value she gleans from the Bible, Singleton quotes a favorite passage: “What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul.”  Ayn Rand had exposed the contrapositive of this passage in her novel The Fountainhead when school-aged Ellsworth Toohey concludes that the wise man would collect souls.  In Love Letters, for the amnesiac woman the quote is enlightening.  She feels a special affinity for the line, for, as she puts it, “I’ve lost the whole world and gained my own soul.”  If Miss Rand wrote these lines of Love Letters, she communicated her own discoveries about fundamental values even as she accorded her producer his desire for a religious component.

Miss Rand was not singled out by Hal Wallis among his writers to incorporate biblical passages.  During this same period, Hal Wallis produced The Strange Love of Martha Ivers from a screenplay by Robert Riskin.  A veteran Hollywood screenwriter, Riskin hasn’t multiple credits of films where religious content rears its head.  In Strange Love, however, a rootless gambler is all too aware that a Bible is to be found in any hotel room and this hardened man (Van Heflin) can tell his current lady (Lizabeth Scott, again) a parable from the so-called “good book” that he has found meaningful.

Before The Fountainhead completed production, Ayn Rand could no longer be instructed to incorporate messages for which she did not approve into her movie.  She would no longer be one of those writers who would see “the actors and directors on the set adlib it out of all sense” and who then sees that “the producer cuts it in the cutting room in such a way that what is left doesn’t make the sense intended.”  About two weeks before The Fountainhead went before the cameras, she arranged that she would be at the studio during the duration of production, without payment, to provide any necessary rewrites, in exchange for which the studio guaranteed that all changes or additions to the screenplay would be worded by her.11  By mid-production, Jack Warner decreed that no one at Warner Bros. was permitted to alter or remove her words from the screenplay.  This was not standard operating procedure in Hollywood.

In the previously-quoted 1945 letter from Ayn Rand to her friend, she had also written that she sought “a position in the studios when my pictures would be done my way.  This last is not impossible.  So far, at the end of my first year with Wallis, I have acquired a prestige with studio people which I didn’t expect.  It looks as if the people involved are beginning to think that when I say something I know what I’m talking about.  I already have a position that none of the other writers have—that is, more freedom about my scripts and more say about the results than is considered normal for a writer.”  On The Fountainhead movie, she would fight battles.  Her efforts to see that her work was not compromised parallel those of her novel’s hero, Howard Roark.  It seems no coincidence that Ayn Rand’s wording in her personal letter echoes the vernacular of Roark in expressing that he was motivated to see achieved “my work done my way.”  Getting the producer, director and principal cast members to understand her concepts was among Miss Rand’s challenges.  Much of her energy was spent fighting the censors.

The Fountainhead is the one Ayn Rand screenplay which above all others expresses the Objectivist approach to life.  Miss Rand’s novel had communicated the plight and the earned advantages of a man who lives by the ethical code of conduct delineated in the events of the story.  Her task once hired to write the screenplay was to highlight from the over 700 pages of the novel the most crucial details to present in 114 minutes of screen time.  After she had balanced the competing demands of plot points and theme, another force entered into the screenwriting process.  Citing a mandate obtained from the signatory studios years earlier when they had faced boycotts organized by religious leaders, the Production Code Administration conducted a review of each of several screenplay drafts and demanded that some messages intended for the movie be altered.


On The Fountainhead, among the more innocuous activities of the Production Code Administration was its compiling its standard chart itemizing the characters and how they were presented.  Rows of type on the page listed the characters, intersected by labeled columns to form spaces in which to type an “X” if applicable.  The categories were “Prominent,” “Minor,” “Straight,” “Comic,” “Sympathetic,” “Unsympathetic” and “Indiff.”  No character was matched under the “comic” designation.  Only two were checked under the “unsympathetic” column: “Newspaper Publisher” and “Architectural Critic.”  Under “Races or Nationals” was listed “Negro Bootblack.”  For him, the typewriter marked an “X” on “minor,” “straight” and “indiff.”  Proving that the PCA reader could miss details, the Italian quarry worker is not listed as a “races or nationals” character, although the film does give his name as Pasquale Orsini.

The standard form had typed upon it two remarks under “Liquor”: “Female lead has sip of wine with dinner.  Minor male sym. charac. shown tipsy.” (This latter is probably Henry Cameron when he rages against Wynand’s influence, although his belligerence seems to make his demeanor go beyond mere tipsyness.)  “Drinking” is designated “LITTLE” (a pre-printed category on the form), after which someone typed in “very little.”

The standard form had answers filled in on five pertinent subjects.  Three subjects on the same form were left blank, as shown here:

Type of Crime(s):  Dynamiting Bldg. Project 
Other Violence:  Dynamiting - Gunshot 
Fate of Criminal(s):  Acquitted 
Adultery ______
Illicit Sex _____
Divorce _____
Marriage  Ind. 
Suicide  by news publisher 

The Production Code Administration was troubled by depictions on the screen of adultery, unmarried sex, divorce, and denigration of marriage, as well as by depictions of criminal behavior and violence, and by criminals not being punished by the law.   Suicide was not prohibited, but its depiction had to accord with a complex sentence published within an appendix to the Code: “Suicide, as a solution of problems occurring in the development of screen drama, is to be discouraged as morally questionable and as bad theatre—unless absolutely necessary for the development of the plot.”   All eight of these subjects were listed on the standard form prepared during preproduction of every movie.  More specifically, completion of this form was prepared upon submission of every proposed story.  One might cringe in thinking that fascinating films may never have been made because with the first proposal to the PCA the readers had found that too many of the troublesome topics had been broached in the storyline.  Nonetheless, one can’t deny that studios were spared exorbitant expenditures of time and money on projects that never would have seen the light-beam of a suburban projection lens.

The novel of The Fountainhead had all but the last of these eight elements.   Divorce and adultery were among the heroine’s actions in the novel, but were excised from the story as presented in the movie.  Ayn Rand reconfigured the story for the screen so that heroine Dominique is at one time engaged to be married to one man whom she does not value highly enough to remain married to, but she breaks this relationship while it is still at the engagement stage, and does not actually enter into what would in the novel become a numbing twenty-month matrimonial union.  She does marry one man in the movie before going to the altar with the man she truly wants, but this earlier marriage does not end in divorce in the movie as it does in the novel, but rather ends through death.

Of the eight story elements that the Production Code Administration singled out when evaluating submitted stories, only one names a course not taken by a major character in the novel of The Fountainhead: suicide.  In a peculiar twist, after the negotiations with the Administration were completed, there was a suicide in the storyline of The Fountainhead that had not been in the story known by readers of the novel.

By accepting a suicide into the story, the creators of the movie could assure that on the PCA’s itemized form of troublesome plot elements, there would be a blank space alongside “divorce.”  In its place, there would be an “X” in answer to “suicide” and adjoining that it would be typewritten “by newspaper publisher.”  No correspondence discusses who ordered these changes, but we might surmise.  Within the Hollywood studios were personnel who knew the Production Code and who would suggest changes before a script was written.  The Production Code Administration had people who kept up with new books and were aware of which properties should not even be attempted as movie adaptations and which would require modifications.  Informal meetings often took place between producers and representatives of the Administration when a studio first proposed to make a story so as to agree on an approach to the story before significant sums of money were expended on acquiring book-adaptation rights or on creating treatments and screenplays.  If such a meeting took place for The Fountainhead, the representatives of Warner Bros. may have been reminded that the Production Code Administration would not allow divorce to be treated lightly.  Typically, divorce was not shown in movies unless it was justified by substantial details of bad character, bad faith, abandonment, etc.  Suicide was frowned upon too (see above).

The incorporation of a suicide by publisher Gail Wynand into the plot of The Fountainhead resulted in a quick plot fix while making but a minor alteration in the mettle of the character who commits this self-annihilation.  Wynand is a man of broken spirit at the end of both the novel and movie.  In the novel, his wife leaves him for Roark, the man she would have accepted years earlier were it not for her own innerpersonal conflicts.  Divorce and remarriage was the ideal course of action for the Dominique of the novel.  The PCA’s overseers of movie scripts wouldn’t allow it.   So that these two characters could finally come together in the movie, her marriage had to be dissolved without divorce.  The divorce would not be acceptable to the Administration given Wynand’s gentlemanly behavior towards his conflicted wife.  A change in Wynand’s behavior to make him a candidate for divorce in the eyes of the Administration would have wrecked Wynand’s function in the movie, been more damaging to the adaptation of the novel into a movie than was suicide, and would have required numerous precious minutes of screen time devoted to the grounds for divorce before justification would have been acknowledged by the Administration.  Given the options, the suicide was the best course of action.12

Oddly enough, when the form was filled out to indicate that three of the eight generic subjects that the PCA was most concerned with did not warrant an “X” in the box in the case of The Fountainhead, the one subject other than “Divorce” and “Adultery” was “Illicit Sex.”  That this was not marked seems perplexing given that the novel has long had the reputation of containing a scene of “rape by engraved invitation” (Miss Rand’s term—although she precedes this with “if it was rape…”), and that this scene was depicted in the movie.  That this scene was expected to raise ire at the PCA was not lost on the film’s producer and on Miss Rand.  This would be dealt with during the long years in which the studio did no more than prepare for production.

A Long Path from Sale to Production

Warner Bros. bought the movie rights to The Fountainhead in 1943.  Ayn Rand worked on the screenplay from late 1943 into 1944.  Nonetheless, the Production Code Administration was apparently not sent any script until 1948, which is the date of the earliest correspondence from or to them.  This was also the time that a production schedule began to be seriously considered.  The first letters from Warners and from the PCA indicate that the Administration was delivered a script dated three years earlier.  This is not to suggest that Warner Bros. was not considering the demands that would be made to them from the industry’s censors; a letter by Ayn Rand written in December 1943 to the editor of the novel, in relating her experiences in screenwriting and with producer Henry Blanke, said, “Blanke has given me no objections and no restrictions, except on the sex side—we’ll have to be careful of the Hays office and treat such scenes as my famous rape scene through tactful fade-outs.”13  (“Hays office” was a term used in Hollywood to identify the Production Code Administration.  This name derived from identifying industry self-censorship with Will H. Hays, who in the early 1920s was the first man hired by the motion picture industry to serve this function.  As a former U.S. Government official, he provided a good public image to concerned Americans.   Once the industry as a whole had appointed someone to head an industry-sponsored self-censoring panel, the position was in place for others to usurp.  Will H. Hays had from 1934 been inactive in the board that in colloquial references still bore his name.  Joseph I. Breen replaced him at that time.)

sidebar.gif (193 bytes) Relevant Passage Within the Production Code Pertaining to Sex

II. Sex
The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationship are the accepted or common thing.
1. Adultery and illicit sex, sometimes necessary plot material, must not be explicitly treated or justified, or presented attractively.
2. Scenes of passion
(a) These should not be introduced except where they are definitely essential to the plot.
(b) Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures are not to be shown. […]
3. Seduction or rape
(a) These should never be more than suggested, and then only when essential for the plot. They must never be shown by explicit method. […]

Reasons Underlying Particular Applications
II. Sex
Out of regard for the sanctity of marriage and the home, the triangle, that is, the love of a third party for one already married, needs careful handling. The treatment should not throw sympathy against marriage as an institution.

When Ayn Rand suspected that the censors would neuter “my famous rape scene,” she correctly projected how the Production Code Administration would respond.  They condemned the “flavor of a not-too-strenuously-resisted rape.”  They cited three instances where a fade-out or dissolve “suggest to us an unacceptable illicit sexual relationship.”  When Dominique, while married to Gail Wynand, tells Roark that “I’d leave Gail and I’d be with you, in your apartment,” the PCA told the filmmakers, “Please omit the … words … ‘in your apartment.’”  Furthermore, when discussing the same situation in another scene, they instructed, “It will be necessary to rewrite it to the effect that she is willing to wait for him.”

When Ayn Rand, producer Henry Blanke and the Warner Bros. fought for their right to depict the “rape by engraved invitation” scene within the film of The Fountainhead, the studio was not merely battling for the integrity of the novel.  They also gained an image that they would use often in their advertising.  (Shown here: Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal in the lead roles.) FH_invit.gif (29945 bytes)

When The Fountainhead went before the cameras in 1948, Ayn Rand had been living with some aspect of her work on it for twelve years.  In 1937, she worked at architect Ely Jacques Kahn’s office to conduct research on architecture.  The writing of the text began the following year.  Shortly after publication in 1943, she sold the movie rights.   At the end of the year, she had an office at Warner Bros. in which to write the screenplay.  She wrote in a July 19, 1944, letter to the editor of the novel that she had completed the screenplay.  She reported being pleased that her producer “made no changes whatever, except minor technical ones, which were very valuable — but no story changes at all.  It is still possible that the studio heads might interfere when we go into actual production and might start ruining things… [A]s things stand now my script will go into production as I wrote it.”  (In a December 18, 1943, letter to this same editor, she had anticipated that “the battles [over the content within the screenplay] will probably start after I finish it — but at least I'll have a chance to present my version.”)  It would be a version of the screenplay dated January 20, 1945, that the studio would submit to the PCA, but they waited three years to take this action.  Finlay McDermid of Warner Bros. acknowledged that this was a “temporary script” on March 12, 1948, when he sent two copies to Stephen S. Jackson of the Producers’ Association.  “[W]e are at present engaged in preparing a considerably revised script,” he reported.  A Revised Temporary Script was dated April 20, 1948, but was withheld exactly four weeks before shipment to Jackson.  More changes could be expected.  On June 21, 1948, Ayn Rand reached an agreement with the studio that “that any and all changes in or additions to the dialogue of the [Fountainhead] script will be worded and written by me.”  These were the words she used to recount this agreement in a letter to her producer on June 26, 1948, where her written words also made binding her obligation in this exchange: “I shall do this work without payment, salary or any financial compensation whatsoever.  I shall do it for the purpose of preserving the unity of style and conception of the above script.”  As the only person who could alter the screenplay, she would write new material when changes were called for that Summer.14

As with You Came Along (see previous page of this web site), the Production Code Administration maintained a quick turnaround schedule on the scripts and pages that they received.  As with that previous film, the studio often retained specific passages of dialogue from draft to draft despite having been asked to remove or modify it.  On The Fountainhead, the term “frigid woman” troubled the PCA.  The Dominique in the film eventually said “I suppose I’m one of those freaks you hear about,” but then finishes the sentence with a description of frigidity that does not actually use the word “frigid.”  The censors prevented the movie from ending the sentence as it did in the novel: with the words: “an utterly frigid woman.”

Just as dialogue was scrutinized for sexual mores, so were descriptions of visuals.   When the reviewers came to the portion of the script where Dominique has a lusty mental image of Roark controlling a power drill, they reported, “we think the present pictorial dramatization of her thoughts concerning Roark is offensively suggestive.”

The reviewers here recognized a unique way of communicating a woman’s intrigue over a man’s presumed sexual prowess.  Sometimes, however, the reviewers came across character actions that are so often encountered in screenplays that the reviewers could respond in a rote manner.  Such occurred when the screenplay calls for kissing.   Actors who interpret their roles can bring daring, excitement, intimacy and a rapid pulse to their kisses, but a screenplay typically specifies in just a few words that lips meet.  The readers at the PCA typically didn’t analyze the context, but rather inserted a boilerplate sentence into their memoranda to satisfy all concerned that they had communicated to the studio the limitations on depicting this activity.  Studio personnel possibly tired or became inured to the dictate, “the kissing should not be passionate, prolonged or open-mouth.”  The Production Code had stated, “Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures are not to be shown” (Section II), but memoranda during the 1940s often spoke of kissing that was not to be “passionate, prolonged or open-mouth.”15

Part II of the script was revised with the date June 24, 1948, but revised again June 26.   Both revisions were sent by McDermid to Jackson.  On June 26, 1948, McDermid sent Jackson “two copies of Part II to the end, dated 6/26/48,” and had to inform Jackson that the “enclosed corrected Part II […] supersedes the final Part II, dated 6/24/48, which was submitted to your office.”  Owing to the final part of the script not being submitted in a final version until months after the first part of the script, and to the studio slowly informing the Production Code Administration of forthcoming changes, the courtroom speech at the end of the movie was not debated in correspondence that was exchanged at this time, nor would it be through correspondence at any time.  When the courtroom speech was debated, it was only in meetings; no correspondence of which the Production Code was a party is known to restate what was decided in those conferences. Ayn Rand reported in a letter to her literary agent after production wrapped in September about these conferences:

As you probably know from the book, the most important and crucial part of the story is the speech which Roark makes at his trial.  This was the most difficult thing to write in a condensed form, and the most dangerous, politically and philosophically, if written carelessly.  We had many conferences about it.  There were all kinds of objections and I rewrote the speech many times until all the objections were met.

Ayn Rand listed, in that letter, conferences she attended with personnel of the Production Code Administration about the speech having occurred around June 14, and on July 2.  The Production Code Administration was represented by Mr. Shurlock, Judge Jackson, and one person whose name Miss Rand did not record.  Additional conferences she attended without personnel of the Production Code present but with people employed by the studio or their legal counsel, occurred August 31, September 1, September 2 (two conferences), and September 8 (two conferences).16

Many aspects of the movie other than the courtroom speech were haggled through correspondence.&nsbp; As the battles began on what would be permitted in the movie of The Fountainhead, the early skirmishes were over sex.

sidebar.gif (193 bytes) The PCA Foists Its Platonic Version of Heroes’ Love

The first correspondence on The Fountainhead was dated March 12, 1948, when Finlay McDermid of Warner Bros. sent Stephen S. Jackson of the Producers’ Association, “Two copies of the temporary script, dated January 20, 1945, of THE FOUNTAINHEAD.  Since we are at present engaged in preparing a considerably revised script on this subject, we would appreciate from you any observation about censorship problems as they appear in this temporary script.”

Jackson, writing on behalf of the Production Code Administration, wrote to Jack L. Warner on March 18, 1948,

We have read the script, dated January 20, 1945, for your proposed production “THE FOUNTAINHEAD”.  While the basic story seems to meet the requirements of the Production Code, the present version contains certain sequences which are unacceptable, and would have to be corrected in the finished picture before it could be approved.  We list these unacceptable items below:

At the outset, we direct your particular attention to the need for the greatest possible care in the selection and photographing of the dresses and costumes of your women.  The Production Code makes it mandatory that the intimate parts of the body -- specifically, the breasts of women -- be fully covered at all times.  Any compromise with this regulation will compel us to withhold approval of your picture.

Page 31: The relationship between Roark and Dominique in these early sequences is definitely one of illicit sex, as we read it, and hence unacceptable.  This flavor will have to be removed.

Specifically, we call your attention to the fade out at the bottom of Page 31, the fade out at the bottom of Page 48 and the dissolve in the middle of Page 55.  All three of these suggest to us an unacceptable illicit sexual relationship.

Page 55: This statue of Dominique must not be a nude.

The screenplay had originally dramatized the incidents in the novel involving the Stoddard Temple, wherein (in the novel) resides a statue which Dominique posed for nude.  Ayn Rand would write her book editor July 10, 1948, that the Stoddard scenes were eliminated after the dramatic flow suffered from their inclusion.  “In the original version [of the screenplay], both the producer and I wanted to follow the book too closely and include everything, which could not really be done successfully.”

Page 145: Please omit the underlined words in the line, “I’d leave Gail and I’d be with you, in your apartment.”

Page 162: Inasmuch as Dominique is a married woman, the dialogue on this page in which she offers herself to Roark is unacceptable.  It will be necessary to rewrite it to the effect that she is willing to wait for him.

You understand, of course, that our final judgment will be based upon the finished picture.

A Revised Temporary Script was dated April 20, 1948, but it was exactly four weeks later—May 18, 1948—that McDermid sent this to Jackson.  Jackson, writing to Jack L. Warner on May 21, 1948, acknowledged that his group had received the April 20, 1948, script, “and are happy to note the changes and improvements made therein.”

But he added:

We must again stress the importance, in the finished picture, of avoiding any possible inference that Roark and Dominique have engaged in an illicit sex affair in the first part of the story.  The important scenes are those on Pages 46 and 75.  In view of a good deal of the subsequent action in the picture, and more particularly the dialogue on Page 125 about “what we were to each other, etc.”, we would like to urge the importance of further elaborating these two scenes as to make it quite clear that neither of them are supposed to suggest a physical affair.  We believe this is most important if the finished picture is to be approved.

Page 33: We suggest changing the expression “frigid woman” to something less clinical.

This was a reference to a line copied from the novel: “I suppose I’m one of those freaks you hear about, an utterly frigid woman.”  Dominique spoke this to Peter Keating in the novel.  In the movie, she says all this up to “hear about,” but stops short of “an utterly frigid woman.”

(In a change probably decided by Miss Rand rather than the censors, Dominique says these words to Gail Wynand.  In both the novel and the movie, this admission by Dominique occurs early and before she meets Roark.  However, in that the movie skips her marriage to Keating (she now merely is engaged to him) and in that Dominique and Wynand first meet each other earlier in the story, the best solution to competing demands for character development and plot acceleration was to have Dominique speak her admission to a different listener.)

Page 58: Please change the expression “lousy”.

Page 139: Dominique’s speech at the bottom of this page still seems to be unacceptable.  Not only is it the speech of a married woman protesting her willingness to give herself to her love; but this immoral attitude is made to seem right and acceptable under the circumstances.  Such a flavor is in violation of the Code and would have to be changed.

You understand, of course, that our final judgment will have to be based upon the finished picture.

The next month, on June 12, 1948, McDermid sent Jackson two sets of page changes dated June 11 for the Revised Temporary Script.  On June 16, Jackson sent Jack L. Warner a message that “We have read some pages of changes (Pages 106-156) dated June 11, 1948.”

He continued by noting that a scene on Page 127 was “acceptable only if clear there has been no adulterous relationship.”  He then turned his attention to Page 144:

We still feel that the ending of scene 212 suggest a scene of a married woman giving herself to her lover… .

Page 146-148: As discussed with Mr. Blanke, we believe this long scene of Roark’s defense in court contains some very questionable statements.  Mr. Blanke has told us that he is rewriting the scene and has asked us to withhold any further comment on the present version until we hear from you.

Eight days after writing that letter, Jackson would communicate to Jack L. Warner about the voluminous material prepared and received in the interim:

We have read Part I (Pages 1-65) of the final script, dated June 20, 1948, for your proposed production of THE FOUNTAINHEAD.  Inasmuch as this represents only a portrait of the final script, we cannot, of course, render our complete judgment as to the acceptability of this material until we have read the complete screenplay.  However,…

He pointed out that Page 29 contained the reference to a “frigid woman” that previously had been among his objections.

Page 33: Dominique should be more fully dressed than as presently described in scene 55.  Furthermore, we think the present pictorial dramatization of her thoughts concerning Roark is offensively suggestive.  The utmost care will be required, to eliminate this over-emphasis on her lusting for the man.

The movie as released does contain imagery that connotes what Jackson found troubling.  As Dominique is restless alone in her bed, unable to sleep at night, her mind presents a dream vision (superimposed upon the image of her head at her pillow) of Roark maneuvering a drill.  The combination of Roark’s rugged muscular body, his knowing expression, and the forceful power tool, makes the instrument seem phallic.

Page 36: In this same connection, we think it advisable to [not] show Dominique reclining invitingly on the bed[, that this] be kept out of camera range in the photographing of this scene.

Page 40: The action in scene 66 is completely unacceptable.  As presently written, this scene seems to suggest a sex affair.  Moreover, this sex affair has about it a flavor of a not-too-strenuously-resisted rape.

Page 61: Here and elsewhere, the kissing should not be passionate, prolonged or open-mouth.   This is important.

Page 62: The conclusion of scene 154 must not indicate a sex affair.

Two days later, on June 26, 1948, McDermid sent Jackson “two copies of Part II to the end, dated 6/26/48, of THE FOUNTAINHEAD.  The enclosed corrected Part II to the end supercedes the final Part II, dated 6/24/48, which was submitted to your office.”

Ayn Rand would sit face-to-face with members of the Production Code Administration when people on both sides came together to debate what could be shown and discussed in the movie.  The producer, director and screenwriter of The Fountainhead represented Warner Bros.  A letter of July 6, 1948, from Jackson to Jack L. Warner, reported what had been discussed:

This goes to you in confirmation of the conference we had with Mr. Blanke, Mr. Vidor and Miss Rand, with regard to the final script, dated June 20, 1948, for your proposed production “THE FOUNTAINHEAD”.

It was agreed that there would be no suggestion whatever of an adulterous relationship between your two leads.  This will necessitate some changes in scenes 66 and 67 on Page 40, as the present flavor is unacceptable.

Also, the dissolves on Pages 62 and 128, as well as the scenes leading up to them, will be shot in such a way as to avoid any sex suggestive flavor.

With regard to the trial scene, it was agreed that there would be a summing up by the Judge, after Roark’s speech, which would clarify the legal aspect of the case, and give the Jury the proper grounds for considering Roark’s rather unusual plea.  We submitted an outline for the Judge’s summing up which Mr. Blanke took, and [which he] will condense and rewrite for the purpose of the script.

With these changes, we believe that the script now meets the requirements of the Production Code.  You understand, of course, that our final judgment will be based upon the finished picture.”

Fortunately, Miss Rand had undertaken to do her own rewriting.  Blanke may have promised the rewrite, but had contracted with Miss Rand to do it.  When she had written the novel, she had not had to separate “financial loss” and “liability” from “the specific crime with which” Roark “has been charged.”  She had not written of anything as anticlimactic dramatically as “a civil suit” following the outcome of the criminal case.  Now she was being asked to by those who had the power to block the production of the film.  She could not divest the administrators of their power, but she could minimize the damage to her work by adjusting it herself.

Three days after the letter recapping the crucial meeting (July 9, 1948), Jackson wrote Jack Warner again.  He acknowledged that he had now a screenplay which he attested had been modified to avoid the “sex suggestive flavor” that had been discussed in the previous letter.  He reported too the administrators having read the “revised pages of changes (Pages 29, 36, 40, 62, 99 and 100), dated 7-7-48,… and are happy to note the changes and improvements made therein… .”  He did not say anything at this time about objections to “Roark’s rather unusual plea.”  That aspect of the movie was being given extensive effort, nonetheless.

The “outline… for the Judge’s summing up which Mr. Blanke took,” as prepared by the Administration and referred to in the July 6 letter that had recounted the meeting, is undated and unsigned in the copy which survives in the MPPDA files.   However, on the basis of references to it in other correspondence, it almost certainly was dated June 30, 1948, credited to “S.S.J.” (Stephen S. Jackson), and circulated on the basis of dealing with the “philosophic concepts of this story.”  It was in this letter and its attachment that Jackson communicates most unmistakably that the moral precepts recognized by the Production Code Administration could take precedence over those formulated by Ayn Rand and expressed in her screenplay.

In the pre-printed form outlining the characters and those actions of theirs that might be subject to the Code, there had been filled in brief answers for “Type of Crime(s)” and “Other Violence.”  The responses had been “Dynamiting Bldg. Project” and “Dynamiting - Gunshot,” respectively.  Just five words had constituted those two responses.  Those five words now unleashed a mountain of fiery efforts to shore up loosened structures.  Behind the meetings and exchanges of letters was a crusade to save the integrity of a novel.

Jackson contended that Roark’s acquittal amounted to “an instance of presenting something which is wrong as being right,” that in the screenplay “[s]elf-sacrifice is regarded as the same as enforced subordination to collectivistic control,” and that the triumph of individualism within the framework of the story succeeded “according to the ratiocinations set forth in the script.”  He seemed to think falsehood usurped a place over truth owing to “what appears to be a confusion in the conflict of two ideas.”

This administrator would have had the trial judge of the film instruct the jury, “You are constrained under the constitutional guarantees of our country and state to recognize, however, the right of the defendant to his own concepts as he sees them according to his own conscience and intellect.  He has a right to his own convictions.”   Jackson himself seemed to believe that Ayn Rand herself was entitled to her convictions — but was subject to being shackled as soon as she tried to sell that conviction to others.  The man with the PCA behind him had shown himself philosophically hostile to Miss Rand’s ideas, even as outwardly he put on the friendly veneer of he who offered to “constructively assist in bringing about this change” in the speech.

sidebar.gif (193 bytes) The PCA Reduces the Scope of the Roark Verdict

It was in his letter of July 6, 1948, and its attachment that Stephen S. Jackson announces explicitly that the moral precepts recognized by the Production Code Administration could take precedence over those formulated by Ayn Rand and expressed in her screenplay:

The basic objection to the philosophic concept of this story seem to stem from what appears to be a confusion in the conflict of two ideas.  On the one hand, there is the condemnation of the subordination of the dignity, idealism, and intellectual freedom of the individual by what is characterized as “collectivism.”  Such a control and regimentation of individuals by force of an authoritarian state or regime is obviously repugnant to the American concept and to sound principles which recognize the dignity of the individual.  The antithesis to this ideology as set forth in the story is absolute individualism, which, according to the ratiocinations set forth in the script, is absolute and supreme.  The confusion seems to arise in characterizing the voluntary submission of one’s intellectual attainments to the welfare of others as being the same as involuntary subjugation of individual rights and prerogatives.  Self-sacrifice is regarded as the same as enforced subordination to collectivistic control.

The error in such a thesis would not be of such importance in this script were it not for the fact that this doctrine of the absolute supremacy of individualism… is formally condoned and approved by the court and approved by the court in the acquittal of Roark.

This unequivocal and unconditional approbation of Roark’s serious violation of the law and transgression of the rights of others is too flagrant an instance of presenting something which is wrong as being right to warrant approval under the express provisions of the Production Code.

It is suggested, therefore, in an attempt to preserve… the theme and structure of the story, that the correct position with respect to Roark’s actions be set forth in the script.  Whatever means the writer wishes to employ to effect this change is, of course, not the concern or prerogative of the Production Code in any way to dictate.

In an attempt to constructively assist in bringing about this change, the attached is submitted… .

The “attached” he referred to was two full pages of a single-spaced, typewritten speech, composed in typed lines that were the full width of the page less the margins, and which were to be spoken by the trial judge in the movie.  (A reasonable calculation is that a speech of such length would consume six minutes in listening.)   The judge, according to this suggested passage, would begin by stating that the trial “resolves itself into two elements which are common to all criminal trials.  It is extremely important that you give due and careful consideration to both of these elements.” He delineated:

The first is the overt act committed by the defendant.

The second is of equal importance, and may conceivably be of greater importance, and that is the fact which we call in criminal law, of intent.

This point is then explored:

… you should consider the attitude, the subjective approach to the situation on the part of the defendant.  He has told you with apparent sincerity, and there is no evidence submitted to disprove it, that it is his firm belief and conviction that his skills, his experience, and his individual intellectual competency are his own exclusive rights and property.  He has told you his concept of the supremacy of the individual.  You may, or you may not, agree with this philosophy.  You are constrained under the constitutional guarantees of our country and state to recognize, however, the right of the defendant to his own concepts as he sees them according to his own conscience and intellect.  He has a right to his own convictions.  It is only where the exercise of an individual’s personal views transgresses the rights of other individuals that the question of curtainment of this right becomes important.

Elaborating on intent as justification, the judge character envisioned herein added, “…you may recommend acquittal providing there are guarantees that the rights of others who expended their funds, whether they be private or public, are amply protected by adequate and satisfactory compensation.”

And on it went.

Despite the contention in the unsigned, undated letter (which was known among the participating PCA staff and Warner personnel by the title “philosophic concepts of this story,” if we can surmise that from a reference to that title in other correspondence) that “Whatever means the writer wishes to employ to effect this change is, of course, not the concern or prerogative of the Production Code in any way to dictate,” that writer would have little leeway.  In her approach to to this work, she disallowed every false premise from entering her screenplay and focused instead on the fundamentals.

Ayn Rand would write in her 1961 book For the New Intellectual, in an introduction to Roark’s courtroom speech from the novel of The Fountainhead, a summary of the events which preceded the trial: Roark “had designed the [housing] project for another architect, Peter Keating, on the agreement that it would be built exactly as he designed it; the agreement was broken by the government agency; the two architects had no recourse to law, not being permitted to sue the government.”  The Production Code Administration frowned upon depicting courts and government as unjust—“The courts of the land should not he presented as unjust… .  [T]he court system of the country must not suffer as a result of this presentation.”  (Production Code, “Reasons Underlying the General Principles,” section 3, item 2)  Were a contextual groundwork made for it for such a presentation, it might be accepted, but as with a Wynand divorce, such minutia could not be accommodated in the 114-minute adaptation.  Thus, the point made briefly by Miss Rand in For the New Intellectual is left vague in the movie.  Movie audiences hear a beneficiary of Roark’s design state, “You’ll find you can’t sue us,” but he is not identified as acting on behalf of government.  Ayn Rand now had to contend with upholding “the rights of others who expended their funds” while not suggesting that the very government who had taken from Roark without payment had been the only party experiencing financial loss when Roark’s explosion blasted the bastardized design.

sidebar.gif (193 bytes) Relevant Passages Within the Production Code Pertaining to Crime and Law

2. Methods of crime should not be explicitly presented.
(a) Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc., should not be detailed in method.  [from section “I. Crimes Against the Law”]

3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.
By human law is understood the law written by civilized nations.

1. The presentation of crimes against the law is often necessary for the carrying out of the plot.  But the presentation must not throw sympathy with the crime as against the law nor with the criminal as against those who punish him.

2. The courts of the land should not he presented as unjust.  This does not mean that a single court may not be represented as unjust, much less than a single court official must not be presented this way.  But the court system of the country must not suffer as a result of this presentation. [from “Reasons Underlying the General Principles”]

Ayn Rand writes a speech to order

After the PCA’s submission of their own version of the judge’s instructions, a month and a half elapsed.  Only after this period of abeyance did producer Henry Blanke send Geoffrey Sherlock a letter on August 18, 1948, in which the producer reported:

Miss Rand has written the attached speech by the judge, upon the suggestion of Judge Jackson.

Blanke acknowledged Jackson’s prior occupation on the bench of the juvenile division in New York when referring to him by the article “Judge” but in what may have come across as disrespectful, in the recipient address, Sherlock’s organization is indicated as “Producers Association,” the possessive case not being used.

The attachment was three pages in length, double-spaced, and in standard script format.   (In this format, dialogue was typed on the right-most two-thirds of the width of the page, leaving a extra-wide margin on the left).  Ayn Rand’s new speech has the judge begin (as Jackson had) by instructing the jurors on “two elements which are essential in every criminal trial: the overt act committed, and the intent of the person who committed it,” and then continuing along the lines of the speech written by Jackson.

Where she differed from Jackson, the text she prepared showed that she had identified the short-sighted premises in Jackson’s thinking, had seemingly determined what would please Jackson, and had corrected Jackson’s ideas while incorporating his choice of subjects.  In Ayn Rand’s formulation, the judge would have this to say to the jury (and the movie audience):

The defendant has stated that he regarded this case as a moral issue and that he was motivated by the integrity of his moral convictions.  You may or may not agree with him.  But you are constrained under the constitution of our country to recognize his right to hold his own convictions according to his own conscience.  If his convictions are sincere, then criminal intent is lacking in this case.

You must note, in this connection, that the defendant did not attempt to evade the law, but surrendered himself of his own free will in order to stand trial.

The witness Peter Keating has testified what circumstances made it impossible to sue the owners of Cortlandt… . Its owners claimed immunity from law by reason of being engaged in a non-profit venture.  Give careful consideration to these circumstances.  If Howard Roark had an opportunity to seek redress through lawful channels, but resorted to violence, instead — then he is guilty of a deliberate crime.  If the chance of a recourse to law was denied to him — then he acted in protest against the violation of his rights.

If you find that an essential factor in establishing this crime, namely that of intent, is lacking, you may recommend acquittal providing that the property rights of those who may have invested their funds innocently, are protected by adequate compensation.

(This last is followed by “I charge you… .”)

By this point, both the Administration and Warner Bros. were acknowledging that the context by which Roark could secure acquittal was a serious matter and required elaborate explanation.  Ayn Rand seemed to be at least implicitly admitting that some audience members would need to hear about “intent” and compensation to investors, and her opponents may have come away believing that she met a foe in the entity of the Administration that she could not surmount through reasoning.  This foe would have to be obliged—if only to some extent.  The script analysts at the Administration had identified within the original screenplay a viewpoint opposed to precepts in their guiding documents, and these analysts had delineated its potential consequences.  Then, as if they were adjudicating the matter from a courtroom bench, they ordered remedy in the form of a long speech.

At Warner Bros., persons experienced in dealing with the Production Code Administration were at hand, and before they chose to have a screenwriter expend effort at producing new dialogue, they would consider their options.  Sometimes, though, new dialogue that would never reach the screen might be written with such effort being justified.  It could pacify the censors.  Ayn Rand might have been ordered to write a speech that experienced Warner personnel knew would not be needed for the movie to be approved, if the mere writing and submission of such a speech would by example make the censors recognize the pettiness of their decrees.  In any event, the new speech pacified the chief of the censors.  Joseph Breen wrote Jack Warner on August 12, 1948, to say that he found “entirely satisfactory” the three pages that Ayn Rand had written to order.

In both the novel and movie of The Fountainhead, Gail Wynand offers to make Howard Roark his exclusive architect provided that Roark will “design my future commercial structures as the public wishes them to be designed.  You’ll build Colonial houses, Rococo hotels and semi-Grecian office buildings.  You will take your spectacular talent and make it subservient to the tastes of the public.”  (This quote is from the movie, which condenses and alters the dialogue from the novel.)  Roark says “That’s easy,” and quickly makes a sketch showing what Wynand’s home will look like under such edicts.  Once Wynand has seen it, he admits this is not what he wanted from Roark.  A variation on this path toward self-discovery may have been involved in the bargaining with the Administration.  Once the Administration had read a long version of the judge’s instructions, they would have viewed related scenes in the context of how these scenes would be evaluated in the light of the clarification to be enunciated by the judge.  After the censor had ordered this, he might begin to see that those other scenes might all along have been evaluated in that light.  Subsequently, he sees the speech as stating the obvious.  Thereafter, there doesn’t seem a need to have a discourse-flavor speech.

After all the work involved in composing a long speech, the parties apparently agreed that a shorter one would suffice for the movie.  As released, the movie has the judge making this comparatively brief speech:

Further, you are instructed that the extent of the monetary loss suffered by the owners is not a matter to be considered by you.  The liability of the defendant for any financial loss is a question to be determined in a civil suit.  You are concerned here only with the criminal action.  You are to determine whether the defendant is guilty or innocent of the specific crime with which he has been charged.  You are the exclusive judges of the facts, and under the instructions I have given you it is your duty and your duty alone to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.

The issue of “the monetary loss suffered by the owners” was resolved with a brief statement in the scene that follows the verdict.  Financier Roger Enright stands over Roark’s model of Courtlandt and states to Roark, “I have bought from them the plans, the site and the ruins of Courtlandt.  It’s mine now and yours.  You will rebuild it for me, just as you planned it.”  Here, Enright takes the same action as he does in the novel, where a fleeting three sentences comprising 69 words is all that is made of the purchase and new construction of the site.  It had not been important enough to warrant more than this among the novel’s 345,000 words.17  The movie gives it as many sentences among its 114 minutes.  The message is unmistakable: the owners whose site was dynamited were now compensated, and Roark would not be a debt-saddled pauper, as he almost certainly would have been had his earnings as an architect been garnished.18

Ayn Rand would write in an essay twenty-six years later of an incident that occurred “when I was working in Hollywood. A  literary agent approached me with an offer from a major studio that wanted me to write a novel for one of their stars, on a theme and subject of their own choice, a novel that would be published first as a book, then made into a movie. I answered that I don’t write novels to order.”19  Novels remained for her a form worthy of respect, an art that captured a creator’s intent in unerring nuance.  Movies were a different “species.”  They could, if rarely, achieve the level of a masterpiece.  The writer would witness his words corrupted by others.  She accepted screenwriting work that entailed doing adaptations “to order,” but also had the opportunity to write her own labor of love: the adaptation of her best novel to date.  During July and August 1948, this job entailed writing a “speech to order.”  Fortunately, when the speech was trimmed and the dust from the Cortlandt explosion settled, her opponents saw that their objections were overblown and her screenplay—this time, anyway—could go to the actors with only a five-sentence intrusion shoehorned into her original vision.

Ayn Rand was not finished delineating her position on innovators whose genius was exploited by government.  She was writing her novel Atlas Shrugged as she battled the Production Code Administration.  That new novel took up the theme when an avenger—who sinks government ships and takes from them the gold sent by one semi-free government to socialist governments elsewhere—regards as moral his placing that money into accounts for the most productive of citizens, to reimburse them for the tax money extorted from them provided that the monies in question were earned entirely through productive achievement without any taint of government coercion or favor.  Persons of lesser productivity who were nonetheless moral were apparently not to receive any reimbursement.  The avenger’s colleagues regard his exploits as an unnecessary risk of his life, yet they approve of the morality behind it, seeing that once government and social mores have become drastically corrupted, those living under them would no longer have the firm concept of ownership required to lay a moral claim upon keeping their material wealth.20  (Although Ayn Rand was writing Atlas Shrugged in 1948, the “Utopia of Greed” chapter of which the cited scene is part, was not written until 1952.  The inclusion of many philosophic tenets, however, were planned well in advance of Ayn Rand reaching the spot in the novel where the viewpoint would be expressed.  When from 1944 to 1946 Ayn Rand devised the plot of Atlas Shrugged, she was determining how she could use it to respond to reader inquiries made following publication in 1943 of the novel of The Fountainhead.  As Ayn Rand would state in the “About the Author” description in Atlas Shrugged, she was answering in Atlas Shrugged the many questions she had received from readers of The Fountainhead “about the wider application of its ideas.”)

After the battles concerning the judge’s instructions, any additional conflict would almost certainly have seemed perfunctory by comparison.  The few remaining exchanges were indeed on very minor matters.

sidebar.gif (193 bytes) A Few Last Changes

After negotiating the judge’s speech, only a few minor details were addressed by the Production Code Administration.  Breen wrote Jack Warner on August 16, 1948, to say that the Administration had approved “Pages 102, 119, 124, 134, 134a and b, dated 8-12-48.”  On September 3, 1948, Blanke wrote Sherlock, “Attached please find the pages I spoke to you about on the phone yesterday.  Your reaction either today, Saturday or Tuesday would be appreciated -- naturally the sooner the better.”  This was hand-signed “Henry.”  That same day, Breen wrote Jack Warner that approval was granted to “changed pages 128, and 130-134b, dated September 2, 1948.”

Production completed September 18, 1948.  Editing presumably followed immediately if some part of it had not already been performed during shooting.  On November 24, 1948, Breen sent J.L. Warner “Certificate No. 13358.”  The picture could now be exhibited without Warner Bros. violating its agreement with the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association.  It was a marketing decision that delayed the premiere of the movie until June 23, 1949.  General release occurred July 2, 1949.

Logos such as this one preceded movies in the months immediately following the beginning of the vigorous enforcement of the Production Code in 1934.   Eventually, full-screen logos such as this ceased to appear before movies, and instead, the logo merely appeared as a small item within the credits on a screen that communicated many other items.  The low number on this November 15, 1934, release attests to how few certificates had been issued at this point as against 13358, the number assigned to The Fountainhead.

MPPDA2b.jpg (22250 bytes)

When the film did reach distant jurisdictions, it at least once encountered the same resistance to its remaining intact as had befallen You Came Along.  The documents in the MPPDA files record that only one country exacted cuts, that being Australia.

sidebar.gif (193 bytes) Government Censors See the Film

Even with the nod of approval from the Production Code Administration, the state boards in those states where a picture had to be assessed by the local body before a movie was cleared for showing in that state, evaluated the film for their own citizens.  Here are the states where this applied, and the date that approval was given The Fountainhead:

Kansas  6/30/49
Maryland  6/3/49
Massachusetts  6/17/49
New York  5/31/49
Ohio  6/11/49
Pennsylvania  5/31/49

Nations outside the United States had their own, government-established censorship bodies to examine and approve movies.  Often, actions considered uncontroversial in one country were sensitive topics in another.  Documents dated August 6, 1949, and October 28, 1949, indicate that in Australia, the picture passed after two cuts:

Shot of girl in nightgown at edge of bed, where breasts are exposed

After girl in car holds up broken pieces of glass, delete further shots showing her using it to cut wrists

Ayn Rand would complain in later years that The Fountainhead movie was compromised by King Vidor’s direction, Gary Cooper’s age and Patricia Neal’s inexperience.21  However, it had been her hope that the movie would draw attention to the novel22, and in 1949 she put aside any reservations she may have then had to help promote viewership of the movie.  In The New York Times of July 24, 1949, she responded to the unflattering review the newspaper had published of the movie, a review that had disparaged her other work as it disparaged the movie by labeling its philosophy as “dangerous.”  Addressing her lengthy letter to the screen editor of the paper and devoting most of her remarks to rebuttals of points made by reviewer Bosley Crowther, she wrote:

Mr. Crowther missed the fact that Warner Brothers have given a great demonstration of courage and consistency: they have produced the most faithful adaptation of a novel ever to appear on the screen.  My script was shot verbatim; this, to my knowledge, was the first and only instance of its kind in Hollywood.

Miss Rand stopped short of saying that the film was released as shot; Warner Brothers found one sentence of Roark’s courtroom speech so controversial that they excised it after a complete negative of the film had been assembled.  (That line was: “I came here to say that I am a man who does not exist for others.”23)  Miss Rand continued in her letter by pointing out the positive and unprecedented results of the production of her screenplay:

I was told that as a result of “The Fountainhead,” Jack L. Warner has now made it a studio policy to permit no script changes or improvisations on the set once a script has been approved.  This is the kind of results which the idea of “The Fountainhead” achieves in practice.  But it will be a curious spectacle if the critics, the intellectuals and the “liberals”—who, for years, have denounced Hollywood producers for destroying the work of writers—will now attempt to scare the producers by dire warnings that writers will start hacking film negatives to shreds, should the studios become so rash as to preach or practice artistic integrity.

Ayn Rand recognized then, as she would in the decades to come, the hypocrisy of leftist intellectuals.  Hollywood communists had applauded the House Committee on Un-American Activities when that Congressional committee had investigated Nazi operatives in Hollywood in the late 1930s, then these same communists had decried such inquiries when the Communists themselves had been subject to scrutiny during the same post-WWII years when Ayn Rand was working on The Fountainhead movie and worked as a volunteer for the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals (an anti-Communist organization).  Ayn Rand realized that the professional intellectuals as a group sought not intellectual expression but the most effective expression of collectivist propaganda.

The whole of Ayn Rand’s experiences as a Hollywood screenwriter soured her on the movies.  Whereas she had after her first year as a screenwriter foreseen a day in the near-future when she could be at the forefront of a resurgence of romantic art on screen, she now saw that even with the most sincere of experienced Hollywood professionals assigned to her screenplay, the results on screen were most likely to be superficial, compromised and merely serviceable.  What good was it for Ayn Rand to indicate in her screenplay that Howard Roark’s architecture was spectacular, ingenious and structurally sound when a conscientious producer unfamiliar with architecture saw no recourse to the high fees demanded by America’s top architect than to assign the realization of Roark’s buildings on screen to uncelebrated settings designers already employed by Warner Bros?  (Frank Lloyd Wright was America’s best-known architect and designed in a manner that would fit Roark.  Wright’s reported insistence on an exorbitant fee and overall artistic approval of the production resulted in his not being hired for the movie.  The studio did not make offers to architects whose work was almost as good, giving the assignment to studio personnel whose architectural designs were unappealing and structurally unsound.)  Ayn Rand knew that by continuing to write novels, the expression of her ideals would not be encumbered by the shortcomings of the team.

Ayn Rand made few comments on her experiences in Hollywood in her subsequent non-fiction articles, lectures and question-and-answer sessions.  Similarly rare were comments by her on the movie industry.  One exception was in her article “Thought Control” published in The Ayn Rand Letter.  Part III of the article, which appeared in the Letter of October 22, 1973, began with her relating an incident from the 1930s that revealed that “the ‘self-censorship’ office of the movie industry (known as the Hays Office or, later, the Johnson Office) went on one of its periodic crusades against sex in the movies,” but that in being selective as to which sex symbol they robbed of her sexual allure, the censors revealed that they were actually motivated by the desire to promote a particular view of human nature and spirituality.  Ayn Rand looked past the particulars of daily events in writing about timeless topics of the intellect, the nature of coercion, and how the mind processes stimuli.  Her fiction expresses subjects of wide import.  Through integrated stories, she made clear an elaborate overview of a new code of morality and the desirability of a rational approach to life’s choices.  Expressing her view of aesthetics, Ayn Rand once said, “In life, one ignores the unimportant; in art, one omits it.”24  Likewise, she didn’t allow her later life to be caught up in recollections of petty persons who long since ceased to be reported upon in the popular press.

Ayn Rand expertly wove intricate themes into stories that have the verisimilitude of events that readers can pictures themselves having witnessed, experienced or foreseen.  However, even an expert writer can be misunderstood if her ideas are shunted off course, cut short in expression, or adulterated with the concoctions of others.  Ayn Rand has inspired many people.  Probing intellects, often in the process of evolving, have looked to her work for guidance, and have asked themselves the questions they assume Miss Rand would have asked, then sought to answer them.  Such minds are betrayed when the name of Miss Rand is attached to content not fully hers.   They are the ones who will find it instructive to know that the world-view integrated into screenplays by Ayn Rand was impeded by minds in positions of power.  Once the ruminating minds remind themselves to be on guard against passages where ideas were intercepted and diverted, they’ll know not to assume that what purports to be the ideas of Miss Rand are indeed such.  Fortunately, most of what Ayn Rand wanted to express on screen was indeed communicated to the movie audiences in whom she hoped to pique enough interest that the better minds would seek out her books.  She succeeded.


See cast and credits for The Fountainhead and Ayn Rand’s other movies.  (Opens in a new window)

Return to the first page of this article.

(Visit my web site reproducing the Production Code to read it in its entirety.  This site also reports on how numerous films violated or circumvented that Code.)

Ayn Rand had favorite movies.  To learn which movies Ayn Rand expressed favorable views of, and about other films with content that illustrates her philosophy, Objectivism, visit Movies of Interest to Objectivists.

Still more about Ayn Rand, movies, possible influences on her writings, and her attitude towards the types of movie advertising disparaged by the Production Code: I have assembled a page of illustrations, captions, brief notes, and excerpts (it’s within my Production Code web site) with more about Ayn Rand’s writings and the popular entertainment during the era she wrote.

This article © 2000, 2005, 2008 David P. Hayes



NOTE: During the period in which screenplay work was being done on The Fountainhead, the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA) changed its name to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).  (The latter remains its name to this day).  For simplicity, this article uses the former name throughout.

9. Journals of Ayn Rand, pg. 311-344 (all of chapter 9).  Miss Rand’s film was to be called Top Secret; Wallis sold the project to M-G-M, which was already preparing its similar The Beginning or the End.   The M-G-M film depicts a great many of the same factual events as Ayn Rand had selected to tell the true story of the development of the atomic bomb, a weapon which was of especially-strong popular interest in that it had put a hasty end to World War II.  (Return to text)

10. Letters of Ayn Rand, pg. 178.  The letter quoted was dated July 26, 1945, at which time You Came Along was in release and Love Letters was ready.  (Return to text)

11. Letters of Ayn Rand, pgs. 397-398.  Ayn Rand wrote this in a letter to Henry Blanke dated June 26, 1948.  (Return to text)

12. Suicide was the fate which Miss Rand chose for Vesta Dunning, the character whom Ayn Rand cut from the novel of The Fountainhead because she was too similar in basic ethical policy to Gail Wynand.  The decision that she would be a suicide is recorded in Miss Rand’s notes for the novel of April 21, 1936, published in Journals of Ayn Rand, pg. 101.  Miss Rand’s contention that Vesta’s “moral treason was a variant of Wynand’s, which made her superfluous in regard to the book’s theme,” was stated in her letter to Archie Ogden of August 24, 1967, published posthumously in Letters of Ayn Rand, pg. 644.  (Return to text)

13. Letters of Ayn Rand, pg. 105.  (Elsewhere within this page, where a dated letter by Miss Rand is quoted without a citation, unless it obviously is in correspondence undertaken to approach actions necessitated by the Production Code, the reader should presume the text is published in Letters of Ayn Rand.  Such is the case of the letters to her editor of the novel (Archie Ogden) as well as the letter to her producer stipulating her condition for working without salary on rewrites.)  (Return to text)

14. The chronology provided by Miss Rand’s letters debunks the fabrications promulgated by published biographies of people involved in the production of the movie.  Some biographers (or their interview subjects) learned (correctly) of Ayn Rand being granted protection against others being able to make changes to her screenplay and extrapolated (incorrectly) that she secured this in her contract prior to undertaking the writing of the screenplay.  One cute story in a biography of Gary Cooper reports that Cooper found a line of dialogue troublesome to speak and so asked the director to permit the actor to follow his conventional policy of substituting a line more natural to him, that the director recalled that the screenwriter had secured a no-change clause, and that he stated that she would have to be called in.  As she lived on the outskirts of the San Fernando Valley, the director remarked, “She’s a hour away.  It’ll probably take her another hour to get dressed,” whereupon Cooper relented, browbeaten into speaking the line as written.  (Reported in Hector Arce, Gary Cooper: an Intimate Biography (1979), pg. 226.)  That Cooper could have sought the change but faced the purported delay getting a remedy from Ayn Rand, is untenable, for as Rand’s June 26, 1948, letter to Henry Blanke also declared — as a condition of securing and retaining the no-changes agreement — “I shall remain available at the studio, in my office, during the whole period of the shooting of the picture, for the purpose of doing any changes, rewriting or revisions of the above script, if such should become necessary.”  Those who know of Jack Warner’s tight-fisted attitude towards the dollar would also speculate that Warner would not have issued the decree except on condition that the author be readily available for consultation and thus able to prevent the studio from incurring the massive expenses which would accrue from a production being suspended for two hours while the author journeyed from afar.  (Return to text)

15. The Censorship Papers: Movie Censorship Letters from the Hays Office 1934 to 1968 by Gerald Gardner (Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1987), a book reproducing significant portions of the Production Code Administration correspondence on about two dozen films, quotes from letters on The African Queen, “Page 80: … None of the kissing here or elsewhere should be passionate, lustful or open-mouthed.” (letter dated April 16, 1947, by Joseph Breen, reproduced on page 8 of Gardner); on A Place in the Sun, “Page 29 et seq: The kissing here and elsewhere throughout the story should not be unduly passionate, or long, or open-mouthed.” (letter dated November 1, 1949, from Breen to Paramount, reproduced on page 168); and on Duel in the Sun “4. The seduction of Jennifer Jones by Gregory Peck can more rightly be termed rape… in violation of… the code.  The scene is further unduly emphasized by the lustful open-mouthed kissing and the symbolism of the storm and lightning…” (letter dated January 17, 1947, reproduced on page 35).  (Return to text)

16. Ayn Rand in letter to her literary agent Alan Collins dated September 18, 1948, available online  Unlike other letters by Ayn Rand made available by her Estate, this one was not published in Letters of Ayn Rand, but instead made its first public appearance on the internet.  The web page which introduced it was announced June 26, 2019.  When my web site “Ayn Rand vs. Hollywood’s Self-Censorship” was first uploaded, I had to rely on second-hand mentions of Ayn Rand having had to argue for her speech in meetings, combined with documentation that meetings were established as having occurred on other topics.  This web page was updated August 29, 2019, to incorporate the facts supplied by Ayn Rand in her first-hand account that had not been available prior to this year.  (Return to text)

17. Ayn Rand cited “publishers’ count” figures (rounded to units of 5,000) in an interview, 1960s.  Citation forthcoming.  Atlas Shrugged was said to be 645,000 words.  Lewis Nichols, “Talk With Ayn Rand,” The New York Times, Oct. 13, 1957, pg 272 (Return to text)

18. The Fountainhead, novel, published 1943, currently available in hardback, trade paperback and rack paperback editions.  The article cites the opening paragraph of Part IV, Ch. 19.  In the novel, at this point, we read that (full passage): “Roger Enright bought the site, the plans and the ruins of Cortlandt from the government. He ordered every twisted remnant of foundations dug out to leave a clean hole in the earth. He hired Howard Roark to rebuild the project. Placing a single contractor in charge, observing the strict economy of the plans, Enright budgeted the undertaking to set low rentals with a comfortable margin of profit for himself.”   (Return to text)

19. “From My ‘Future File,’” in The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. III, No. 26 (September 23, 1974).  (Return to text)

20. Atlas Shrugged (published 1957),  pages 757-758 of the hardbound edition.  (Return to text)

21. Rex Reed, after interviewing Ayn Rand, quotes her thus: “Patricia Neal was too young, Gary Cooper was too old, and King Vidor’s direction was wrong.  My ideal choice was Greta Garbo.”  Rex Reed, “Ayn Rand: a Woman Under Siege,” a syndicated article which appeared in Sunday newspaper magazine sections such as Southland Sunday in the Long Beach, California, Press-Telegram, April 1, 1973, where this specific quote appears on page 9.  The same article, with the quote about Cooper, Neal, Vidor and Garbo, appeared in The Washington Post, Times Herald, Mar. 4, 1973, beginning on pg. L5.  A version of the article appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Feb. 25, 1973, pg. D7, but the specific quote was among omitted material.  (Return to text)

22. Who is Ayn Rand? (Random House, 1962), clothbound, pg. 214 (in paperback: pg. 171).  (Return to text)

23. Jeff Britting, Ayn Rand (Overlook Illustrated Lives series, Overlook Duckworth publishers, 2004), pg. 72, specifies this as the line cut.  Britting is (as he was at the time of writing) archivist of the Ayn Rand Archives, affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute, and thus had access to authoritative documentation.  (Return to text)

24. Quoted in the authorized biography/analysis collection Who is Ayn Rand? (Random House, 1962), clothbound, pg. 103.  Repeated (posthumously) in Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand (NAL, 1991), by Dr. Leonard Peikoff, Ph.D., pg. 426 (same page in hardback and softbound).  (Return to text)