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Today is Ayn Rand’s (1905-1982) birthday. So, I decided to check out the new movie version of the first part of her 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged, in earnest (more on the film, which I have not seen, later). I spent some time with the picture’s screenwriter, co-producer Brian Patrick O’Toole, who is adapting the novel for the screen. Having seen a sneak preview of the trailer for the movie, scheduled to open in select theaters on April 15, I must say that this low-budget effort looks better than I had expected. Exciting enough for the uninitiated, substantial enough for Objectivists and Ayn Rand fans, the trailer opens with a man named Midas Mulligan, met by a shadowy figure who has something important to say. From there, we see skylines, speeding trains, and men of steel (including Ellis Wyatt, Hank Rearden, and, of course, Dagny Taggart), and the action and drama never let up. The trailer looks crisp, clean and polished and wraps with the question: Who is John Galt? A tag-on teases “…Ask the Question.” This is the world’s first movie about Ayn Rand’s epic theme, the mind on strike, and, though it is impossible to gauge a movie’s merits on the basis of a trailer, for what it’s worth, I’m impressed.
Another movie trailer, the two-minute trailer for the 1949 cinematic adaptation of Rand’s third novel, The Fountainhead, which she adapted for Warner Bros., wrongly refers to the story’s mediocre architect Peter Keating, as “selfish.” But a DVD feature, The Making of The Fountainhead, included with the erroneous trailer on the disc’s extras, gets Ayn Rand’s ideas right in an informative account that makes a solid companion to what is rightly called a unique and hugely entertaining movie.
Rand’s second novel, Anthem, has been adapted for a comic book (or graphic novel) by Charles Santino with illustration by artist Joe Staton. Anthem: The Graphic Novel ($15), published this week in trade paperback, is the first ever illustrated novelization of any of Ayn Rand’s work. Anthem was also adapted by Jeff Britting for the stage in Austin, Texas, where it was apparently a resounding commercial and critical success. Rand’s unsung first novel, We the Living, was pirated in fascist Italy in 1942 for what became an outstanding screen version. I reviewed the movie for the Ayn Rand Institute’s newsletter, Impact, here.
From 1996 to 2003, Scott McConnell conducted a series of interviews with dozens of people who met, worked for or with, and/or knew Ayn Rand (1905-1982). The new trade paperback, 100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand is the result. This long-anticipated volume, a project of the Ayn Rand Archives (full disclosure: several of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances including McConnell are among the participants), is an important addition for anyone interested in Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and creator of Objectivism.
100 Voices is an ambitious work about a literary and philosophical genius but it is a collection of interviews about Rand and the content should not be taken as fact or biography. Here, we read that Rand sided with Gen. Douglas MacArthur over President Harry Truman, thought Walt Disney’s animated features were too cute, met Senator Joseph McCarthy, found something to like about former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon, visited the Playboy Club, and entertained Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable at her home. There is more, both from those who did not like her and (mostly) those who admire her. The 600-page-plus edition covers her early Hollywood years through her last days in New York City, when she apparently considered going back to Hollywood to finish a script for Atlas Shrugged. Drawbacks include overly scripted questions and an occasional dead-end interview. The interviews were conducted by Archives researcher McConnell, now a documentary filmmaker, with everyone from Rand’s dentist to Fountainhead co-star Patricia Neal. Most exchanges occurred via telephone and it shows in the transcripts, which come off rather clipped, with short, general questions, what seem like heavily edited answers, and not a lot of conversational back-and-forth. For example, Miss Neal, interviewed in 1997, answers “[s]he was very friendly” when asked what Ayn Rand was like and that particular interview is less than four pages. McConnell notes that each person interviewed (or an heir) approved of each interview. I came across minor errors and inconsistencies, which McConnell acknowledges in advance in the preface. Rand fans may already be familiar with much of this material.
There are multiple rewards, including the stories of the Florida family that hosted Miss Rand during her attendance of the historic Apollo 11 rocket launch at Cape Canaveral in 1969, and ordinary, middle class Americans seem to have the most consistently fond and insightful memories of Ayn Rand. These are personal and business recollections of Rand at work, at play and, occasionally, in crisis, at various stages of her extraordinary career, so there are tales about everything from her visits to the doctor’s office to her visit to West Point, and that alone makes this book worth reading. 100 Voices is an unprecedented collection of never-before-published interviews with those who knew the 20th century’s most challenging thinker including her friends, family, and associates, actress Raquel Welch, architecture photographer Julius Shulman, writer Mickey Spillane, actor Robert Stack, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, and the late financial journalist Louis Rukeyser, who interviewed Ayn Rand for his television program months before she died. These 100 voices talk about Ayn Rand’s thoughts and actions on everything from her cats to psycho-epistemology and Immanuel Kant and their answers, comments, and claims make one want to delve deeper into her novels, short stories, plays, lectures, and ideas.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Robert Mayhew, a philosophy professor and prolific editor and author, about Ayn Rand’s first novel, We the Living (1936). He discusses the book, its urgently relevant theme of the individual versus the state, the movie version, and his thoroughly engaging Essays on Ayn Rand’s We the Living. This is the first of three exclusive interviews about this classic work of literature planned for publication on the site. I aim to post interviews with Ayn Rand Institute archives manager Jeff Britting, who wrote an Ayn Rand biography and co-produced the Oscar-nominated 1990s documentary, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, and Duncan Scott, who co-produced the restored film adaptation of We the Living, made in Italy in 1942 and reconstructed with Ayn Rand’s cooperation.
Read the interview with Dr. Mayhew here.
The 1942 motion picture was recut from a pirated Italian adaptation and released in fascist Italy and Europe as two separate pictures. I’m planning an interview series about Ayn Rand’s breathtaking literary achievement and the outstanding movie version, which was theatrically released in 1988, for publication on the site.
While the film is also excellent, there is no substitute for the superior experience of reading We the Living, which was recently reprinted with an urgently relevant introduction by Leonard Peikoff, in this new trade paperback edition.
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