Ayn Rand in Hollywood Exhibit
Nov 13, 2006
Irvine, CA--Ayn Rand's time in Hollywood is documented by a new exhibit on display at the Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Library near the historic corner of Hollywood and Vine. The exhibit, which opened on October 14, is already generating attention. The Los Angeles Times wrote that the exhibit explores "a philosopher in Hollywood" and KCET TV in Los Angeles produced an eight-minute profile on the show, highlighting the controversial author's time in Hollywood.
The exhibit presents Rand's evolution in Hollywood, from film extra to contract screenwriter, and covers the period 1926 to 1951. Featured are reproductions of rare photographs and manuscripts drawn from the Ayn Rand Archives, a special collection of the Ayn Rand Institute. On display are items chronicling Rand's early years as a film extra and junior screenwriter under Cecil B. DeMille, her 1940s Hollywood political activism and her work on the film adaptation of "The Fountainhead," as well as the drafting of her final novel and literary masterpiece, "Atlas Shrugged."
The exhibit is the first in a triptych of exhibits based on the illustrated biography "Ayn Rand" (The Overlook Press, 2005), by Jeff Britting, archivist at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine. Britting, a long-time resident of West Hollywood, originally conceived the exhibit as an examination of Rand in historic locations. The first exhibit opened at the Nabokov Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia--Rand's birthplace--in November 2005 and explored Ayn Rand's years in Russia. The third exhibit, expected to open in New York City in time for the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged," will examine Rand's life and creative work in New York City.
As the present exhibit makes clear, Ayn Rand is virtually the only novelist-philosopher to have navigated the Hollywood studio system and present the gist of a new systematic approach to reason and morality. She did this with surprising success. Rand's Hollywood-era writings, particularly her own screenplay adaptation of her best-selling novel, "The Fountainhead" (1943), dramatize an original moral philosophy. Her philosophical system, which she called Objectivism, was presented in the novel "Atlas Shrugged" (1957) and in subsequent nonfiction writings. These works demonstrate Rand's systematic advocacy of reason and rational selfishness, making her one of the most controversial intellectual figures of the twentieth century.
And what does this "philosopher in Hollywood" offer contemporary film goers? She offers controversial ideas, ones that speak to an ongoing conflict between liberals and conservatives in today's Hollywood. "She was" Britting states, "neither liberal nor conservative. She offers an original philosophy, which she called 'a philosophy for living on earth.'" Noting the liberals' contempt for America and such values as independence and economic freedom, Britting says, "unfortunately, conservative and libertarian critics and filmmakers are suggesting a return to moral values based on religion--or no philosophy at all." In Rand's--and Britting's view--this is disastrous. "The last thing Hollywood needs is more mindlessness. And that is exactly what conservatives offer in the form of mindless faith in God." Instead, Britting says what Hollywood needs is the ideas in Roark's speech in Warner Bros.' "The Fountainhead." "The creator should respect no authority other than his own judgment of reality. And 'Atlas Shrugged,' which has never been adapted and would make a great film, is a celebration of man's mind and the sacredness of his happiness on earth."
The nature of these ideas during Rand's time as a screen writer and novelist is explored in additional programming, which includes a reading and film series.
STAND AND THINK, a series of readings from unpublished works in Rand's archives, will take place once a month through December. The first reading--which occurred on October 21, attracting a diverse audience of library patrons, Hollywood people and community members--examined Rand's personal view of life and work in Los Angeles. On November 18 the second reading will examine Rand's involvement with 1940s anticommunist intellectual activism and the fight against the Communist Party's influence over the content of nonpolitical films. On December 9, the final reading, based in "Atlas Shrugged," will examine Rand's atheism and why she is not a conservative.
Beginning in January, the Ayn Rand Film series opens with a screening of the Academy Award-nominated feature documentary "Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Bing Theatre on January 13, 2007. Subsequent films--all scripted by Rand--will be viewed in the more intimate setting of the Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Library exhibit space. These films are "You Came Along" (1945), "Love Letters" (1945), and "The Fountainhead" (1949). The concluding lecture by Britting will explore the history behind Rand's film adaptation of her novel "The Fountainhead." This lecture is a part of Rand's history that is especially relevant today. The lecture examines Rand's script and the two other versions in development by the studio that would have contradicted her esthetics and her philosophy.
Britting has a long association with Rand projects and her ideas. Studying music and philosophy at UC Berkeley, Britting came to Hollywood in the mid-1980s to explore opportunity in the independent film and theater worlds. He was a co-producer of the first performance of Rand's unproduced play "Ideal," and of the stage adaptation of her novel "Anthem." Both works had their runs in Hollywood. Appropriately, Britting also had his hand in creating a feature documentary on Rand's life, "Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life." The film was an Academy Award nominee for best documentary feature in 1997. Britting was associate producer of the film and composed the film's musical score. A long-time West Hollywood resident, Britting notes that in 1933 Rand had made her home in the area that would become West Hollywood, there writing her first play, "Night of January 16th," as well as the final draft of her first novel, "We the Living." But this did not end the links between the past and the present. The "Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life" production office was in a small office suite behind an apartment building near Fairfax Avenue. And, as Britting tells it, the office had an unintended historical connection to the film's subject. "Actually, the window of my office looked directly into the window of Rand's 1933 apartment. This we established from her Russian correspondence." The coincidence was a good sign. "You see, the limousine that picked up the production staff en route to the Oscars also stopped in front of her old apartment building."
"Ayn Rand in Hollywood" runs at the Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Library through February. For further information, including hours and additional programming, please go to www.aynrand.org/exhibit.