Ayn Rand studied philosophy and history then took a shot as a screenwriter. Initially, Rand struggled in Hollywood and took odd jobs to pay her basic expenses. While working as a Hollywood extra on Cecil B. DeMille’s King of Kings she bumped into (on purpose) an aspiring young actor, Frank O’Connor, and married him in 1929. Her first screenplay to sell was Red Pawn in 1932 to Universal Studios. Rand subsequently wrote the play, The Night of January 16th in 1934 and published two novels, We The Living (1936), and Anthem (1938). Anthem, despite its appearance as a short story, is actually considered by many to be an epic prose poem. We The Living was made into a film six years later, in 1942, by the Italian government under Benito Mussolini, although without Rand’s knowledge.
Rand’s first major success came with the best-selling novel The Fountainhead (1943). The manuscript for this book was difficult to get into print. It was initially taken from publisher to publisher, collecting rejection slips as it went, before it was picked up by the Bobbs-Merrill Company publishing house. The book was so successful that the royalties and movie rights made Rand famous and financially secure.
In 1947, as a “friendly witness” for the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Rand warned against Communist propagandists in Hollywood. Rand’s testimony involved analysis of the 1943 film Song of Russia. Rand testified that the movie grossly misrepresented the socioeconomic conditions in the Soviet Union. She told the committee that the film presented Russia as if it were an amazing paradise of comfort, beauty and plenty for everybody. However, she said, in reality the conditions of the average Russian peasant farmer were appalling. Apparently this 1943 film was intentional wartime propaganda by US patriots. The movie was, at the time, intended to provide comfort to the US public during the American-Soviet alliance during World War II. After the HUAC hearings, when Ayn Rand was asked about her feelings on the effectiveness of their investigations, she described the process as “futile.”
Rand’s writings praised the “heroic” “American values” of egoism and rugged individualism. Her fiction writings often told stories of educated, successful Americans who found their lives unfairly burdened with the hassles of taxation, bureaucracy and other forms of heavy-handed government interference. Rand also had a strong dislike for organized religion and compulsory charity, both of which she believed helped foster a culture of guilt in successful people.
Ayn Rand lectured at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (1960), Princeton University, New Jersey (1960), Columbia University, New York (1960, 1962), The University of Wisconsin (1961), Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (1961), Harvard University, Cambridge (1962), and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge (1962).
Rand published the book described as her “magnum opus”, Atlas Shrugged in 1957. This book, as with The Fountainhead also became a best seller. Atlas Shrugged is recognized as one of the most influential books for Americans today -Rands writing has a special timelessness. Atlas Shrugged is most often seen as Rand’s most complete statement of Objectivist philosophy in any of her works of fiction. Rand launched the Objectivist movement to promote her philosophy, Objectivism.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Rand developed her Objectivist philosophy via fiction and non-fiction works.
Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982 and was interred in the Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York.