Ayn Rand was born in 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Defying the death warrant of the Soviet Union, she came to America as a temporary visitor in 1926 but remained for the rest of her life. Later, she would also defy the cultural and political views of contemporary America in such best-selling novels as THE FOUNTAINHEAD and ATLAS SHRUGGED. Her unique philosophy, Objectivism, challenged the cultural tradition of 2,500 years. She attained a worldwide fame and a readership numbering in the millions. Yet, Ayn Rand achieved these results as a literary outsider. Her reputation spread through relentless word of mouth among readers who found—and continue to find—a uniquely inspiring philosophy of life presented in her entertaining and dramatic novels. One of the most controversial thinkers of the twentieth century, her total book sales have exceeded 30 million copies.
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Born to a middle class Jewish businessman, Ayn grew up in a non-religious home with her mother and two sisters, Natasha and Nora. During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Ayn Rand first heard the political slogan that, “man must live for the state.” At the age of twelve, she knew this was the essence of Soviet communism and she refused to sanction what she regarded as the destroyer of the best, most able men and women. Thereafter, she obtained a visa to travel to America and embarked on a career as a writer, becoming one of history's most passionate defenders of reason and individual freedom.
Not long after her arrival in the United States in 1926, she applied for a screenwriting position at the DeMille Studios in Hollywood. On that same day, a chance meeting with DeMille brought her to the set of THE KING OF KINGS and she was hired as an extra for the film. However, it wasn't until her 1936 Broadway success, NIGHT OF JANUARY 16TH, that she first achieved fame as a writer. The play, a courtroom drama that was tried before a jury drawn from the audience each night, had two endings for each verdict. Although a success, it marked Ayn's first struggle to keep the integrity of her writing intact from those who did not share or understand her vision.
Next, it was the story of three young people destroyed by dictatorship that became the subject of her first novel called, WE THE LIVING. Upon publication, it had a lackluster reception due to the critical establishment's sympathy with Soviet Russia as a “noble experiment.” It was this same “experiment” that refused the emigration of Ayn Rand's family to America at the time and insured their deaths under Stalin. At work on the plot of her next novel, she took a break to write a shorter work called ANTHEM. A futuristic account of a world in which the word “I” has been lost to men. ANTHEM was a warning of what America might become. Upon completing THE FOUNTAINHEAD, however, she had finally glorified the image of what America had represented to her in Russia—the skyscraper. Through the profession of architecture, she presented the conflict between those who would choose independence and those who would live by the standards of others.
In 1951, she returned to New York City, her idea of “the pinnacle of achievement in human terms, ” to complete her fourth and final novel, ATLAS SHRUGGED. In asking the question, “Who is John Galt?” and telling the epic story of men and women of the mind who go on strike, Ayn finally made her ideas part of philosophy.
As a Hollywood screenwriter, she worked under Hal Wallis and penned the popular LOVE LETTERS, starring Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton. She also adapted her own novel for the screen with THE FOUNTAINHEAD, starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. Her other works include the plays IDEAL and THINK TWICE, the short stories GOOD COPY and HER SECOND CAREER, and such non-fiction books as THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS, CAPITALISM: THE UNKNOWN IDEAL and THE ROMANTIC MANIFESTO.
Ayn Rand developed the theory that everyone has a subconscious view of the universe and of man’s place in it. It is a person’s most personal, emotional response to existence and what she termed a “sense of life.”
AYN RAND: A SENSE OF LIFE is a feature-length documentary that illustrates the author's own sense of life. It paints a portrait of a woman whose work has remained in print for over fifty years and continues to inspire new generations of readers. It incorporates interviews with the people who knew Ayn Rand best, photos from her personal archives, film clips and original animated sequences to tell her remarkable story-a story of a “life more compelling than fiction.”