7.8/10
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Salesman (1969)

Trailer
3:09 | Trailer
Four dogged door-to-door Bible salesmen travel from Boston to Florida on a seemingly futile quest to sell luxury editions of the Good Book to working-class Catholics.
4 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Paul Brennan ... Self - 'The Badger'
Charles McDevitt ... Self - 'The Gipper'
James Baker ... Self - 'The Rabbit'
Raymond Martos ... Self - 'The Bull'
Kennie Turner Kennie Turner ... Self - Supervisor
Melbourne I. Feltman Melbourne I. Feltman ... Self - Designer and Theological Consultant 'The World's Greatest Salesman of the World's Best Seller'
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Margaret McCarron Margaret McCarron
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Storyline

Filmmakers (and brothers) Albert and David Maysles follow four employees of a company that makes expensive, ornate, illustrated bibles as they attempt to sell the items door-to-door to less-than-interested customers, who are mainly poor or lower-middle-class Catholics with little money to spend on pretty Bibles. Written by Gary Dickerson <slug@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Spread The Word

Genres:

Documentary | Drama

Certificate:

G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

49.95 U.S. Dollars (which is what the Bibles sold by the salesmen cost in 1965-66, when the film was shot) is the equivalent of $407.15 in 2019. See more »

Connections

References Casablanca (1942) See more »

Soundtracks

If I Were a Rich Man
(uncredited)
Written by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock
Portion sung by Paul Brennan
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User Reviews

 
Death of a Salesman meets Glengarry Glen Ross
19 December 2004 | by FilmOtakuSee all my reviews

Documentaries are a fairly pervasive genre in today's culture, and an increasing trend is to manipulate the footage in order to further the authentication of one's thesis. Albert and David Maysles' 1969 documentary 'Salesman' however, turns an unflinching eye on its' subjects, sometimes with unnerving and disturbing results.

'Salesman' follows four door-to-door high-end bible salesmen as they travel around the country. The four men have nicknames they've given each other, all describing their sales approach: The Rabbit, The Badger, The Gipper and The Bull. We hear most from The Badger (Paul Brennan) as he takes his leads and tries to pull himself out of a sales slump. The leads that most of the salesmen follow end up being poor Catholic families who can't even afford a dollar a week payment, but are at times talked into it anyway by the sales tactics these men employ.

The Maysles give us an absolutely fascinating look at the world of door-to-door sales, but it is also a disturbing door to open. The pressure that the salesmen use when trying to sell the product, and the struggle that the prospects exhibit, is difficult to watch. In one scene, Brennan goes to the door of a recent customer to pick up their down payment for another of the salesmen and pretty much refuses to take 'No' for an answer, telling her that he's the salesman's boss and is going to have to dock him a fee if she cancels the sale, eventually guilting this family who clearly cannot take on another installment payment into going on with the sale. On the other hand, we also see sales meetings where the pressure is turned on the salesmen themselves, so it's clear that the threats of unemployment are a definite motivator.

I wondered throughout the film if David Mamet had seen this film and subsequently used it as inspiration for 'Glengarry Glen Ross'. From the sales meeting where the manager threatens the salesmen to the characters themselves, I saw several clear comparisons. Brennan is Lemmon's 'Shel' character to a tee, and I subsequently couldn't help chuckling at the image of The Simpsons' character 'Gil'. Whatever specific inspiration 'Salesman' has provided, it is clearly an important film that does not soften its edges. 7/10


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

17 April 1969 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Salesman See more »

Filming Locations:

Auburn, Massachusetts, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$105,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Maysles Films See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono
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