To Archibald Ogden [Letter 348]

Item Reference Code: 144_OBx_003_001

Date(s) of creation

July 10, 1948


Archibald Ogden


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July 10, 1948

Archie darling,

Thanks for your letter. It’s always an event for me when I hear from you, so maybe I should exploit you more often.

THE FOUNTAINHEAD goes into production Monday, July 12. In fact, the company is leaving today to go on location. The first scenes shot will be the quarry. They are going to shoot it in a local quarry near Fresno.[*] I have seen pictures of the place, and it is quite impressive. Funny, isn’t it? I remember the time when that quarry was nothing but my imagination and now it is going to be made into a physical reality. I do feel somewhat in the position of a god, since something which I made out of spirit is now going to be translated into matter. However, I am not omnipotent, unfortunately—so I have no way of knowing whether the translation will be what it should be. It’s out of my hands now, and I can only hope for the best. So far, I have reason to think that it will be good. If I am a god in this case, then you are a holy ghost or my first prophet. Anyway, if you are religious, pray for our child in the next two months.

It’s true that Barbara Stanwyck has left Warner Bros. because they did not give her the part of Dominique. The story which you referred to is true—it was Barbara Stanwyck who discovered THE FOUNTAINHEAD for Warner Bros. and made them buy it. If you remember, they bought it before the book became famous. Like all the other studios, Warner Bros. had a synopsis of the book, and they were not interested in it until Barbara Stanwyck persuaded the producer, Henry Blanke, to read the book itself. She really was entitled to get the part of Dominique, and I fought for her in every way I could, but the decision was not up to me. I am terribly sorry about this.

Is there really a possibility of your coming to Hollywood soon? I can’t tell you how much I wish you would. If you have any way of arranging it, please try to do it.

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No, don’t wait for a preview. Come now, while the picture is shooting. If there is anyone who should be present for at least one scene, it is you.

You asked how different my final screenplay is from the original version which I wrote in 1944. It’s quite different in many respects. In the original version, both the producer and I wanted to follow the book too closely and include everything, which could not really be done successfully. The main change we made in the final version was to eliminate the whole episode of the Stoddard trial. Two trials within the space of a screenplay were too much. Also, I introduced Wynand at the beginning of the picture, rather than have him appear late in the action as he does in the book. I had not read my first version of the screenplay for a couple of years, and when I went back to work on it, I discovered a very interesting thing which I did not know before: The scenes which I took verbatim from the book were not as dramatic in the screenplay as they were in the book, because their dramatic value depended on the context. The same scenes, without all the rest of the complicated structure, lost their power. It showed me that my writing was much more integrated than I suspected. To achieve the equivalent of the effect my scenes had in the book, I had to rewrite them for the screen. When you see the picture (if the script is not tampered with, and I don’t think it will be) you will find that the total effect of the story is the same as that of the book. But I have learned that an equivalent cannot be achieved by a literal copy.

I got a great kick out of hearing you say in your letter: “Maybe the great strike is on already and no one has told me about it.” Well, of course it’s on. That’s just what’s happening to the world. The only difference between reality and my story is that I make it a conscious, organized action, while in real life the intelligence of the world has now stopped functioning simply because conditions make it impossible for intelligence to function. All collectivist systems of society, by their own stated theory and in fact, are conspiracies against intelligence. They are an attempt to have the competent work in the service of and under the orders of the incompetent. This is impossible in the mere statement of it—and look at it in practice.

You say: “I like to think that the state of the world has something to do with the complete dearth of good fiction coming out today.” Why, of course, it has everything to do with it. Good fiction cannot be written without

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a very firm, very specific basis of philosophical principles, most particularly moral principles. A man without a philosophy of life, with a mass of woozy contradictions in his thinking, cannot write a good story. There are not going to be any good writers until men have learned to think again.

You are quite right when you say that you feel your capacities are not being fully utilized in your movie job. No, it’s not “a possibly immodest feeling,” as you say. If you don’t want to be immodest, let me do it for you. I have always felt that your talent is being wasted in the movies. It’s quite all right to work in the movies for awhile, but it’s not a permanent, fulltime profession, certainly not for you or for me. That’s why I am still thinking, wistfully, of the Ogden House. Do you remember that? Maybe it will remain only my dream, but maybe not. Anyway, I hope to God that you’ll go back to publishing sooner or later.

Thanks for what you said about my “reflected glory.” If there’s anyone on whom I would like my glory to reflect, it’s you. But it’s not a reflection, darling, in this case. The glory is entirely your own. You have earned it.

Now here is a reminder—where’s the picture you promised me? I am back at the writing of my new novel, and I would like to have your picture for the purpose I explained to you before. Please be immodest enough to believe that I want it for inspiration—and please send it, if you have one.

With best regards from both of us to all of you—and all my love,


*More specifically, the quarry was located in Knowles, California.