April 3, 1948
The stationery is just for dramatic effect—it will tell you the whole story before you read this letter. Yes, I am back at work at Warner Bros. writing the final screenplay of THE FOUNTAINHEAD. This has been another of those wonderful bolts out of the blue that have been descending on me in the last few years and that really make me think I may be God’s child as you say. It all happened very suddenly. I had heard nothing from Warner Bros. since the original announcement that they intended to go into production, and I thought that there was some trouble about it. Then, on Monday, March 22, I got a call to come to the studio next day. On Tuesday morning, I had an interview with the producer and the director, and went to work on Wednesday morning. I am still slightly groggy in the most wonderful way—it’s almost the same feeling I had when I sold the movie rights to them originally.
The thing that makes me so happy is that both Henry Blanke, the producer, and King Vidor, the director, are in complete agreement with me on the treatment of the picture. Their intention is to make the picture as close to the novel as possible and to preserve the theme and spirit of the story. I had been afraid of possible attempts to compromise, but they have given me no indication of any such intention.
As you know, one can never be certain of anything in Hollywood until the picture is finished, so there may be trouble or arguments or interferences later. All I can say is that there is no sign of it at present and that, for the moment, the situation is ideal. I think if they intended to distort the picture they would have kept me away from it; but since they called for me, I believe I can trust their intentions now. I must say that both Blanke and Vidor have discussed the book and the screenplay with me most intelligently.
You may be interested to know that Warner Bros. are actually sincere about the stand they have taken against Communism. They have actually cleaned house. When I worked here before, their
list of writers was full of some of the worst Reds in Hollywood; now there is not one of them. There may be some minor Pinks, since they are everywhere among writers, but I don’t see one name that I know to be an active Pink. And they have three other writers, in addition to me, who are known, open conservatives. I think this is wonderful, and it does give me confidence. You can imagine what sort of twisting and evading most of the other studios are doing here at present, in order to appease the public and yet not take a real stand against Communism. It is sickening to watch. But here is at least one studio that seems to be completely sincere about politics.
Your letter made me homesick when I read the sentence that you were writing it after having finished checking proofs. I wished I could be back on my job as one of your high-priced assistants in the composing room. I hope you will think of me next time you check the proofs. I really enjoyed doing that—and every time I notice some misprint in the Herald-Tribune Books, I think that I would have caught it and corrected it. This is not boasting, just wistfulness.
Yes, I agree with you completely that it is the “irrationalist” philosophy that leads to such a conception as a “malevolent universe.” If it were possible to conceive man without his rational faculty (which is inconceivable), one would have to say that the universe is malevolent indeed.
Of course, I agree with you when you say that you cannot really form a concept of a malevolent universe. It is a contradiction in terms. My own basic definition of evil is that it is destruction, as you say; therefore, a malevolent universe could not exist. I think that any philosophical error, by definition, proceeds from or leads to some conception which is actually inconceivable. I am merely interested to know what sort of error leads people to some of the terrible notions they hold. As near as I can guess, without becoming a Beaver myself, I think those people believe that the universe may go on existing as inanimate matter, but that it is essentially malevolent to man—that man is a kind of misfit on this earth, who does not belong here and cannot survive because this world is improper for him and, therefore, dooms him to suffering and destruction. I know how many holes there are in such an idea. But, as you say, since they have discarded reason and logic, holes or contradictions do not bother them. They leap over it by saying that everything is a contradiction, that life is illogical, etc. I am thinking of the girl who made that sort of criticism of your book to John Chamberlain in his school class, you remember. I think I said at the time that that girl’s attitude contained the root of all evil on earth.
Incidentally, have you noticed a new kind of philosophical party-line—not Communist party, but the general argument of collectivists? I am now encountering it repeatedly in articles and book reviews. When the present-day collectivists find
themselves smack up against the dead end of the final results of their own ideas, they try to wiggle out by saying that man’s life and the universe are essentially a paradox, or else “a dynamic paradox”—and we’re supposed to let it go at that and swallow any contradiction. Is such a thing as a “paradoxical universe” conceivable?
You have probably glanced through a copy of a book that has just come out called COMMUNISM AND THE CONSCIENCE OF THE WEST by Fulton J. Sheen.[*] Bobbs-Merrill sent me a copy of it, and I have read it. I would like very much to hear your comment on it. I am sure you can guess why.
I quoted to Frank what you said about Don Levine’s attitude toward conscription—that he is in favor of it because the Communists are against it. Frank said: “I suppose even Communists are against small pox. Is he for it?”
I was happy and actually relieved to hear you say that you believe we will see a turn for the better in our own lifetime, since you had been more pessimistic about it than I. I do trust your judgment if you say that you see hopeful signs. You have been right about all the long-range trends which you predicted. It’s true that I probably feel less optimistic now partly because of the attitude of the people who tell me that they are on my side. They usually turn out to be sickening. But what I can’t stand above all are the so-called “middle of the roaders.” I don’t think I have ever actually felt hatred. But I do feel something which is probably real hatred when I hear somebody say he believes in “the middle of the road,” now, when he sees an ocean of blood in plain view at one side of the road of which he proposes to take the middle. Wasn’t there some quotation from Dante to the effect that the lowest circle of hell is reserved for the people who, in times of moral crisis, remain neutral?
When and if you feel like telling me your explanation of current events, I would like very much to hear it. I have actually stopped reading the newspapers, except for looking at the headlines, because I can’t stand to read all the details of what is going on and the ghastly evasions of those who are allegedly opposing Communism.
I hope you won’t mind that I have had to interrupt my new novel for a while. I don’t think that the job on THE FOUNTAINHEAD will take too long—and it is a thing which I have to see through to the end. Do you remember your prediction that the picture would give me the kind of “Hernani” controversy that I envied Victor Hugo for? From the way things look now, I think it will. Well, Isabel Paterson is always right.
If you say that I am a brave gal, I think I will need it in the months ahead, and I think I will win. Thank you for saying
that, and I am very proud that you added, “besides me, of course.” I mean this seriously. I am proud to be mentioned together with you in this respect—just as I was when I heard that Don Levine had coupled us together as “the dangerous people who have principles.” Maybe we are much more dangerous than he suspects, if I understand what sort of danger he means. I hope I will prove it to him.
Love from both of us,
*For AR’s marginal comments on this book, see Ayn Rand’s Marginalia (New Milford, CT: Second Renaissance Books, 1995), pp. 179–82.