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February TV Movies with a "Rand Connection"

The 1949 film, "The Fountainhead," is not in my mind a successful screen adaptation of Ayn Rand's great classic. Her pared-down script loses almost all of the subtlety of her psychological novel; King Vidor's frenetically-paced direction transforms an incisive character study into a standard melodrama; the actors—including Gary Cooper as Roark, Patricia Neal as Dominique, and Raymond Massey as Wynand—seem miscast; and even the great Max Steiner's score seems overwrought and meandering.

Still, the film has its own quirky sense of style, and it's startling to hear Rand's uncompromising message of individualism delivered onscreen. Check it out on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on February 8th or 16th. Also check out Stephen Cox's excellent analysis of the film elsewhere on this Web site.

If you love Ayn Rand's heroic portraits of entrepreneurs and capitalists, you'll enjoy one of her favorite actors—Walter Pidgeon—as a colorful 19th Century "robber baron" in the epic drama, Mrs. Parkington. It co-stars the captivating Greer Garson in the title role, for which she won a Best Actress nomination. Told in flashbacks spanning six decades, Garson rises from boarding house maid to society wife when she meets and falls in love with the roguish Pidgeon—then must decide what to do with their extended family of whining, worthless potential heirs. This is a wonderful depiction of the Gilded Age in all its glory, and of the contrasting values of the creators who build fortunes versus the parasites who consume them. Lavish costumes and fine performances decorate this charming tale of lifelong love and ambition. It also airs on TCM on February 8th and 9th.

We've previously observed here that Terence Rattigan was one of Ayn Rand's favorite playwrights. "The Winslow Boy"—the 1999 movie version of one of Rattigan's most beloved plays—will be broadcast on the Bravo cable network on February 15th and 16th. The film sports uniformly fine performances, especially those of Nigel Hawthorne and Jeremy Northam (appearing in the current theatrical release "Gosford Park"), and an interesting screenplay adaptation by David Mamet. Mamet subtly shifts some emphasis among characters from the play, and adds a bit of a contemporary flavor to the story line. But he still maintains all the dignity, grace, and moral passion of the original. Highly recommended.

Michael Redgrave heads the cast in a fine 1952 production of Oscar Wilde's famous and hilarious comedy of manners, "The Importance of Being Earnest." It airs on the "Showtime 3" channel on February 7th, 15th, 19th, 23rd and 24th. The attenuated "Rand connection" here is that Wilde's work was endorsed and carried in book catalogues offered by organizations with which she had once been associated. That's enough reason for me to commend this excellent film.

In the past we've recommended "In the Heat of the Night," the great detective classic of murder and racism starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger in memorable performances. This Rand favorite appears on the TNT network on February 5th, and on the TBS Superstation on February 22nd.

Rand very much admired thriller writer Ira Levin's first novel, A Kiss Before Dying. The classic 1956 film version starring Robert Wagner will be broadcast on TCM on February 16th. And if you want to appreciate fine literary craftsmanship, read the novel.

Another source of admiration for Ayn Rand was the Apollo space program. And I have no doubt she would have loved the gripping, extraordinarily inspiring docudrama, "Apollo 13," starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Ed Harris. Based on the true events of the near-disastrous lunar expedition, it is a soaring tribute to the resolution and resourcefulness of the human mind. This unforgettable film airs throughout the month on the STARZ network.

As always, check your local listings for the broadcast time in your area.

—Robert Bidinotto



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