An abridged award-winning television adaptation of a famous play about an aging travelling salesman who's on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His job is gone, and his family hates him for never being there. He tries mending things with them.
An aging salesman is fired from his job after a long career in it. Broken, without much to look forward to, he tries reconnecting with his wife and kids who he had always put down as he dedicated himself to work.
Rachel is a 35 year old school teacher who has no man in her life and lives with her mother. When a man from the big city returns and asks her out, she begins to have to make decisions about her life and where she wants it to go.
Willy Loman clings to the belief that he is a success as a salesman, that he is a beloved family man, that he is well-liked; but, as he grows older, he is forced to contemplate the unpleasant reality of his existence.
Arthur Miller disliked this film version of his play because he felt that the flashback sequences made it look as if Willy Loman were literally acting out his past in front of others, and that this made him seem insane. Perhaps because of this, other versions of the play have been shown on TV and video, but the 1951 version has not been televised in more than twenty years, and it has never been issued on VHS or DVD. See more »
A man is not an orange. You can't eat the fruit and throw the peel away.
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If not the very best 'Salesman', still quite worth seeing
If the lead actor is good, this play is so powerful, it's almost production proof. I've seen it many times, in different media and interpretations, and never fail to be moved and disturbed by it. And usually the subtle differences from production to production are enough to see new elements of the characters and story.
In some ways this is my least favorite filmed 'Salesman'-- the slightly dated acting sometimes feels a bit theatrical (possibly also because the actors were almost all in the play on Broadway, and there's a bit of 'playing to the back row' in the work).
But at the same time these are very good actors, so even if they're theatrical at moments they can still be quite moving. I really liked Fredric March; he looked and felt 'right' if not quite as complex as some Willys I've seen. And Kevin McCarthy is very good as Biff, except for the most emotional moments, where you can feel him 'push' a little.
There are also some lovely little visual touches, that help balance the stage bound feeling. The ending didn't get me quite as much as usual, mostly because I believe some dialogue was re-ordered for this film version in a way that made it a touch less stark and powerful.
It also bothered me that Willy seems more obviously crazy from the start.
But for all that carping, this is still a wonderful film of a story that always makes me think about my own father, all the fathers of that generation, and even our own modern mid-life crises, not really all that different from Willy's. The questions are still the same; what did my life mean? Will anyone remember me? How did reality stray so far from my dreams?
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