A Night With John Galt
Sept. 10, 2014
Who is John Galt? That is the question people have asked since 1957. On Sept. 6, the answer was revealed.
Photo: View of Vegas strip from The Palms.
Last month, Stan and I were invited to attend the premiere of the last film in the Atlas Shrugged trilogy, Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt? Held at The Palms in Las Vegas, we eagerly accepted.
If you aren't familiar with Ayn (pronounced like 'aim' except with an 'n') Rand's exceptionally prophetic novel, she wrote about the demise of America and its approaching financial collapse in 1957! Atlas Shrugged devotees are similar to Trekkies except that the world painted by Ayn Rand is nearly upon us and Capt. Kirk's universe has a way to go.
Atlas Shrugged is beyond classic and enjoys a near-cult following. Stan first read her visionary work in the 70's and I didn't tackle its 1200 pages until 1997. When Stan delved into this masterpiece, it became a dog on his shin, bark on hickory, super glue to fingers. It went with him everywhere, even into the 'thunder think tank'. (Think about it, you'll get it.) I was likewise entranced, but thought with dismay should something like this actually happen, how utterly depressing it would be. Today we are witnessing it.
In "Shrugged 3', gas was $42 a gallon, people's right's had been ripped away through encroaching communism. Corporate and business ownership was usurped by big government all through the spew of what's good for the people… Businesses were systematically dismantled through the Equalization of Opportunity Bill where no corporation could own more than one company. ALL patents were required by law to be turned over to the government. Individuality, creativity and incentive for greatness was extinguished.
Photo: John Galt stands up to Gerald Starnes and threatens to take away 'the motor of the world".
In Part 3, a boss, Gerald Starnes, Jr. of Twentieth Century Motor Company in Starnesville, Wisconsin speaks to hard-hat workers saying that all of you must now work to the best of your abilities, work the hardest you can every day. At the end of the day, all of your wages will be pooled and whoever needs the money the most gets the largest share decreed by their word alone. Do you agree? is the question posed. Everyone bobs their head in agreement like drug-induced no-minds. All but one, John Galt, stands on a back bleacher and revolts quietly against the proposed collectivist maxim of, "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need".
"I don't," said John Galt, who quietly stood up in his place. Every eye sank when it beheld him, because "he stood like a man who knows that he is right."
Galt went on, "I will put an end to this once and for all." Then he turned to walk out.
Gerald Starnes called after him, "How?"
Galt turned and said, "I will stop the motor of the world."
This is actually a flashback of what begins in the first film of the trilogy - when people of moral integrity and great intellect begin to disappear. They leave their businesses, their endeavors, their homes without notice. Just before their disappearance, each mutters to whomever is present, "who is John Galt?" The listener always has a puzzled look on their face, not comprehending what this means, and you don't see these disappearing people again for 2 movies until this question is resolved.
At first "who is John Galt" is viewed as a negative, a quiet cry of resignation, of giving up and despair. It then morphs into a triumphant victory statement of the individual standing for moral good over the slow death of socialism-turned-communism and the over-reach of oppressive, intrusive life-stifling government.
All those who have 'disappeared' over time to a secret enclave take the John Galt pledge in order to live in their 'New Eden': "I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."
In the third film, two great gaping flaws were apparent. The first is a piece of technology stolen from its creator by government and then weaponized: Project F. What it turns out to be resembles a dog collar with electrodes placed strategically around the victim's body. The 'juice' is turned on and the wearer is shocked into submission - except John Galt is not. Stan remarked that the torture administered to Galt was weak, not because Stan wanted him brutalized, but because you see more exotic techniques applied for compliance in nightly TV. It wasn't believable. Stan also commented that Galt looked like Jesus on the cross a symbol of great sacrifice.
Photo: John Galt's community of those who have 'checked out' from the thundering hand of government and reside and develop their inventions, grow crops, participate in free enterprise and live honorably with few laws and restrictions in Mulligan's Valley or Galt's Gulch. Galt's Gulch was modeled after Ouray, Colorado where Rand was inspired to complete her novel. Referred to as “Little Switzerland of America”, Ouray is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in America hidden in the San Juan Mountains.
The second flaw shows after John escapes and he commandeers the airwaves during some B.S. government TV air-pitch. He informs the masses what has happened to them at the hands of government and how to extricate themselves from what will be a continuing miserable demise. Galt's solution in this epic, motivating speech is to set up communities away and apart from the masses and government, on the outskirts of existing cities. We have now progressed so far beyond Project F with weapons for crowd control, FEMA camps and martial law, it was nearly laughable. It wasn't that the writers stayed word-for-word to Rand's book, but it is a huge, inherent weakness in this movie. Producer Bernie Laramie with whom we talked at length, admitted their writers took great license with Rand's book ending. They added romance between John Galt and main character, Dagny Taggart, head of Taggart International (Railroad). One of her best lines was: "You'd be surprised how quickly things get done when you do some actual work and don't rely on political favors." Isn't that just the fact!
NOTES ON 'SHRUGGED'
Photo: John Aglialoro and his wife, Joan Carter
John, the producer, personally put up $20M for the Atlas trilogy. He is a humble, quiet man ranked by Forbes in the top 25 list of richest U.S. execs. When we went through the line to speak with all the 'shining lights', John seemed like every other guy, very unassuming. Another notable was his wife Joan Carter. She had a small part in the film and everyone recognized her as a powerful dynamo on 2 legs a real Dagny Taggart.
It is theorized by producer Harmon Kaslow that the Atlas Shrugged series has never received wide acclaim as it goes against the values of liberal Hollywood. There was also a question of whether there would be an Atlas 2 or 3. As a result, each movie has different people playing the same characters. If you watch all 3 films close together, it can be confusing remembering who is who. Bernie (producer) explained to us that they didn't have the $$ to hold the original actors to exclusivity over the span of 6 years and often the actors had signed to other commitments in the interim.
For example, in Atlas 2, the man who played Hank Reardon a huge character in this film is currently starring on Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. and episodes of Californication and Last Resort all between or during the filming of Atlas 3. This Hank, Jason Beghe, gives one of the best speeches ever in gravelly-voiced protest as a person being squashed by big government. This is his response when he is on trial for violating government regulations. Excerpt:
Photo: Hank Reardon, owner and developer of Reardon Metal being grilled in court.
Court: Henry Rearden, you are charged, along with Kenneth Danigger, in absentia, with one count of violation of Article 64 of the Fair Share Law. How do you plead, sir?
Rearden: I do not recognize this court's right to try me, nor do I recognize any of my actions as a crime.
Simply refusing to obey the law is not a defense.
If you believe you may seize my property simply because you need it, well, then so does any burglar. The only difference is a burglar doesn't ask my permission. If you feel you have the right to use force against me, then show it for what it is. Bring guns.
Sir, we have no intention of pointing guns and seizing your property.
Then why are we here?
Mr. Rearden, you are misrepresenting the letter and the intent of the Fair Share Law. It is based on the highest principle, the principle of the public good. You wouldn't want it misunderstood that you work for nothing but your own profit?
Indeed, I want it understood clearly. I do not recognize the good of others as a justification for my existence. If their fair share demands that I get nothing for my labors, that it requires me to be a victim, then I say, public good be damned. I'll have no part of it.
And how does that benefit your fellow man?
I do not owe you an answer. But I could tell you in 100 ways-- thousands of jobs, billions in revenue, fueling our economy, despite your efforts to destroy the very foundation of our existence. And I believe most of my fellow men would say the same, if they had a voice.
Now we need an example, not a martyr.
I can't set a precedent here, not with this man.
Mr. Rearden, on your behalf, the court has entered a plea of no contest, and this panel has found you guilty.
You are hereby sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine of $50 million.
NOTES ON VEGAS
After dinner in The Palms we walked around the casinos. One looks pretty much like the next. Row upon row of multi-slot machines with their spinning reel circles competed with one-armed bandits for dollars. Occasionally you'd hear a whoop from someone that scored at Roulette or Craps. Black Jackers were noticeably more restrained. Unfortunately we didn't have time to go to shows since the afternoon we returned, Stan had an interview due that night with 3 more on the next 3 days.
What struck us most were people striving to have fun. Though since 2007, casinos banned certain areas from smoking, it still wafted around those enormous rooms. The last time Stan and I were in Vegas, it was during the still choke-and-croak era, where the air was literally blue with cigarette smoke.
Even with the reduced smoking rules, you saw (primarily) Asians at the slots with dust masks covering their noses and mouths. More distressing was seeing old people with an oxygen tank in tow and air valves up their noses while still sucking on cancer sticks. Late into the night, people still tugged on the one armed bandits. Nowhere did we see smiles, just quiet determination.
Our rooms were luxurious, but I commented to Stan that it was fortunate to have brought my lighted make-up mirror as the room lighting was very indirect and subtle. Could it be they don't want you to see how bad one looks after a very late night and too much Vegas??
Another telling thing was that the entire room refrigerator was stocked full of mini-booze bottles. Anything you could want was chilled and ready. Nowhere was there a fridge for bottled water, juice or yogurt. On the table top was an enormous tray of snacks everything from Cheetos to chocolate chip cookies, nuts to Snickers. In the lower left corner was a discrete selection of "No Hangover", aspirin and Advil.
On a funny note, concurrent with the world premiere of Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt?, The Palms hosted the Pole-Ex convention. We wondered why so many people were running around the desert in workout clothes tricked out in digi-cams with very long lenses. It seems most in this group, male and female, sported large muscles and lots of tats. One young woman in the 24/7 restaurant had a tree spanning the entire width of her back.
Anyway, it was an interesting mixture of the 20-somethings, the geriatrics and the glam squad.
ON THE CARPET
In the first two Atlas Shrugged movies, you never saw the face of John Galt. He was always a voice in the background or a face in shadow. So it didn't matter then who the actual person was.
However, John Galt emerged from the dark as a 6'2", trim, good-looking man played by Kristoffer Polaha. If you look at his resumé, he's not a newbie and has played in quite a few TV shows like Bones, CSI: Miami, Mad Men, Roswell, Without A Trace, Ringer, Life Unexpected, etc, but he never stuck in my mind until now. As Galt, he was charismatic, compelling. Maybe it was the role of telling government to stick it sideways or maybe it was just time for this actor to emerge. Producer Bernie Laramie shared he feels this is Polaha's breakout role. They certainly had him on the red carpet before Dagny played by Laura Regan (pictured above) and she had a much larger speaking part throughout all three films. People lined up to have their photograph snapped with him on the red threads.
Standing a few feet behind Laura Regan she turned around, caught my eye and shrugged as if to say "oh well'. Dressed in a short black cocktail dress and black strappy heels, she was definitely prettier than Kris, but less compelling here than on-screen. Where in Atlas 3, she was a convincing, young, corporate head with unbending, unyielding steely reserve and without shame to be strong and in control, here she was content to take the backseat.
John Galt, a humanized concept of people sick and tired of being run over by greedy government was kept hidden until nearly the end of the trilogy. Dagny was a driving entity throughout and deserved more recognition.
Photo: Because Ayn Rand encompassed a considerable amount of philosophy in Atlas Shrugged, David Kelley, pictured left, was hired as the CIO chief intellectual officer the same title he holds as founder of the Atlas Society. He has plenty of creds earning his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1975 and teaching at Vassar and Brandeis. Kristoffer Polaha (center) and producer of Atlas Shrugged, Harmon Kaslow on the right.
THE LAST STAND
Photo: Part 1 of Atlas Shrugged had scenes filmed about 45 minutes from us at the Royal Gorge in Colorado. In this scene, Reardon Metal is given the ultimate test to withstand this mighty expanse over the gorge.
Isn't it curious that so many 'last stands' are made in Colorado. The epic 1979 book, mini-series and movie, Stephen King's The Stand centers its place of refuge and fighting back in Boulder, CO.
Red Dawn is situated in the small town of Calumet, Colorado.
The wildly successful movies and TV series, Stargate, centers here, and oh yes, government has set up one of their alternate universes in Cheyenne Mountain. Colorado-based non-last stand movies include WarGames, The Shining, Downhill Racer, National Lampoon's Vacation, Jeremiah Johnson. Some of other Colorado situated films we'll just ignore: Dumb and Dumber, Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, Misery and Cannibal! The Musical.
Photo: Scene from Atlas Shrugged 2 - epitaph for America.
Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt? is a slice of what our future holds if we don't reign in government. You owe it to yourself to see this movie. More importantly, read the book. Rand was nearly 60 years ahead of her time. As a Russian, maybe she could see what many blind Americans could not. She lived it. Or maybe it was information gleaned as the reputed mistress of Philip Rothschild.
If you haven't seen parts 1 and 2, do that first though it's not mandatory as each in the trilogy acts as a stand-alone film. You'll have time as Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt? won't hit theaters until Sept 12.
Go ahead, I double dog dare you. Rip those blinders off and have a good look at our country after seeing the entire Atlas trilogy. If you don't weep for America, you missed the plot.
It is hard to go retro and retake from government all those rights that have been quietly jerked away, to repeal onerous taxes given to thieving, looting spend-crazy governments. It's like the tired saying of not being able to push toothpaste back in the tube or being able to 'unsee' something dreadful like the beheading of journalist James Foley or regaining virginity once it's been given away. There are no born-again virgins.
America is at that brink; we are nearly beyond political redemption. The musical score alone is worth the price of admission. Even if we can't regain America as we knew it, the music makes you feel anything is possible. Maybe it is…
Dick Cheney may not have gotten a lot right, rubbed a lot of people wrong, but he is spot on about Obama with this observation:
Pray for America.