The hero of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead is Howard Roark (Gary Cooper), a fiercely independent architect obviously patterned after Frank Lloyd Wright. Rather than compromise his ideals, Roark takes menial work as a quarryman to finance his projects. He falls in love with heiress Dominique (Patricia Neal), but ends the relationship when he has the opportunity to construct buildings according to his own wishes. Dominique marries a newspaper tycoon (Raymond Massey) who at first conducts a vitriolic campaign against the "radical" Roark, but eventually becomes his strongest supporter. Upon being given a public-housing contract on the proviso that his plans not be changed in any way, Roark is aghast to learn that his designs will be radically altered. Roark sneaks into the unfinished structure at night, makes certain no one else is around, and dynamites the project into oblivion. At his trial, Roark acts as his own defense, delivering an eloquent paean to individuality. He is acquitted, while the newspaper tycoon, upset that he could offer Roark no help during the trial, kills himself. This clears the way for a final clinch between Roark and Dominique on the skeleton of his latest building project. Ayn Rand's celebration of Objectivism didn't translate very well to film, with Gary Cooper coming off more selfish and petulant than anything else. The Fountainhead's saving graces are the solid direction by King Vidor, the rhapsodic musical score by Max Steiner, and the symbolism inherent in Cooper's manipulation of his power drill when he first lays eyes on Patricia Neal!
by Hal Erickson synopsis