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Theatre: Glengarry Glen Ross

"A-B-C. A-Always. B-Be. C-Closing. Always Be Closing!"
Blake

A play by David Mamet, which was the basis for a 1992 film directed by James Foley and starring Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin and Ed Harris, about salesmen in a small firm who are given an ultimatum: bring in more sales or find a new job. The four major characters, all salesmen at the real-estate firm:
  • Ricky Roma: A hotshot and the current highest-selling salesman
  • Dave Moss: A frequent complainer
  • George Aaranow: A poor salesman and follower who cannot stand up for himself
  • Shelly "The Machine" Levene: A once-great salesman who has fallen upon a streak of "bad luck".

Notable for its flagrant use of profanity (which caused the cast and crew to refer to the movie as "Death of a Fucking Salesman"), no-holds-barred take on human savagery in sales, and shockingly honest portrayal of human nature. The film is still used by corporate sales training programs to demonstrate the "right" and "wrong" ways to make a sale.

This play and film features examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Blake and his entire scene aren't in the play.
  • Book Ends: A passing train.
  • Brass Balls: The centerpiece of Alec Baldwin's epic speech is his use of a visual aid to demonstrate what a real estate seller needs.
  • Butt Monkey: Williamson. Yes, he's kind of a weasel, but the amount of abuse he puts up with by the salesmen on a daily basis is astounding.
  • Chromosome Casting: All of the named characters are men.
  • Cluster F-Bomb:
    • There's a reason the cast referred to the film as "Death of a Fuckin' Salesman."
    • You haven't lived until you hear Jack Lemmon snarl, "Fuck you!"
  • Country Matters:
    Ricky: You stupid fucking cunt. I'm talking to you, shithead!...Where did you learn your traaaaaade, you stupid fucking cunt, you idiot?
  • Crapsack World: The world in which these salesmen live is filled with deception, backstabbing, unfulfilled promises, psychotic work loads and constant screaming and threats back and forth. And that's on a good day! The atmosphere of the film is supposedly Truth in Television as playwright/screenwriter David Mamet based it on his own experiences working at a boiler room real estate office in the 1960s.
  • Downer Ending: There's not much to be happy about after Levene is presumably arrested and is taking Moss and Graff with him, Roma has lost $6,000 in commission and has a strong possibility of being sued, and the rest of the characters are no better off...
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Levene is sanguine, Roma is choleric, Moss is melancholic, Aaranow is phlegmatic.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Always Be Closing; Attention Interest Decision Action
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat, particularly between Ed Harris and Al Pacino.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: How Levene slips up and reveals he was in on the heist. Williamson said he cashed Lingk's check. Levene calls Williamson out on lying about it, something he only could have known if he robbed the office.
  • Inhuman Resources: Blake the hatchet-man.
  • Justified Criminal: How Shelly probably sees himself due to his sick daughter.
  • Jerkass: All of the main characters themselves. Ricky and Dave in particular.
  • Literal-Minded: Blake and his brass balls. The implied joke, of course, is that he thinks the salesmen are so literal minded they need the visual aid.
  • MacGuffin: The Glengarry account leads act as one. After the contest, those who keep their jobs get to use the leads, which means they'll be able to make some real money.
  • Mamet Speak: Perhaps the most famous example.
  • Meaningful Background Event: As Blake explains that the bottom two salesmen will lose their jobs at the end of the month, the chalkboard behind him tells the audience what the characters realize about that stipulation immediately: Roma has such an insurmountable lead on the leaderboard that the other three recognize they'll be fighting for just one spot. That's probably also why Blake went on with his "pep talk" despite Roma not being there.
  • Morton's Fork: See Vicious Cycle.
  • Nepotism: How Williamson got his position.
  • Nighthawks Shot: There is a homage one to the painting Nighthawks.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Though the movie drops F-bombs frequently, Williamson has a particularly powerful one. Levene is begging Williamson not to tell the police he robbed the office, with Levene bringing up his daughter as a final plea. Williamson's response? "Fuck you."
    • Blake's rejoinder to Moss: "Fuck you. That's my name."
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Blake has what is, perhaps, the greatest example in all of cinema.
    • Roma delivers a spectacular one to Williamson, starting off by calling him a "stupid fucking cunt" and then going from there.
    • Having spent the entire movie being the office Butt Monkey, Levene eagerly takes the opportunity to take up where Roma left off with regards to Williamson. Unfortunately for him, he gets carried away and makes a slip he shouldn't have, thus enabling Williamson to destroy him utterly.
  • Running Gag: Moss describes anything he doesn't agree with as a "buncha fuckin' nonsense".
  • Second Place Is for Losers: First place gets a car, second place gets a set of steak knives, and everyone else gets fired.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Subverted by Blake when Moss attempts to criticize him and he quickly adds his rebuttal.
    • Levene's long-awaited chance to have a gloat to Williamson is well and truly shot down when Williamson picks up on a little slip that Levene shouldn't have made:
    Williamson: How did you know I made it up?
  • Smoking Hot Sex: Ricky talks about having a smoke after a passionate night of sex, and how he felt supremely satisfied at that moment.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: An entire office full of them, and you will end up rooting for some of them.
  • Sole Survivor: Considering Moss, Levene, and maybe even Roma are in a load of trouble in the end, then by default Aaranow is the one who gets to keep his job.
  • Speech-Centric Work: Especially the play, but the film still qualifies.
  • Vicious Cycle: The salesmen complain that they're stuck in one. They can't make sales without good leads, but they can't get good leads without sales. Blake counters that a real salesman could make sales with bad leads.
  • Wham Line:
    Williamson: How did you know I made it up?
  • Word Salad Title: Even after watching the play/movie you may understand that these are important account names, but you probably won't understand why they're important enough to be put together and made the title.
    • The tile possibly refers to the gamut of highs & lows a salesman can run through - both the best (Glengarry) and worst (Glen Ross) estates that Ricky Roma has come across to sell; it's quite probable that the events of the movie set a nadir even lower than the latter for all involved.

FridayCreator/New Line CinemaThe Golden Compass
GhostwatchFilms of the 1990sA Gnome Named Gnorm
The Glass MenagerieTheatrical ProductionsGod Of Carnage
A Soldiers StoryPulitzer PrizeSunday In The Park With George

alternative title(s): Glengarry Glen Ross; Glengarry Glen Ross
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