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Ayn Rand and King Vidor's Film "The Fountainhead": Architectural Modernism, the Gendered Body, and Political Ideology

Merrill Schleier
Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
Vol. 61, No. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 310-331
DOI: 10.2307/991785
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/991785
Page Count: 22
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Ayn Rand and King Vidor's Film "The Fountainhead": Architectural Modernism, the Gendered Body, and Political Ideology
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Abstract

This paper explores Ayn Rand and King Vidor's depiction of a gendered and politicized architectural discourse in the film The Fountainhead (1949), which was based on the writer's best-selling novel. The film has been examined in the contexts of Frank Lloyd Wright's influence and the impact of European modernism on the set designs. This paper expands on the work of previous scholars by considering the effects of such diverse modern architects, theoreticians, critics, and builders as Wright, Louis Sullivan, Le Corbusier, Sheldon Cheney, and the Starrett Brothers, among others, on Rand. New evidence in the Rand Archives and the Warner Brothers Archives also establishes the manner in which she appropriated architectural source materials in the service of her conservative, gender-inflected political agenda. Rand employed these sources in all aspects of the project, including plot construction, character delineation, and the depiction of the profession. Characters are signified by building types (e.g., skyscraper, housing project) or stylistic analogues, which represent their economic or political philosophies. An analysis of Rand's screenplay, her architectural borrowings, and the film's mise en scène elucidates her ideological and prescriptive agenda, namely the destruction of New Deal cooperation and subsidies, which are signified by public housing, in favor of capitalist economics, which are epitomized by skyscrapers.

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