Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

I have suddenly realized that I had never written a separate post about Jodi Picoults books and that it why I decided to write this one.
I as have mentioned before the issues she raises in her books are rather acute, but having raised a topic she prefers to tie loose ends to have a happy end, whatever unbelievable. Had she left her books without happy ends, they IMHO would have been much more actual. (Else why to raise a problem if every time it is miraculously solved.) Another problem with Picoults books is that her "good" heroes are rather commonplace people towards whom because of this reason it's not very easy to feel so much sympathy as the author tried to force. (This is as well true about this particular book - I wasn't able to feel the wholly sympathy to the main protagonist and aversion to the main antagonist.)Continuing about Small Great Things - I didn't especially liked the book because of its integrity lack. There were three first-persons there: the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the dead infant. But IMHO this wasn't enough. First because the mother of the baby who died should have had her voice (because her experience of having and loosing a child is definitely different from the one of a father). Second, what about the nurse manager who had to make a decision to dismiss the black nurse from the white baby? This conflict touched her as well - she had to choose between the hospital policy, the desire of the client and the feeling toward the colleague (though, I agree, in this particular situation the impact on her was not very large). There might also have been some other people from both sides. (And the only person whose experience was close to the one of the writer was the female lawyer. Not being able to cover all the aspects of the story the writer should IMHO have written the book from the lawyer's perspective only, in this case the book would have been more credible.)
Another problem was unsynchronized time. Judging by how the main male character described the events of his youth and the timeline of the white power movement I thought that in 1990-es the hero was at least a teenager. But then it turned out that the main event that triggered his hatred towards the minorities had happened at the turn of the millennium. It looks like Jodi Picoult had planned to write this book very long ago, but when she finally wrote it she just moved the main events forwards forgetting about the previous ones. Furthermore, the whole book looks like its events happened at least 10 years ago, if no more. (The birth dates of the secondary heroes are the other evidence of such a possibility.) Because nowadays no one covers such problems as discrimination from the one point only. The problem is much more complex.But what I disliked most of all was the author's statement that all the white people have an advantage over the black people and that is why all the white people are guilty of the "passive racism". I completely disagree witht he statement. First, because nowadays there are rich black people as well and poor white people do still exist. So the advantage depends in fact not on the color of a person and his/her relative's skin, but from their native country, from the wealth and connections of the family etc. But anyway, it is not correct to call people having these advantage from the birth some kind of "passive -ists" (racist, nationalists etc)
PS I am neither pro nor contra white, black or any other human skin's color people, I am nor feminist neither antifeminist, I am nor homophile neither homophobe. I think people should be judged not by the color of their skin but by their deeds, that people should be hired not because of their social status but because of their abilities only.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

"Seven days in May"

As I promised you I continue to write about books and movies on the topic of the Cold War. This time I'll write about the book "Seven days in May" written by Fletcher Knebel and Richard Bailey, and its movie adaptations. It's strange but my acquaintance with the book's plot started about seven years ago not with the book itself but with its Soviet adaption made in 1983. Having become interested I found and read a Russian translation of the book and forgot about the topic at all. Nowadays, looking for more movies about the Cold War I stumbled upon an American adaptation of the book. Before watching it I decided to re-read the book, and this time in English. Thus I have four things to compare - the original book and its Russian translation (yes, there is some difference between them) and both movies.
Let's start from comparing the book with its translation. I liked the original English book very much, till such degree that having finished it I immediately began to search other books of the same authors (or at least written by one of them only). (Unfortunately, I was able to find only their paper editions so it looks like I have to postpone meeting with new plots and characters of the authors for a while :..-(( ) And I wasn't able to understand why I had deemed the book to be rather dry when I was reading it in Russian. (Well, now I have an idea that the Russian translation might have been made so "dry" intentionally because it turned out there were some omissions in the Russian variant.) Heroes of the original, English, version seem to be real, vivid people, in whose existence it was very easy to believe. I liked as well how the authors described feelings of the President, that they showed that being a President is not so easy as it may seem from the outside, that it is a hard work with enormous loads of responsibility. And I liked the end of the book though it was open because even having "defeated" general Scott president Lyman had to face Russian cheating with the new plant in Yakutsk which they had begun to build ignoring the signed disarmament treaty.
As for the Russian translation - as I have mentioned there were some omissions there, and the majority of them were just about the above mentioned Yakutsk. The paragraph about Russian cheating was removed from the translation at all (btw, the translation was made in 1960ies, almost after the original book was published) so the question of what in fact was being built in Yakutsk was left open (leaving the USSR's tricks not revealed and with the same time leaving readers with some hope for the future of the universe in which the book's events had happened). Together with this most important omission there were smaller ones (frankly speaking I had expected them to be in some personal scenes, love scenes but they all turned out to be about politics), for example, the paragraph about perfidy being practiced by Russian for the last 500 years was completely removed.
Now a couple of words about the movies. The American version was made a couple of years after the book's publishing and the action time there wasn't changed (forgot to mention that the book was written in a genre of alternative history or even futurism because its events are happening 13 years after the year when it was written; in 1961 Knebel and Bailey thought that Kennedy's presidency would last two terms, and in their universe in 1968 a republican president Freizer was elected and after him came a democrat Jordan Lyman). Because it was a movie and not a TV series some book events were discarded. That is why the movie seemed to be rather "condensed" and even dashed off. And the accents of the movie were a little bit different. The was no question of the future with lying Russians (the topic of Yakutsk wasn't touched at all), neither there was a notion of how difficult it is be a President of the USA. The main topic was that democracy should be preserved, and if one disagrees with the President and even deems the latter to be the traitor all things should be done legally; to overthrow the president with a coup is a sheer insanity which will only weaken the country and play directly into communist's hands. This is almost all I wanted to say about the American adaption. The last thing I'd like to mention is that there turned out be be the scene shot but not added to it. In the book there was described a road accident in which senator Prentice died. For the film the same scene was prepared but with general Scott. And it seemed so logical that I just can't understand why they decided not to include it in the movie.
And now some (in fact, there will be many of them )))) words about the Soviet adaptation. (Btw, its name was different from the name of the book, the Soviet adaption was called "The Last Resort of Kings", rephrasing the Latin sentence "Ultima ratio regum".) First, though it was made in the beginning of 80ies, when the date of the events described in the book was already in the past, soviet  authors decided to keep the style of futurism ad set the events in the future as well. But in their "universe" Jordan Lyman became a president at least after Ronald Reagan (because the latter was mentioned many times). Second (and it was completely predictable) they picked up the line with Yakutsk and showed supposedly that the USSR wasn't guilty because the CIA information about Yakutsk was wrong and nothing military was being built there. And third, which is the most important, the movie (in fact it was a TV-series of four episodes) was full of propaganda. (The very "message" of the TV-series was that the Western politics is a dirty thing and all the American politicians are venal and corrupted.) For the sake of propaganda some lines were removed and even more new lines were inserted. Furthermore, there were kind of narrator comments, describing and "clarifying" some concomitant events. The strength of this propaganda was so high that even I, knowing the truth, was sometimes ready to believe in the "message" of dirty and corrupted Western world which was being crammed into the minds of the viewers during the whole TV-series.
Nevertheless, there were interesting and funny things about the movie which made it worth to watch. First, songs sang by ... unexpectedly... Valery Leontiev. (It's very strange that in such a serious adaptation there should be music but the music was very good and corresponding ))) Second, the actors had a definite charm and though the authors made everything they could for the heroes to look like scoundrels the latter nevertheless caused in me sympathy and even empathy. And the last - it was funny how the "capitalist word" was shown by the Soviet authors. Though by that time the remote controls were widespread in the Western world in the movie even the president still had a TV set without it. ))) But in the military sector there were shown things which still don't exist (a force field preventing cars and people to enter the guarded area). They showed the White house inside and outside, the military bases and TV studios but they almost didn't show houses and apartments of ordinary people (I don't know why, whether the authors of the film were afraid to show real ones because this might have dissuaded the soviet watchers in the Western standards of life or was it to difficult to create plausible decorations? Btw, even what they showed didn't portray the American life as gloomy and difficult as it was described in the Soviet times.) Still, I will recommend you to watch the TV series but only after reading the original English version of the book.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Strong, Jack Strong

Have you ever heard about Ryszard Kukliński? I have learned about him reading the book of Victor Suvorov named "Alfabet Wiktora Suworowa" (this book is in Polish and was published especially for Suvorov's Polish readers). The book consists of chapters devoted to different historical characters and Suvorov's opinions about them, almost about of all of them I had heard or read before (even about what might be the real background Pen'kovski's story) but I knew nothing about that there was one more "spy" in the Soviet block, and much more lucky than Penkovsky.
In Suvorov's book Kukliński's story was told though with all the necessary details but briefly, so I longed for more information and was very much surprised and glad to find that there is a movie named "Jack Strong" (Jack Strong was Kukliński's CIA secret-agent pseudonym) telling about Kukliński's "treason" and how he and his family were evacuated from Poland.
The real Kuklińki's passport with his photo (on the left) and Marcin Dorociński playing the main role in "Jack Strong" (on the right)
And I really liked the movie, especially how casting was done!
Ryszard Kukliński and Marcin Dorociński 

I don't know how Kukliński's wife looked like in her youth but Maja Ostaszewska looked very persuasive playing Hanna Kuklińska. Furthermore, the actress herself IMHO has a very rare type of beauty, which first doesn't arrest one's attention but then gradually reveals its full charm.
Marcin Dorociński and Maja Ostaszewska
What else was interesting for me in the movie were scenes of Polish life during 70ies. Though from the Soviet period of history of the country where I was born I can recall only 80ies, it was still interesting to compare what I saw in the movie with what I remember from my childhood and what I heard about the Soviet period of Polish history.
A New Year's party, snapshot from the movie
And one small but significant detail - though the whole movie was devoted to Kukliński's work for CIA and his escape from Poland in the last minutes of it there was shown (in outline, but it was enough) what happened with Kukliński and his family afterwards...
Ryszard Kukliński and Marcin Dorociński
Summing up, I can't recall any other historical movie I have had so much pleasure to watch for the last couple of years. And it touched me in one more aspect - I have felt sudden interest in movies and books about the Cold War. So it looks like I'll write more posts on the topic.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Great Gatsby, a novel itself and a couple of adaptations

Before I read this book I had several times heard very enthusiastic reviews of a movie based on it, with Leonardo di Caprio as a main star. But each time after stumbling upon a review I went to Wikipedia to read a plot description of the book and each time having read it I became convinced that the book is a just a plain melodrama not worthy to read. However, eventually I gave up and decided to read the book to be able to see for myself what it is worth.
Frankly speaking, my opinion of the book after I had read it has changed only slightly. Now I agree that it isn't a plain melodrama, that there are some problems raised in it but they haven't touched me a bit. It looked like both Nick Carraway, the protagonist, and Jay Gatsby (and the author of the book, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, as well) envied the rich people and tried to outdo them as much as they can, whereas those rich people didn't even consider "the poor people" as rivals. (That is why Tom Buchanan allowed his wife to return home in one car with her lover Gatsby, and that is why it wasn't enough for Gatsby just to be with his old flame Daisy, therefore he wanted Daisy to "humiliate" her husband telling that she never had loved him, that she loved only Gatsby.) As for the rest of the characters - well, their problems seemed to me something like "common problems" of bohemia, and I never valued such people and such problems.
What surprised me was the fact that the author decided to name the book "The Great Gatsby". IMHO there was nothing great in the character, in my opinion the best adjectives to describe him are naive and romantic. When I only heard the name of the book and its actions' place and time I thought Gatsby would be a kind of a gangster, but the closest person to this image in the book was Tom Buchanan. He had mistresses without having any remorse about this fact, he didn't hesitate neither to beat a woman when she was doing what he didn't like nor to use some dirty tricks with insider information to "persuade" his wife to stay with him after she had confessed that she loved another man. In addition, he "killed" his wife's lover, using his lover's husband as a cat's paw. Nevertheless, Tom with all his cruelness was rather straightforward, that is why for me he wasn't the worst character of the book.
And the worst, as you might have guessed, was Daisy. From the beginning of the book it was obvious that she was suffering, but from what? She pretended she was hurt by Tom's affairs, but for me she wasn't convincing enough in this pretending. Neither was she hankering after her first love, Jay Gatsby. In my opinion, she was just bored, and showing her husband a kind of resentment towards his affairs was only the way to entertain herself and get a kind of compensation from him. When Gatsby reappeared in her life first it was fun for Daisy to have an affair with him; but later, when he began to urge her to leave her husband, she began to show significant signs of indecisiveness. IMHO this (and how easily she was persuaded by her husband not to leave him for Gatsby) showed clearly that in fact she didn't want to divorce Tom and marry Gatsby. That is why Tom's unsubstantiated accusations of Gatsby having some relations with mafia (relations of a kind which Tom had himself) were enough for Daisy to prefer her husband to her lover. Furthermore, when Daisy killed a woman and Gatsby covered her up she didn't even thank him (not to mention that having decided to stay with Tom she didn't even bother to tell this bitter truth to Gatsby).
There is still a question whether Daisy truly loved Gatsby during their romance five years before the events described in the book. Well, she might have thought she did, but judging by her actions she didn't care much to wait him to return from the war. (Otherwise she wouldn't have married Tom.) And as for her tears just before the wedding, when she had just got Gatsby's letter, I think they were not because of love and pain, but of guilt. She had failed to keep her promise to Gatsby to wait for him, and getting to know that he was alive (and poor?) caused such a pang of guilt in her that she even wanted to break her engagement with Tom.
As for the rest of the characters - IMHO they were rather plain (even the narrator himself) and seemed to be only "extras" in the novel.
That's all about the book, now let's turn to the movies. The version with di Caprio I didn't like at all. First, because I don't like him personally, and I don't value very much Carey Mulligan (who played Daisy) either. Though the authors of the movie tried to mollify the image of Daisy (with showing that it was she who wanted to talk to Tom and tell him about her leaving him) the general impression I've got of her still was that she was bored and not clever woman, and the fact that she was played by Carey Mulligan just made this impression more weighty. But not of the above mentioned is my main pretense. What I disliked very much was that the authors made the movie totally non-authentic. The music was modern, there were a lot of extras who looked totally "out of time" (I can understand the notorious political correctness, but in the case of this movie it was IMHO too much to show so many black characters as people of bohemia and "high-society", there were not so many of them that time), and the scenery looked like it was not a movie but an operetta (so enormous was the contrast between rich and poor people). Thus the whole impression of the movie was that it was not an adaptation of "The Great Gatsby", but only a kind of party based on it. (The only one thing I liked in the movie were white curtains in Tom and Daisy's house, the work of cameramen in the scenes with them was magnificent!)
Having watched this "adaptation" I decided to look for other ones and found that there was a version made in 2000 with my favorite Toby Stevens as Gatsby. Well, this version I liked much more, everything looked rather plausible there, there were no such "embellishments" like in the latest one. Strange, but the authors of this very version tried to mollify Daisy's image as well, and I can say that they succeeded in this much more - not knowing the content of the book it was possible to believe that Daisy in fact loved Gatsby and decided to stay with her husband only because he promised her to extricate her from the case of the road accident. But though I liked this version much more I am not sure whether I'd like to re watch it some day, to such an extent I don't like the novel it is based on.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Patriot Games by Tom Clancy (and its movie adaptation)

Boring, boring, boring...
As I had predicted I didn't like the book at all. I had started it only because the Prince and the Princess of Wales were said to appeare there and it disappointed me a lot that they were present in the scenes only in the beginning and in the end of the book. Ryan's wife was such a Mary Sue that I almost wasn't able to feel any empathy and sympathy towards her. Ryan himself... Well, he wasn't the main hero in both "The Hunt for Red October" and "The Cardinal of The Kremlin" and that is why there were not so many his thoughts and insights in those books. And in this very one he was a main hero, and because of yhis a lot of space was dedicated to his inner world. And frankly speaking having read the two above-mentioned books I had imagined John Patrick Ryan to be rather different man. He, how he was shown in "Patriot Games", was IMHO too mild, too hesitating; sometimes he seemed even to be a henpecked husband! Of course, it was the beginning of his career in CIA and maybe that is why he lacked necessary firmness and decisiveness. But nevertheless, I didn't like Ryan as he was portrayed in "Patriot Games".The plot itself was IMHO rather dragged out; I had to trudge through many uninteresting descriptions. (May be they seemed to me uninteresting because in comparison with the soviet life I didn't have any insights into life in Ireland and especially inside terrorist groups )))). A real drive was only in the beginning (not very much drive, in fact) when Ryan prevented a terrorist attack on the Prince and the Princess and in the very end (Captain Wales of the Royal Navy - or, how I liked this indirectness!).
And there was at least one "sag" in the plot, it was connected with a dog. When the dog was presented to Sally I thought it would play some role in the future events. But alas... From the beginning of the terrorist attack to Ryans' house the dog was invisible and unheard. I even thought the Ryans had removed it somewhere before the visit of the guests. But no, when good guys finally arrived they found the house empty with only the dig present. Why didn't the dog attack terrorists? Why wasn't it mentioned at all? Had author planned something for it but forgot (or decided not) to add? Why in this case didn't he remove the line of the dog at all? This is a total mystery for me!
What else I'd like to mention about the book? I was delighted to meet the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on the pages of the book, thought it was not very much of them there (the same for the Prince and Princess of Wales). And I think that's all.
Now some words about the movie. It was less dull than the book because it was much more dynamic, but nevertheless I liked it not more than the book. Though a presence  of a female terrorist enlivened the movie a little I was very disappointed that instead the Prince and the Princes of Wales there was just a Lord Holmes, the Queen's cousin. And there were saggings in the plot of the movie also. For example, like it was in the book Cathy became pregnant. But in comparison with the book she didn't give birth to her baby after the night of the terrorist attack to Ryan's house. Moreover, her delivery wasn't shown at all. Why is this case have they saved this plot line in the movie? And it seemed to me rather strange that pregnant Cathy carried in her arms her daughter who was not a very light object.
And, of course, the film had rather Hollywood ending, with accidental death of the main villain (instead of Ryan's remorse of not killing him).
I think I am done with Tom Clancy and the next "serious" book I am going to read is "The Great Gatsby" (and having finished it I am going, of course, to watch its movie adaptation with Leonardo di Caprio).

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"Legends of the Fall"

Once I asked my American friend about movies where the real American spirit is shown, and she advised me to watch "Legends of the Fall". At first I got a dual impression of the movie. I liked stunning sceneries of the American West, but the plot itself seemed weird. I wasn't able to grasp logic of some heroes, some scenes seemed even absurd. Thus I was rather disappointed in the movie.
But then I learned that the movie was based on a book with the same name written by Jim Harrison. This gave a hope that knowing the original story I may understand better. (And it turned out I had been right!) But the book "Legends of the fall" consisted of three novels, and the sought-for one was the last, so I read all of them.The first was one "Revenge". And frankly speaking, I didn't like it. First because I wasn't able to feel empathy towards main characters and second because the ending seemed to be rather illogical (I have always thought that to describe characters in a way that readers will have for them the same feelings the author has is a sign of writer craftsmanship, and not all the writers succeed in it). I don't know why I got such an impression but it seemed to me that though for Cochran relationship with Mireya was serious for her it was just a game, a rich married bored woman wanted to add some spice into her life having an affair with one of her husband's friends. (Maybe author should have described more thoroughly her backgrounds for readers to think she was sincere in her feelings.) And in the end the story, which throughout almost all the book seemed to be a sheer thriller, suddenly got a philosophical twist (when Tibey simple asked Cochran to apologize and the latter did it). I am not against philosophy, but IMHO in this story such an ending didn't look appropriate enough.
But the nature descriptions in this novel were magnificent, they reminded me of a movie named "Convoy" which events happen almost at the same place and time. (Btw in "Convoy" characters were shown pretty clear, and I did feel empathy towards good ones and disgust towards a bad one! ;))
The second novel in the book was "The Man Who Gave Up His Name", I like it least of all. Having read it wholly I realized that it was a totally philosophical story, something about midlife crisis; but the plot itself was written in such a manner that when reading I was constantly expecting that once a real action would blast into the monotonous descriptions of events. (The author made some hints to it...) However, the story was flat from the beginning till the end. The only one thing I can't help but mention is that in both this and the previous one stories there was a line when a main hero mixed up with a woman who was a wife or a girlfriend of a mafioso, then was threatened by the latter and then beat him. It seemed to me the author was a little bit obsessed by such a twist of fate. ;)

And finally, "Legends of the Fall" itself. As I wrote above, I guessed right that in the book the events were much more connected and everything was logical. For example, Susannah turned out to be Tristan's bride from the beginning of the story. It was also explained thoroughly why Tristan left the US after returning from the war, what happened to him next and why he decided to break with Susannah. Furthermore, Alfred's connection with O'Banion brothers was totally fabricated by the authors of the movie and the line of Isabel Two's death was significantly dramatized by them. And Susannah's suicide in the book had much more plausible explanation. Finally, Tristan's fate after killing O'Banions in the movie is shown different from the book events. I don't know why the author of the movie made such changes but I am pretty sure they did worsen the whole story; after applying these changes the story lost its integrity.
So, what I liked in this story. Of course, I liked beautiful descriptions of Montana's sceneries, but also I like how Tristan and the rest members of his family protected each other, that they didn't fall into considering whether it was appropriate to kill gangsters who were threats to them and their children or to call the police. And that after doing this they didn't fall into pangs of remorse. This is the behaviour I consider as a real protection of one's family! 
As for Tristan himself, I think he had made some severe mistakes which broke lives of other people (or at least Susannah). First, he married her not because he wanted to connect their lives together but only in thirst for children, and he didn't realize the depth of her love towards him. And then he left; the trip that firstly seemed to be a short one turned out to last 7 years. And Susannah was waiting for him till the arrival of the note notifying he was dead. And even then, I think, she didn't stop to love him. Of course, the fact that Tristan was mentally ill suffering the loss of his brother excuses him but not wholly. Instead of sending the message about his death he should have come and tell the truth to Susannah openly (or at least write her that he didn't want to be her husband anymore, not to invent his own death). This should have been fair towards Susannah. (And one more thing I couldn't help wondering - what would have happened if Susannah had got pregnant with Tristan's baby? Had Tristan learned about it before he left - would he have returned to her? And in another case - if he had returned and found Susannah with a baby - would he have stayed with her? What would have happened if Susannah had had Tristan's baby and then married Alfred? Would Tristan have rivaled Alfred in being the child's true father?)Next point is Tristan's marriage to Isabel Two. (And there is a significant flaw in the story because technically Tristan was still married to his first wife. And though the latter, after receiving a note of his death, was technically free to remarry, he didn't have such a permission. So first he should have divorced Susannah and only after he would have been free to marry Isabel. Because there was nothing of such events described in the book I am afraid Tristan's second marriage was in fact a bigamy.) I am not convinced that Tristan was in fact in love with Isabel Two, he definitely liked her but didn't have in mind any thoughts about starting a family with her. But her persistence allowed her to catch him off guard, and after spending a night with her he didn't have any other options than to marry. And I think hadn't it been for children she gave him he would have left her as easily as he left Susannah...
In general, I am not sure whether Jim Harrison is my type of a writer but may be some day I'll return to his books again...

Monday, February 22, 2016

My choice of actor for Ayn Rand's ideal characters

I've suddenly stumbled upon an actor who IMHO was a perfect incarnation for Ayn Rand's heroics characters. The most surprising was the fact that I saw him in a historical movie "War and Peace".

So, meet Henry Fonda who played Pierre Bezukhov there.
Henry Fonda as Pierre Bezukhov

As Pierre he looked like complete miscast but his jovial appearance stroke me to the innermost of my heart. This was the image I had expected to see looking at Gary Cooper playing Howard Roark.
Unfortunately I was not able to find as many photos of Henry Fonda playing Pierre as I expected but nevertheless even those I found are enough to discern the Rand's favorite heroic image in his features.
Henry Fonda as Pierre Bezukhov
Though Pierre had to wear glasses in the most of the scenes Henry Fonda was without them.
Here he looks thoughtful - nothing other than Howard Roark studying a graphic design or Hank Rearden examining a steel sample.
Henry Fonda as Pierre Bezukhov
I don't know whether Ayn Rand considered him as an actor to play Roark, I didn't find even a mention that she knew about such an actor as Henry Fonda. But though at the time of The Fountainhead shooting he was not a young man he was an age-mate of Gary Cooper.
Henry Fonda as Pierre Bezukhov
May be the problem was that in all the movies preceding "War and Peace" he didn't look like Rand' ideal hero?
Henry Fonda

Ok, "War and Peace" was released almost 10 years after "The Fountainhead" so this may explain why Rand overlooked Henry Fonda, but later? Was she in such a disgust for Tolstoy's books that "War and Peace" totally escaped her attention? 

Henry Fonda as Pierre Bezukhov
On this photo Henry Fonda looks very serious, even grave. Like Roark on trial or Rearden facing a racketeer. 
And what about gaiety, light-heartedness, freedom of feeling the benevolent universe?
Here they are:
Henry Fonda as Pierre Bezukhov
This is the smile of a man happily looking forward to his own future that finally convinced me that that was a portrait of typical Rand's hero.
Henry Fonda as Pierre Bezukhov
On this colorful photo the smile and the glance of Henry Fonda are even more convincing.
As for "War and Peace" - the movie itself was not very spectacular, but I am grateful to it that I gave me a sight of truly Rand's character to remember!