"A-B-C. A-Always. B-Be. C-Closing. Always Be Closing!"A play by David Mamet, which was the basis for a 1992 film directed by James Foley and starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, and Kevin Spacey, about a group of salesmen in a small real estate firm who are given an ultimatum: bring in more sales or find a new job.The four major characters:
- Ricky Roma (Pacino): A hotshot and the current highest-selling salesman.
- Dave Moss (Harris): A frequent complainer. Not as good a salesman as Roma, who he resents.
- George Aaronow (Arkin): A poor salesman and follower who cannot stand up for himself.
- Shelly "The Machine" Levene (Lemmon): A once-great salesman who has fallen upon a streak of "bad luck".
This play and film provide examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion:
- Blake and his entire scene aren't in the play.
- Some recent productions have included Blake's scene, somewhat modified, as a monologue to the audience before Scene 1, partly because it's an awesome monologue, and partly because first-time playgoers who have only seen the film will assume the play has been edited if it's not included.
- Levene's failed house call is also a new sequence, to illustrate how worthless the Rio Rancho leads really are; it really drives home the hopelessness and desperation Shelly feels that drives him into trying to steal the Glengarry leads.
- Blake and his entire scene aren't in the play.
- Alliterative List: A variation with Always Be Closing.
- Angrish: Aaronow has such a bad case of this in his first scene that half his dialogue is in Angrish. Later on, after he's been talking to the detective, he has another serious attack of it:Aaronow: I meet Gestapo tactics...I meet Gestapo tactics...That's not right... No man has the right to..."Call an attorney," that means you're guilt... you're under sus..."Co...," he says, "cooperate" or we'll go downtown. That's not...as long as I've...
- Anti-Hero: None of the characters are what you'd consider to be good people. Even at their best, they're still sleazy salesmen trying to con people into worthless real estate. However, the plot makes it clear that their profession more or less made them this way.
- The Antagonist: Ostensibly Williamson, since he holds the coveted Glengarry leads but won't let his salesmen have them unless they close on the Rio Rancho leads first (which are worthless). But he's not evil, he's just doing his job and following orders from corporate.
- Bait the Dog: Moss invites Aaronow out with him in what appears to be a Pet the Dog moment. At first it looks like an attempt to lift the struggling Aaronow's spirits, until it is slowly revealed to be a premeditated manipulation to get him to steal the new leads so that Moss can sell them to a competitor. As their conversation goes on, Moss eventually resorts to blackmail to coerce Aaronow into becoming an accomplice. It doesn't work and Moss has to settle for Shelley instead.
- Batman Gambit: Roma pulls one when Lingk comes to the office to cancel the deal, telling Levene to pretend to be a client and asking him to mention "Kenilworth" when Roma rubs his head. The gamble is that Lingk will do the polite thing, concede that Roma is busy and let him leave with his "client". Lingk doesn't do it, but Roma nevertheless gets Lingk back in the deal — and then Williamson messes it all up.
- Blatant Lies: Moss spends a great deal of time talking up Jerry Graff to Aaronow and saying how successful Graff is; if Graff actually were successful, he wouldn't need to expose himself to Theft and Conspiracy charges by paying Moss and an accomplice to break into Premiere Properties and steal the Glengarry leads.
- Bookends: 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.
- The true Butt Monkey is probably Levene. Who A. Is singled out for pouring coffee during the Baldwin scene. B. Begs Williamson for the Glengarry leads, with a major loss for him, and doesn't even get them. C. He's the only person we see chasing the worthless Rio Rancho leads, which of course go nowhere. D. When he finally does close, it doesn't mean anything because Williamson describes the people as insane people who commit to fake deals all the time and E. He presumably gets sent to jail in the ending.
- Canon Immigrant: Blake didn't appear in the play. David Mamet created him especially for the film.
- Catch-22 Dilemma: The central dilemma of the plot: the salesmen don't get the good leads unless they sell, but they can't sell without good leads.
- Chromosome Casting: All of the named characters are men.
- City Noir: Shots of a city in heavy rain at night with men wearing long coats.
- Cluster F-Bomb: There's a reason the cast referred to the film as "Death of a Fuckin' Salesman". The word "fuck" and its derivatives are uttered 138 times. The word "shit" and its derivatives are uttered 50 times.
- 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... Ironically, the only one that might benefit is Aaronow, since his other two competitors in the company are going to jail, making him second place by default. Unless Moss fingers him as an accomplice, that is...
- Extreme Doormat: Lingk. When he realises that Roma's been bullshitting him, how does he respond? He apologises for letting Roma down.
- Extremely Short Timespan: The movie spans one night to the next morning.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Levene is sanguine, Roma and Moss are choleric, Williamson is melancholic, Aaranow is phlegmatic.
- Fun with Acronyms: Always Be Closing; Attention Interest Decision Action
- The Ghost: Mitch and Murray, the corporate heads who drive the whole shebang.
- Also Jerry Graff, head of a competing firm.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Particularly between Ed Harris and Al Pacino.
- Henpecked Husband: Lingk. From his description we can deduce his wife to be wearing the pants in their relationship.
- I Have a Family: Shelly begs Williamson not to rat him out and mentions his daughter, but it doesn't help.
- Indy Ploy: When Roma's Batman Gambit with Lingk doesn't work, he resorts to one of these to get Lingk to trust him again (see Obfuscating Stupidity, below.) Such is his skill that it seems to be working, until Williamson screws up by telling Lingk what Roma has already flatly denied is the case.
- 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.
- In-Joke: At one point, Levene refers to Moss as an "order taker." While this phrase likely won't mean anything to the average person, it's a huge insult in the sales world: it means the person you sold your product to wanted to buy it anyway, and you merely took their order. In other words, the implication is you didn't actually sell anything, and anyone could have done what you did.
- Instantly Proven Wrong: Roma constructs an elaborate lie to assure to his client that their contract hasn't been filed yet and could still be amended. Then in comes his boss announcing that the contract was approved and the check has been cashed at the bank. Roma tries to resolve the awkward situation by claiming to his client that he didn't know about this.
- Jerkass: All of the main characters themselves. Ricky and Dave in particular.
- Little as we get of him in the film, Blake probably tops them all.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Blake tells everybody exactly what is needed to succeed in the Real Estate business, and he isn't polite about it. It's abrasive, full of Cluster F Bombs, and it makes it clear to everyone in sales just what is necessary to succeed.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Roma's jerkiness is related mostly to his manipulations of Lingk and his intolerance for Williamson's and Moss's jerk tendencies. When he isn't actively being a salesman, he goes out of his way to be optimistic towards Aaronow and is the only one to actively respect Shelly's skills as a salesman, even admitting his streak doesn't mean much compared to the long career of the Machine.
- Justified Criminal: How Shelly probably sees himself due to his sick daughter.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Riding high on his recent sale, Shelly's decides to kick Williamson while he's down by delivering a completely redundant tongue-lashing. In his arrogance, however, he lets slip an incriminating bit of knowledge proving that he robbed the office.
- 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.
- Manipulative Bastard: Played straight with Ricky Roma. The other salesmen try to be this with mixed results.
- 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.
- Minimalist Cast: The story is told using six major characters and a few extras.
- Nepotism: How Williamson got his position.
- Nervous Wreck: Lingk is on the edge after his wife disapproved of his acquisition plans.
- Never My Fault: The salesmen attribute all their failures to bad leads or bad luck and all their successes to their skills. They also think the exact opposite about each other.
- Nighthawks Shot: The film has an homage to the painting Nighthawks.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Roma makes a valiant attempt to stall out Lingk's request for a refund by repeatedly pretending to not understand what he's saying, but it's all in vain.
- Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Roma praising Shelly as a great salesman and teacher and inviting him for lunch, right before the latter is called in by the police officer to be interrogated about his crime. We can assume Shelly to become a Broken Pedestal to Roma afterwards.
- Oh, Crap!: Several.
- Ricky, after very carefully talking Lingk out of backing out of his contract, sees Williamson is going to blow the whole thing.
- Levene when he realizes he cooked his own goose with his gloating.
- And again when he realizes that sale that got his confidence back was no good anyway.
- A final time when Baylen summons him into the office... knowing what's about to happen.
- Pet the Dog: Aaronow is so down on himself that Moss and Roma try to cheer him up. These people are human, after all.
- 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: Several.
- Blake has one that lasts for seven minutes in the movie version, where he lays into all of the salesmen in the office except for Roma, telling them that they either sell, or they're fired. Blake also calls them all manner of names, insults their home lives, and says that no one cares about them except for how much money they make.
- Moss is going off on Roma before he leaves.
- Roma delivers a spectacular one to Williamson when the latter accidentally sabotages the Lingk contract by telling him his cheque was taken to the bank the previous evening, starting off by calling him a "stupid fucking cunt" and then going from there.Roma: You stupid fucking cunt. You, Williamson... I'm talking to you, shithead! You just cost me six thousand dollars. Six thousand dollars. And one Cadillac. That's right. What are you going to do about it!? What are you going to do about it, asshole?! You fucking shit! Where did you learn your trade!? You stupid fucking cunt! You idiot! Whoever told you you could work with men?
Baylen: Could I...
Roma: I'm going to have your job, shithead. I'm going downtown and talk to Mitch and Murray, and I'm going to Lemkin. I don't care whose nephew you are, who you know, whose dick you're sucking on. You're going out, I swear to you, you're going...
Baylen: Hey, fella, let's get this done...
Roma: Anyone in this office lives on their wits... (to Baylen) I'm going to be with you in a second. (to Williamson) What you're hired for is to help us—does that seem clear to you!? To help us. Not to fuck us up... to help men who are going out there to try to earn a living. You fairy! You company man!... I'll tell you something else. I hope you knocked the joint off, I can tell our friend here something might help him catch you. (heads for the "interrogation room") You want to learn the first rule you'd know if you ever spent a day in your life... you never open your mouth till you know what the shot is. You fucking child...
- Having spent the entire play 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.Levene: You are a shithead, Williamson.
Levene: You can't think on your feet you should keep your mouth closed! (beat) You hear me!? I'm talking to you! Do you hear me?!
Williamson: Yes. (beat) I hear you.
Levene: You can't learn that in an office! Eh? He's right. You have to learn it on the streets. You can't buy that. You have to live it.
Levene: (sarcastically) Yes. "Mmm." Yes. Precisely. Precisely. 'Cause your partner depends on it. I'm talking to you, I'm trying to tell you something!
Williamson: You are?
Levene: Yes, I am.
Williamson: What are you trying to tell me?
Levene: What Roma's trying to tell you. What I told you yesterday. Why you don't belong in this business!
Williamson: Why I don't-
Levene: You listen to me, someday you might say, "Hey..." No, fuck that, you just listen what I'm going to say! Your partner depends on you. Your partner... a man who's your "partner" depends on you... you have to go with him and for him... or you're shit, you're shit, you can't exist alone-
Williamson: (tries to move past Levene) Excuse me-
Levene: "Excuse me" nothing! You be as cold as you want, but you just fucked a good man out of six thousand dollars and his goddamn bonus 'cause you didn't know the shot! If you can do that and you aren't man enough that it gets you, then I don't know what, if you can't take something from that, (blocks Williamson's path) you're scum, you're fucking white bread! You be as cold as you want. A child would know it, he's right! You're going to make something up, be sure it will help or keep your mouth closed!
Levene: Now I'm done with you.
(Williamson takes a moment to absorb Levene's last few sentences, then something occurs to him)
Williamson: How did you know I made it up?
- Red Herring: The conversation during the night as well as his behavior the following morning all indicate that Aaronow cooperated with Moss' scheme to steal the leads. Actually it was Shelley who was Moss' accomplice.
- Running Gag: Moss describes anything he doesn't agree with as a "buncha fuckin' nonsense".
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Moss, after his and Ricky's shouting match. Probably a cover for Moss getting out of town before the police can question him.
- Second Place Is for Losers: First place gets a car, second place gets a set of steak knives, and everyone else gets fired.
- Shady Real Estate Agent: An entire office full of them, and you will end up rooting for some of them.
- 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.
- Sole Survivor: Considering all the other salesmen are in a load of trouble in the end, then by default Aaronow is the one who wins the contest and gets to keep his job.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The film concludes playing an upbeat, jazzy rendition of Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies."
- Speech-Centric Work: Especially the play, but the film still qualifies.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Levene's first name is spelled "Shelly" in the original play, but "Shelley" in the film.
- Super Gullible: Lingk is not only an Extreme Doormat and Henpecked Husband, he also swallows every lie the Shady Real Estate Agent Roma feeds him without getting suspicious. Even when one of Roma's statements is exposed as untrue by a third person, Lingk's reaction is to apologize for letting Roma down.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: Brutally subverted with Shelley. The poor guy spends the first half of the story as the office Butt Monkey before he's finally able to close a good sale that lets him regain his much needed confidence. Later, however, not only does he accidentally incriminate himself in a robbery, but he also discovers that said sale was worthless. Happens twice in the original stage production. In both versions, Roma comforts Shelley by praising him for his skill and earlier success and proposes that they form a partnership. In the film this is a genuine Pet the Dog moment on Roma's part, but in the play it's revealed that Roma - who is unaware of the latter's fate - is playing Shelley because he wants in on the good leads he assumes he'll be getting.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The shot of Williamson saying "You robbed the office!" to Levene is included in the film trailer.
- Vicious Cycle: The salesmen complain that they're stuck in one. They get bad leads and can't make sales with them, so they keep getting bad leads because they're not making sales. Blake counters that a real salesman could make sales with bad leads.
- Wham Line:Williamson: How did you know I made it up?
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: We never find out where Glengarry Highlands or Glen Ross Farms are, or any of the other pieces of real estate these guys are selling.
- The Rio Rancho land is presumably located in Arizona, as Aaronow and Moss both pretend to be from Arizona when calling those leads.
- White-Dwarf Starlet: Shel used to be the best salesman on the firm.
- Word Salad Title: The title sounds like gibberish, and even after you watch the play or movie you still might not understand the full meaning. It combines the best of the new (Glengarry) and old (Glen Ross) estates that Ricky Roma has come across to sell, apparently representing the high points of a salesman's life, or life in general.