Ayn Rand and Cecil B. DeMille: “Why are you looking at me?”

A new book review at the Wall Street Journal begins with this story about Ayn Rand and Cecil B. DeMille:

On a cool Southern California morning in September 1926, an impoverished, 21-year-old Russian with sketchy English who had just renamed herself Ayn Rand was dejectedly leaving the DeMille Studio after being told that the publicity department had no job openings. Near the exit gate, she spotted a beautiful open roadster parked by the curb; the man behind the wheel was unmistakably the boss himself. She couldn’t help staring for a moment, then collected herself and turned toward the gate. Before she made it out, however, the car pulled up to her and the driver asked: “Why are you looking at me?”

Cecil B. DeMille shortly invited the young lady into the car and drove her into the nearby hills, where his epic life of Christ, “The King of Kings,” was shooting. The director allowed Rand to observe the filming for a week, then employed her as an extra for three months, whereupon she became a junior writer assigned, eventually, to a picture called “The Skyscraper.” Uninspired by its story and characters, Rand began her own screenplay of the same name, turning the story into one about an architect whose power and integrity intimidate lesser mortals.

The salient point of the Rand-DeMille convergenceĆ¢??as related in “Empire of Dreams,” Scott Eyman’s colossally comprehensive and surprisingly moving biography of DeMilleĆ¢??is not so much that the film director inadvertently helped plant the seed that would blossom into the 1943 novel “The Fountainhead.” (Although it is ironic that Ayn Rand’s name and even that of the novel’s fictional hero, Howard Roark, are undoubtedly more familiar to people under 40 today than is DeMille’s.) Rather, what matters about the episode is that it shows us DeMille as a real-life Roark, a powerful man of such ambition, determination and fearlessness that nothing and no one could stop him.

See the full article for much more about the DeMille biography.