Tops in my category of really bad, campy movies is the
date tk 1949 movie of The Fountainhead, screenwritten by Ayn Rand from her famous novel. Stupendous in its endless preachy dialogue, even half-dying Dominique speaks in perfectly formed paragraphs, the movie reeks of Rand's presence; you can practically see her in a director's chair chain-smoking and butting in every time the director tried to make a good picture. Long before I saw the movie, I stayed up three nights in a boarding school closet, flashlight in hand, to read the novel, and I blame it explicitly for picking up my future husband some years later at the architecture school.
My favorite good/bad scene, naturally, is when Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal have rough "make-out" the minute he steps out of the quarry where he is forced to dig after being shut out of his architectural career by Raymond Massie, practically preening in his role as a big-time city newspaper baron. (Cooper and Neal were having an off-screen love affair at the time which ended when Cooper, a Catholic, returned to his wife -- not very "objectivist"of him.) Watching Massie's performance it is hard not to believe that at some level he wasn't in on the joke (Cooper most definitely was not), in the same way that Stephen Boyd was in on the homoerotic undertones that Gore Vidal snuck into his scenes with Chuck Heston in Ben Hur. The movie is both literally and philosophically black-and-white (another joke by the producers?); the "arc" follows Patricia Neal from gray ("you learned that you can't just be strong, you have to be courageous" or something much wordier) to all-white and once more deserving of rough make-out with Cooper.
So most of us (excepting Alan Greenspan, of course) grew up and realized that the world is, thank god, a bit more complex than Rand saw it. When I caught the movie recently on Turner Classic Movies, I was enthralled in a wholly different way from the first time I saw it in my early twenties. For example, this time I noticed that the hero played by Cooper, Howard Roark, has a secretary. A small detail, but how does one go through life as a rugged individualist and need a secretary? How does a secretary get to create her individuality? And did she hate her boss?
But the thing that really stopped me was the repetition, and repetition, of Rand's anti-"collectivist" ranting. In fact I think the word "collective" is used as much as the word "building," and is explained, and explained, to be a total evil in society. "I never work for committees," Roark announces, "Only the man (my emphasis) who is himself worthy," or something like that. Well, that might have cut him out of quite a few big domestic projects.
"Oh my non-existent-being-one-thing-Rand-retained-from-the-USSR god," I thought, Jerry and I have been building quite a few brands around the notion of the "Collective", and although it is a term we use, in recognition of our many friends who once bore the tyranny of the Red Army, with a touch of irony, still it represents to us a belief that there is wisdom in crowds, and that a free exchange of ideas between really smart people will result in great value. What have we done?
What would Ayn Rand think of our networked communities? Or is what we are doing, in facilitating individual expression and a certain amount of preachiness, really her dream come true, we're just using evil terms for it?
And finally, is the now-departed Amanda Chapel really John Galt?