Ayn Rand in Hollywood and Politics
(film still from AYN RAND AND THE PROPHECY OF ATLAS SHRUGGED)
Ayn Rand’s been gone for 30 years, but her legacy of individualism and conservative capitalism brightly fuels today’s partisan battle. Right now, Ayn Rand is ideological Ground Zero for the right and left, fueled in part by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), conservative chairman of the House Budget Committee, who seemingly renounced his long-held admiration for Rand on April 26. It’s easy to find Rand mentioned in op-ed pieces this week and throughout this past month.
We’re film lovers, not politicos, so we’re fascinated by Rand's ties to filmmaking. While still living in Russia, Rand studied screenwriting and wrote about the American film industry; her first ever publication was a biographical article on the actress Pola Negri.
In 1926, when her middle-class family lost everything after the Bolshevik revolution, Rand came to Hollywood and worked for Cecil B. DeMille, during the silent movie era. According to biographer Anne C. Heller, Rand “loved the Hollywood standard of life.” Then she began writing novels, striving to articulate her strong ideas about individualism and selfishness through fiction. When her best-selling novel “The Fountainhead” was turned into a big budget film in 1944, she had an office on the Warner Bros. lot. Her last novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” is the kernel of a new documentary AYN RAND AND THE PROPHECY OF ATLAS SHRUGGED, available May 15, 2012, adding to the recent spate of pro-Rand documentaries like AYN RAND: IN HER OWN WORDS (2011).
We just re-watched THE FOUNTAINHEAD, a true classic film. Directed by the legendary King Vidor, the film starred Gary Cooper as an idealistic architect unwilling to compromise, Patricia Neal as his love who marries a newspaper tycoon who shapes public opinion. Rand herself wrote the screenplay and was on the set throughout the production. The Rotten Tomatoes score is 83%, but we think it deserves an even higher score than that.
Regardless of your ideological bent, it’s good in today’s contentious political climate to know the answer to the question: “Who is John Galt?” Any of these films can keep you informed.
Gary Cooper (L) in THE FOUNTAINHEAD (1944)