Lost Classic That Never Was – Part 12

At the end of 2015 I decided to rewrite The Fountainhead (1949) movie – because I didn’t like it and … it was fun distraction. I split the result into 12 parts and have posted a part each month in 2016. This is the last part. If you’ve been following it – hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.

Gary Cooper in a mash of images for the lost classic that never was.
Howard lays on his cot thinking of this old mentor Henry Cameron saying “Then may God bless you Howard, you’re on your way to hell.”

So this is the last part of that lost classic that never was You Can Take Your Fountainhead With You & Swing It! For a bunch of reasons, last December I decided to rewrite The Fountainhead to include a bit of the Marx Brothers, a Capraesque family, a proper Jeeves & Wooster bit, some great musical numbers from Cab Calloway and Billie Holiday, and change the “parasite” characters (like Peter Keating) to something more understandable and include some female characters that though old-fashioned are still complete women in their own right. A pointless exercise but one I really enjoyed. If you’ve been reading this I hope you’ve found it amusing too.

I really just mashed in some new scenes and numbers into the existing script and ended up with roughly a 3 hour long script so I split that up into 12 parts and each month I’ve posted a part with some images, usually with a couple mashed up to create one of the new or altered scenes. This month I actually posted all the parts and images without any intros or explanations. This is because each month I explain what the part is about and so completely spoil it for anyone who might be reading this who hasn’t actually seen the original The Fountainhead and is just following the story. I’m terrible for giving away spoilers. So if you don’t want any spoilers and don’t really care what I’ve changed in this part or why then you’re better off looking at the earlier post.

By the way this story is a response to the movie The Fountainhead and not the book which I haven’t read but every month I end up learning a little more about it and it’s clear that the story is somewhat different in the book so – while I’m pretty sure that I would still disagree strongly with Ayn Rand’s philosophy – this is just a hopefully amusing but rather flippant response to that film.

In the original movie Howard Roark is an architect who doesn’t play by the old rules for how you should design your buildings, he has his own unique vision and he won’t water it down to suit anyone else. He designs a low-cost housing project which is submitted under the name of Peter Keating, an old college friend of his. Howard doesn’t accept any payment but he insists that his design is in no way changed. He considers this the price of his work on this project. His design is changed slightly. Balconies, a porch and some awful Grecian-style trimmings are added to the building. Howard goes mad and even though the building is still sound, the changes are only superficial, he blows it up to destroy his tainted work. When he is on trial for his crimes he argues that he had every right to do this because we should not compromise on greatness, the vision of the individual must reign supreme over the needs of the collective if our society is ever to reach the great heights that certain individuals are capable of reaching. Selfishness is good, it is an essential component of greatness, and sacrificing one’s vision or desires for the good of the collective means that mediocrity triumphs and society stagnates. His argument persuades the jury and everyone agrees that blowing up a building because they’ve changed the architect’s design is absolutely fine.

Oh Ayn Rand…

When I put this bit (well 3 hours) of nonsense together I thought of it as a response to old fashioned values (the one’s best assigned to history) and sort of like a reminder of how far we’ve come. And things are so much better now for so many people. But one of the depressing things about 2016 is that people seems to be falling back on old outdated ideas and attitudes, namely there seems to be a huge reactionary and protectionist component to a lot of political movements today. But Ayn Rand isn’t advocating protectionism so how is this relevant? Well, I had a history teacher in school who used to say “too far east is west” which is very true in this big old round ball of a world of ours. And? I’m getting there. Don’t rush me. The thing that really drives me cracked about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, as least as it is laid out in the movie The Fountainhead, is that up to a point she is right; selfishness does spur individuals to imprint their vision, their desires on the world and this can be a very good thing, and the rights of the individual versus the collective should be protected and safeguarded. But when this promotion and protection of the individual’s rights is used as a defence for the wanton destruction of property, an act which tramples over the rights of other individuals then you are no longer protecting the individual you’re protecting a tyrant who feels free to trample over the rights of other individuals. If the individual is allowed to do whatever is in their power to do in order to realise their vision then it stands to reason that s/he will surround themselves with people who are supportive of their work and values, and who will help suppress any individuals or groups who might oppose them or their grand vision. Too far east is west. Too far west is east.

By the 1930s the most technologically advanced nations of the day were quite “modern”. If I was to travel back in time to that decade, to the household of some well off people, while I would be missing a lot of today’s conveniences, I don’t think I’d feel completely out of my comfort zone. They had cars, telephones, radios, central heating – all the things that make life easier, more comfortable, more recognisably “modern”. The world had changed a lot over just a few decades and there were huge advances in medicine and in the way we did everything really. The potential for what the future might bring must have seemed both miraculous and terrifying, if you stopped to think about it. And people clearly were thinking about it because there were new political ideas and movements, some saying truly different things, arguing for a fairer share of the world’s resources, demanding equal rights. Well, maybe that’s not so new, but something that was very different was the sense of living in a world or plenty, where anything you could dream of might be turned into reality in the future. And that plenitude has continued throughout the last century into our own. But we never did manage to figure out how to share it all out fairly. When are we going to get around to that exactly? How can we have a world like that? How would it work exactly? I could travel back in time to a well off family in 1930s America and not feel too discommoded by the lack of modern devices (in fairness I’d really miss the net and my phone, but still…) or I could travel to the poorer parts of the today’s world and see people living without electricity or any of the modern comforts I take for granted. It’s hard to understand why our world is like this when it is well within our power to change it … what are we at? How are we still only at this point of civilization? Where are we going? If all these technological advances and all our ever growing ability to control and exploit our environment is not going to be used to make our world better for all then will it really make this world truly better for anyone?

The problem with protectionism is that it causes you to focus on what you might lose rather than what is happening/changing to cause you to lose these things in the first place and how you could best exploit this new set of circumstances. Take for example the issue of copyright and movies, and the lengths the entertainment industry has gone to to try and stop people watching movies and television for free online. How much money has been spent on (pointless) advertisements to dissuade people from watching bootleg copies, on lobbyists, on court cases? What if instead of doing that they tried to think of ways to profit from this content being shared online? What if they packaged the content in formats that included advertisements for products or services that related somehow to the content? The adverts would be shown after the content if the viewer chose to view ads related to the content they had just seen – this would get around the adblocker problem. Ideally some image recognition software could be used to catalogue all the relevant products in a film (they could start with old movies – my favourite ;-) and advertisers with relevant products could bid for spots – or perhaps in time they could have a visual component to their electronic stock inventory and this would enable them to quickly match products to suitable content. I don’t know. I think something like that would work very well, it could potentially make a lot of money but because the industry is focused on protecting its current business model it doesn’t seem to have noticed a new way to make money. Is protectionism costing the entertainment industry money? Unless I’m missing something, yeah I think it is. Maybe they think it would affect the numbers going to the cinema. Maybe it would, but you can drink alcohol at home and people still go out to bars.

So adding viewer optional advertising to online video content would make the world a truly better place, would it? Now, there’s no need to be facetious… What I’m saying is is that our world is changing, fast and fundamentally, and we don’t want to get caught up in an endless, and probably pointless and possibly destructive, cycle of trying to hold on to what we’ve got rather than looking at what we might be better off having/getting/sharing/changing.

Jobs going to India? Taiwan? Ireland? If it’s the last one there that’s grand, but the rest of them …!? Our world is unequal, it might be cheaper for a company to produce its product in a particular country. Or that country could offer some benefit by way of access to certain markets, or an easier system of business regulations or increased productivity. Tying a company to a particular country and forcing them to produce there can result in more expensive products which could offset the benefits of the extra jobs in the economy. Beyond that workers need to look at the bigger issue – with the advances being made in robotic and AI technologies potentially many jobs done by humans today could be performed by machines and programs tomorrow – we need to ask ourselves what are we working for? what are we doing?

Am I worried about a robot apocalypse, an AI takeover? Not even remotely. To me it seems like all of the big problems we are facing in the world today are symptoms of the one underlying problem – inequality. Even climate change? Yes, even climate change. We live in a world where it is so important to protect your interests that we cannot slow down and ask ourselves what are we doing exactly? We can’t take a break. We don’t seem able to stop non-essential flights for a few days each year. If we can we certainly aren’t doing it… I’m just using that as an example of how carbon emissions could be easily and dramatically reduced. Possibly. Anyway it seems like protectionism, the fear of losing one’s advantage is so strong that no one is really in control of this world, and the fear is so strong because our world is still so unequal.

O.K. I’ve gone off on one…

Anyway protectionism often seems to end up actually destroying what you’re trying to hold on to, so that you’re forced, from a weakened position, to accept the new ways of the world and navigate your way accordingly. Do we really need another lesson on this?

So back to my favourite bit of nonsense this year, this neverwas classic. What have I changed in this part? Mrs. Dubray tells the court how the bombing of Cortlandt Homes has affected her.

Louise Beavers as Mrs. Dubray.
We’ve lost money, we’ve lost time and we’re trying hard not to – but we’re losing hope.

Howard give his defence. It’s quite long. I didn’t actually read it until I was proof-reading this part. It’s not a bad defence – if it was for a different crime. I still can’t believe that anyone could accept a jury letting off an arsonist because, you know, he’s an architect and they changed his design – a little. And everytime I put up one of these I see some clip on youtube where people are going on about how great Ayn Rand is. I just… I don’t get it. Wanton destruction of property. Wanton.

But he is a good looking fella still. – I think I’ve made him uncomfortable…

The Fountainhead Gary Cooper as Howard Roark
Howard defending his actions.

So Bill finally acts like a true Jimmy Stewart character – when Howard’s finished his defence he stands up and challenges him from the gallery. Gets found in contempt of court. Rosie’s delighted.

Bill Kirby responding to Howard Roark's defence
Don’t you see how destroying homes is destroying independence?

Gail comes to the rescue – he buys the ruins of Cortlandt Homes and hires Ann and Peter to finish the job.

Raymond Massey, Jean Arthru and Douglas Fairbanks Jr
It’s fantasy but it’s also very practical.

What happens to Gail in the original is awful. He has Howard sign some agreement to build the Wynand Building and then he kills himself, shoots himself – dead – in his office – at his desk. The next scene, the very next scene (unless the online version is cut which is possible) – the very next scene that I saw was Dominique beaming as she uses the workman’s lift at the building site to see her new husband Howard. The coldest thing I’ve ever seen… O.K. it’s not even in the top 50 coldest things I’ve seen – I’ve watched a lot of stuff – but it’s cold.

I wasn’t having any of it. Gail and Dominique are made for each other. He’s in love with her because she is unattainable and will remain so. She’s comfortable with him because he’ll take all her nonsense. And when he dies – long long after the film ends – she’ll realise that he’s irreplaceable and she’s lost without him. – Well, I think it works.

Raymond Massey and Patricia Neal in a rewriting of The Fountainhead
Dominique walks away but she is conflicted.

So Howard is sent to jail…

Henry Hull and Gary Cooper
Then may God bless you Howard. You’re on your way to Hell.

Does he stay there? Could you leave this guy in jail? Really?

gary-cooper-eating-a-sandwich
Found this on giphy.com

So at the end there is a big party to celebrate the opening of Cortlandt Homes and Edee sings “You’d better go now

Billie Holiday as Edee Darling in You Can Take Your Fountainhead With You and Swing It!
You’d better go because I like you much too much…

So here it is Part 12.

And you can find all the other parts of You Can Take Your Fountainhead With You & Swing It! here

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