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Theatre / Glengarry Glen Ross

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

Glengarry Glen Ross is a play by David Mamet. It premiered in London in 1983 (later moving to Broadway in 1984) and was adapted into a 1992 film directed by James Foley, starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey and Jonathan Pryce.

The plot concerns a group of salesmen at 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, whom 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".

Notable for its flagrant use of profanity (which caused the cast and crew to refer to the movie as "Death of a Fuckin' 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.

You call yourself a troper, you son of a bitch?

  • The Ace: Roma is easily the most successful salesman of the core group, able to bring in a sale of six thousand dollars during the course of the play. Levene was one in his day, known as Shelly "The Machine" Levene among real estate agents in the area, and he shows he still has considerable skill by talking to clients who are interested in buying eight units from him.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Roma. In the play he badgers Williamson into giving him 50% of Shelly's commissions. But in the movie he never shows anything but genuine respect and admiration for Shelly.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • Blake and his entire scene aren't in the original play. A few productions after the movie's release included Blake's scene as a monologue to the audience to open the play. This is done partly because audiences have come to expect its inclusion, and partly to establish the conflict of the agents needing to make sales or else they'll be fired.
    • 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. And that drives him into trying to steal the Glengarry leads from the office.
  • All for Nothing: The company's threat to fire all but the two highest-earning salesmen at the office might be intended to drive sales and weed out the dead weight, but the plan ends up failing miserably. The Glengarry leads get stolen and sold off to a competitor for a price that's less than the commission on a decent sale. Levene and Moss, the perpetrators of the theft, will lose their jobs and likely face jail time, without even having gotten any good sales out of the whole mess. This means that by default the ones keeping their jobs will be Roma, who was already the best salesman in the group and would likely have done better if they had just given him the Glengarry leads from the get-go, and Aaronow, who is the least naturally talented salesman of the bunch.
  • Alliterative List: A variation with Always Be Closing.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Lingk. He's clearly in a miserable marriage, with a dominating wife, and carrying a number of unfilled desires. Roma zeroes in this, and his pitch is a kind of seduction for Lingk to release his inhabitations.
  • 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 mean Gestapo tactics... I mean 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.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Williamson to the culprit, when said culprit unwittingly lets slip that he knows something he could only have known if he had been the one to break into the office.
    Williamson: How did you know I made it up?
  • Artistic License – Economics: In the film, Blake discusses the acronym "AIDA" on his chalkboard, which is a real advertising and marketing term pioneered by E. St. Elmo Lewis. However, Blake defines the letters as "Attention, Interest, Decision, Action," whereas the letters actually stand for "Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action."
  • Artistic License – Law: The police would not send a plainclothes detective to the office to investigate the burglary, nor would he be questioning anyone. An office burglary with no signs of forced entry and no one injured isn't going to warrant that kind of attention. A uniformed officer would simply gather statements, get a list of what was taken, and file the report. Whatever Detective assigned to the case later would call people down the station to read them their rights and proceed with questioning.
  • 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, but it later becomes clear that it's actually a premeditated attempt to manipulate 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 (despite having to smooth things over when Levene struggles to keep up with his improvisation, especially after being knocked off balance when the detective addresses him as "Levene") — and then Williamson messes it all up.
  • Billionaire Wristband: Blake, as part of his blistering monologue to the team at Premiere Properties, boasts of his Rolex to Dave Moss:
    This watch costs more than your car. I made $970,000 last year, how much did you make? You see, pal, that's who I am, and you're nothing.
  • Brass Balls: The centerpiece of Blake's epic speech is his use of a "visual aid" to demonstrate what a real estate salesman needs.
  • Butt-Monkey: Levene has humiliation and misfortune heaped on him throughout the story, and he comes out by far the worst in the end. His big sale turns out to be a dud, his unlucky streak continues in spite of his best efforts, and all of his verbal barbs don't find their mark.
  • Call-Back: In the beginning, Moss gripes about a useless lead for someone named "Patel" that he's seen multiple times before. In the end, Ricky is enraged to be handed the "Patel" lead and tosses it away.
  • Canon Immigrant: Blake didn't appear in the play. David Mamet created him especially for the film. Some revivals of the play have added the scene with Blake, usually at the very beginning.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: The central dilemma of the plot is that the salesmen don't get good leads unless they sell. But they can't sell without good leads. And they need to sell, or else they'll lose their jobs. This prompts one of the agents to break into the office to just steal the leads so he can keep his job.
  • Chromosome Casting: All of the named characters are men. In productions of the play, it's not uncommon for there to be no women at all onstage throughout the entire story.
  • 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.
  • The Con: The salesmen in the play are trying to sell legit real estate, but it's functionally worthless, and the leads they're given are all so unwilling to buy anything that it doesn't matter.
  • Country Matters: Roma, after Williamson says that Lingk's check was cashed, costing Roma six thousand dollars. It's the only place in the entire script where this word is used, despite being full of profanities elsewhere.
    Ricky: You stupid fucking cunt. I'm talking to you, shithead!... Where did you learn your trade, 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.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Blake's speech is this, when he isn't actively insulting the salesman. Blake flaunts his wealth, tells the salesmen that the world is theirs for the taking, and that they can sell if they try hard enough. However, it's undercut by the fact that the leads the salesmen are given are all weak, and that Blake spends as much time knocking the salesmen down and threatening their jobs as he does trying to build them up. David Mamet has said that Blake was intended to represent everything wrong with cutthroat corporate culture.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: When Levene offers to give Williamson a cut off his big $86,000 sale, Williamson tells Levene the check is worthless as the couple are "nuts who enjoy talking to salesmen." He calls out how Levene even visited their run-down home which should have shown they had no way of paying that much money. "Did you see how they were living? How can you delude yourself?"
  • 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 six thousand dollars in commission and has a strong possibility of being sued, Williamson is presumably going to be fired once Roma goes to Mitch and Murray, 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.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In the three two-character vignettes in the first act, the personalities of the six main characters are firmly established early on:
    • In the Levene/Williamson scene, Levene's very first line is "John... John... John. Okay. John. John. Look..." He may have been a fast-talking salesman at his peak, but it takes him seven words just to get started in this scene, showing that he has long since lost the gift of the gab that closed so many deals in the past and doesn't know how to adjust. As for Williamson, the lines "My job is to marshal those leads" and "I do what I'm hired to do" establish him as a salaried manager who doesn't depend on commissions like the salesmen, and who does not sympathise with their plights of being punished for failure by being given the names of people even more unlikely to be interested in buying land from them.
    • In the Moss/Aaronow scene, Aaronow is already panicking over the possibility that he will be fired at the end of the month and is rhetorically asking Moss what he's going to do. Moss takes a more aggressive (and, in the original script, bigoted) tone, blaming the bad leads Aaronow has been given, showing that where Levene's recent failures have left him flailing and desperate, Moss' recent failures have left him angry and resentful. Moss also dominates the conversation to establish himself as an unscrupulous leader and Aaronow as a weak-willed follower.
    • In the Roma/Lingk scene, the leader/follower dynamic from the previous scene is magnified; Roma's speech seems to meander from point to point (train compartments smelling "vaguely of shit", the idea of regretting the things you didn't do, the question of absolute morality, whether or not Lingk has ever taken "a dump made you feel like you'd slept for twelve hours"), but he's carefully probing for insecurities that he can exploit to get Lingk's attention before he brings out the brochure for the Glengarry Highlands development and starts nudging him to buy a plot of land from him, establishing himself as much more ruthless and cunning than his colleagues. As for Lingk, he has just five lines and thirteen words in the scene, establishing him as fundamentally passive and thus easily manipulated by the amoral Roma.
  • Extreme Doormat: Lingk. He simply listens to Ricky monologue for an entire night and seems to think that they've had a heart-to-heart, then gets browbeaten by his wife to cancel the sale of land, then apologizes to Ricky for canceling even after learning that Ricky lied to him.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The movie starts one particular evening, and the plot has been neatly wrapped up by mid-morning the following day.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Levene was so eager to make his big $82,000 sale to the Nyborgs that he didn't pay any attention to their shabby living conditions, which should have tipped him off that they couldn't afford to buy real estate. He also didn't check the company memos about them or call their bank to verify their financial situation. Williamson even tells him so near the end of the movie.
  • Foreshadowing: Levene is giddy with joy after his huge sale to the Nyborgs. But even as he's bouncing around the office bragging, Williamson says "If the sale sticks, it will be a miracle." Levene blows him off—but the end reveals that Levene's Nyborg deal is almost certainly worthless. Apparently the Nyborgs are mentally incompetent (Williamson calls them "insane"), and Williamson implies that they don't have $82K to spend anyway (he makes a comment about how they're living, which should have been a tell).
  • 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. After things start going south, everyone starts getting louder, more brash, and more foul in their language. Especially after Roma thinks Williamson has cost him some money.
  • Henpecked Husband: Lingk. From his description, we can deduce his wife to be wearing the pants in their relationship.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Levene is said to actually be a pretty good salesman who's currently stuck on a bad streak. You can see how he actually is a jerkass under that sorry exterior as soon as he thinks he's back on a roll.
  • I Have a Family: Shelly begs Williamson not to rat him out and mentions his daughter, but it doesn't help.
  • Incompetence, Inc.: Mitch and Murray come across as this. They leave the Glengarry leads to go stale while forcing their sales staff to waste time on the crappy Rio Rancho leads. Levene even Lampshades this to Williamson when the latter says that Mitch and Murray have ordered him to only give the good leads to the best salesmen. Levene asks how the salesmen are expected to improve when their leads are dogshit. In one of the most memorable scenes in the movie, Roma gives Williamson a devastating "The Reason You Suck" Speech for ruining a big sale, implying that he only got his job due to Nepotism.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: The robber reveals himself with a slip of the tongue. Levene slips up and reveals he was the robber after Williamson said he cashed Lingk's check. Levene calls Williamson out on lying about it. But last night was the one night in a year that Williamson went home to his kids instead of cashing the checks at the bank. So the only time Levene could have seen the check was last night, and thus only could have known Williamson was lying about cashing the check if Levene was the one robbed the office.
  • 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, stalling out his request with assurances and faux-philosophical rambling. 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.
  • Informed Ability:
    • Levine was once apparently a highly successful salesman but it's difficult to take that claim seriously from what we see in the movie. His hard-sell tactics completely fall flat with Spannell and as noted under Selective Obliviousness he completely fails to recognize that both the Spannells and Nyborgs clearly don't have money to invest in real estate even though Levine himself pointed out multiple times that the leads were weak. Then in another high pressure situation when he accidentally outs himself as the one who robbed the office he promptly falls apart, letting slip more information such as the fact that he had an accomplice. Then his attempt to negotiate with Williamson so he doesn't get reported to the police is almost painful to watch. Maybe at one point in the past he had the skills of a successful salesman but they're long gone.
    • For that matter, Blake's success as a salesman. We have nothing but his word to go on that he's a real estate shark, and he never does anything to actually prove he could earn $15,000 a night with the Rio Rancho leads. Notably, the salesmen have never heard of him despite his supposedly being a big shot. As the YMMV tab notes, some fans think he's an actor hired by Mitch and Murray whose fancy Rolex and BMW are just borrowed props for part of his act.
  • Inhuman Resources: Williamson is the Punch-Clock Villain who enforces the cutthroat tactics of the sales firm. While not a salesman, he's open to taking bribes and lying to customers.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: When Lingk tells Roma that his wife consulted an attorney who said they have three days to back out of the deal, a period which will have elapsed by the time Roma claims he will next be available to meet with Lingk, Roma constructs an elaborate lie to assure Lingk that their contract hasn't been filed yet and could still be amended. Then in comes Williamson, 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 Lingk that he didn't know about this, but the damage has been done.
  • Jerkass: All of the main characters are assholes, browbeaten by higher-ups to keep selling with bad leads. Some of them are worse than others, like a guy who is literally willing to rob his fellow coworkers if it means getting ahead.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: He's not a pleasant person in general but Williamson is absolutely in the right to be pissed off at Shelley for stealing from the office he manages and putting his job at risk.
  • 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' 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. In the original play, Roma turns out to be a Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: once Levene is out of earshot, Roma reveals he plans to horn in on what he thinks is the start of Levene's hot streak. Since he doesn't need to glom onto anyone else's sales, Roma seems to be doing this purely For the Evulz. In the film, it's clear it's borne out of genuine respect for Levene who he regards as a mentor.
  • Justified Criminal: How Shelly probably sees himself due to his sick daughter.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Either one of these can apply, depending on how you look at Shelly. At one level, he's such a desperate sad sack who is clearly years past his prime and at the end of his career that you can't help feeling sorry for him. On another level, he deserves everything he gets. How many people did he sucker into losing everything by investing in worthless real estate? How many parents had to tell their kids that college was no longer an option? Over his entire career, he's probably screwed over hundreds of people.
    • This extends to his treatment of Williamson as well. Shelley is obsequious and (somewhat) deferential to Williamson when he needs something; however, when Shelley thinks he has the upper hand, he goes full jerkass against his manager, suddenly believing himself invulnerable. Assuming that he's always acted this way towards Williamson while he was in his prime, it's not hard to see why the latter would hold a grudge.
  • Large Ham: Roma, especially after the leads are stolen. It's Al Pacino, so it's a given.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Riding high on his recent sale, Shelly 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. Shelly, for his part, regards them with a "is this guy fuckin' serious?" wince.
  • 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: The real estate agents speak to each other in a very vulgar, fast-paced, jargon-filled style of speech throughout the entire work. There's also a lot of semantics being thrown around, such as when Aaronow and Moss talk about robbing the office "as an idea" without explicitly saying they're going to rob the place so they can't implicate themselves in anything. An important distinction is drawn between "talking" about the robbery, as in "discussing it as a hypothetical situation", and "talking" about the robbery, as in "making plans to actually commit the crime".
  • Manipulative Bastard: All of the salesmen are shameless liars who try to manipulate their marks into buying land. They only really differ in their skill.
  • 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.
    • When we see the fabled Glengarry plots in Roma's brochure, he mentions the property is in Florida and it looks suspiciously like swampland...
  • The Mentor: Levene is said to have been one to Roma, which is part of why Roma still respects him even as others see him as past his prime.
  • Minimalist Cast: The story is told using six major characters and a few extras. It's also a male-only cast.
  • Nepotism: Ricky guesses that Williamson got his position by being "someone's cousin."
  • 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.
  • No Name Given: Invoked. When Moss asks Blake what his name is, Blake responds "fuck you, that's my name", adding that he drove here in an eighty-thousand dollar BMW, and that is his name. In fact, the name "Blake" is never uttered in the film, it only appears in the end credits (and we never find out if it's his first or last name).
  • No, You: After Levene protests that "The leads are weak," Blake fires back with, "The leads are weak? Fucking leads are weak. You're weak!"
  • 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.
    • The thief, 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. And a final time when Baylen summons him into the office... knowing what's about to happen.
  • Pet the Dog: At the end of the story, Roma gives some support to the obviously rattled Aaronow and shows Levene a lot of respect. He's a decent guy when he's not fleecing suckers or screaming at people who lost him money.
  • Police Are Useless: Roma says as much, stating that the police will never catch the thief because they're stupid. In fact, it's Williamson who catches the thief, not the cops. The police also don't seem to notice that Roma and Shelley are conning a mark in their presence, even when Roma is screaming at Williamson for bungling the con.
  • 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."
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Williamson isn't a nice guy by any stretch, but he continually insists that he's just doing his job, and he'd get in trouble if he did anything except follow his specific instructions. He also states a number of times that he'd rather be home with his kids. Until the end, where it's revealed that he has been giving Shelley deliberately poor leads purely because he doesn't like him.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "PUT! that COFFEE! DOWN!" Blake shouts this at Levene as his speech starts, saying that "coffee is for closers".
  • "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 check 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?
    • 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.
  • 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 the Money, I Have Rules!: At the end, Levene tries to bribe Williamson to keep his mouth shut about what he knows. Williamson refuses to accept.
  • 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 new car, second place gets a set of steak knives, third place is "you're fired". Blake uses this as an attempt at motivation for the salesmen. At the very least, it gets their attention long enough to listen to Blake's speech.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Levene is guilty of this twice:
    • When he visits the Spannell home, he slides right into his pitch without noticing either Mr. Spannell's obvious annoyance at his very presence and unwillingness to engage him, or the solidly middle-class home with the run-down furnishings (meaning the family likely does not have money to spend on real estate). Shelley only gets the message when Mr. Spannell drops any pretense of politeness and just orders him to get out.
    • Shelley's description of his sale to the Nyborgs. After finishing his pitch, he sat at their kitchen table and stared them down for over 20 minutes before they signed the sales documents. He thinks they finally signed because he mentally forced his will upon them. In hindsight, we realize they only signed so this obnoxious salesman would leave their home. Williamson later points out that Levene should have known the Nyborgs didn't have $82,000 to spend on real estate based on their modest home and equally modest furnishings.
  • Shady Real Estate Agent: The plot focuses on a office of real estate salesmen who use all manner of lies and deception to sell what is implied to be worthless land to suckers.
  • Shown Their Work: 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 you sold your product to a person who 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.
  • 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.
  • The Social Expert: Ricky. Part of what makes him such a successful salesman is his superb skill at reading people and appealing to their wants and needs. He's even on the verge of dissuading Lingk's attempt to cancel the deal before Williamson screws up.
  • Sole Survivor: Considering all the other salesmen are in a load of trouble in the end, only two agents are left by the end, so they win the contest by default and get to keep their jobs.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The film concludes playing an upbeat, jazzy rendition of Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies."
  • Spanner in the Works: Roma is about to convince Lingk not to call the state's attorney so he can renege on the deal. Then Williamson claims that his check has already been cashed.
    Roma: You stupid fucking cunt!
  • Speech-Centric Work: The play and the film both revolve almost entirely around the characters having conversations with each other, telling anecdotes or having pseudo-philosophical discussions. Mamet's script is very specific about how the dialogue should be delivered (including every pause, stutter, and emphasised syllable), but extremely vague about the stage directions.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Levene's first name is spelled "Shelly" in the original play, but "Shelley" in the film.
  • Stepford Smiler: Levene is a tragic case. He is obviously under incredible strain and deeply unhappy, but whenever he starts to break down, he snaps right back into his genial, avuncular salesman persona with a forced giggle.
  • 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.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: When Levene visits the house of Larry Spannel, whose wife is interested in buying, his sales pitch consists of him all but inviting himself into Larry's house, acting like he's Larry's best friend and being a Motor Mouth about his sales without letting Larry get a word in. Larry clearly doesn't want Levene there, but he's too polite to throw him out until he's leaving to go pick up his wife. Even then, Levene keeps pestering him until he flat-out tells him "No" and says he's not interested.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone:
    • 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.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Roma appears to have this by virtue of being the top salesman in the office. You try talking to your boss the way he talks to Williamson and see how much longer you're employed.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The film does this for the motivational coaching genre and its usefulness as a whole, years before it was commonplace and glamorized by films like Boiler Room and The Wolf of Wall Street. In the film's most famous scene, hotshot salesman Blake (Alec Baldwin) delivers a blistering "reason you suck" speech to a group of sad-sack real estate brokers, imploring them to "Always Be Closing" and motivating them to do better with the promise of access to better leads. While the scene is typically held up as the most memorable thing in the film (to the point that it was an Adaptation Expansion added into the original stage play because of its popularity), it reads like a subversion of the industry it was designed to puff up. For all the popularity that Blake's scene has received, one would be surprised upon actually seeing the film to find out that it was a complete failure: Blake's speech doesn't help the protagonists to make good sales — only to make more bad sales, and eventually perform a theft that results in two of them getting arrested. Blake's speech focused only on motivation and failed to acknowledge the protagonists' real problems: they lack the necessary skill, and (as later events in the film show) they are being held back by bad leads. Giving them motivation, and only motivation, would not help if they still don't know how to sell and their leads are bad anyway. It also doesn't help that the stakes are even worse than how they're described — Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) is so far ahead of the others that they're not fighting for two spots at the company, but one.
  • 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, but it's later revealed that some of them flat-out don't have the money to invest in real estate at all, which even Blake couldn't fix (except by figuring it out quicker and moving on).
  • Villainous Breakdown: Each of the salesmen gets one by the end of the story.
    • Aaronow gets a minor one after being questioned by the detective, raging about how disrespectfully the latter was treating him. It could be considered a simple breakdown minus the "villainous" part given how Aaronow stands out as being more scrupulous than the other salesmen.
    • Moss spends most of his time building up to one. During his Rage Quit, all of the insecurity he has been expressing boils to a point where he storms out of the office in a huff, but not before unleashing a brutal tirade against the office, his coworkers (particularly Roma), the police, and the nature of sales in general.
    • Levene is treated to a painful one after getting carried away with his "The Reason You Suck" Speech directed at Williamson. When the latter keenly catches an incriminating piece of information, the former is reduced from a Smug Snake to a blubbering, pathetic mess.
    • Roma vents his frustration on Williamson after the latter botches the former's big sale by lying about cashing Lingk's check Just before going into talk to the detective, Roma really lets Williamson have it, prompting Levene to add on once Roma is out of earshot.
  • Wham Line: "How did you know I made it up?" Williamson says this as he realizes that the one who robbed the office slipped up and revealed information that he couldn't possibly have known unless he was the thief.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?:
    • We never find out where most of the pieces of real estate these guys are selling are located. There are exceptions: Roma identifies Glengarry Highlands as a Florida development during his sales pitch to Lingk, while the Rio Rancho land is presumably located in Arizona, as Aaronow and Moss both pretend to be from Arizona when calling those leads.
    • For that matter, we never find out where the film itself takes place. The payphones are marked New York Bell, but there are several references to the Chicago suburbs of Kenilworth and Morton Grove. The train running by could be Chicago's famous El train, or it could be an elevated NY subway.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Shelly "The Machine" Levene used to be the best salesman in the firm, but his "hard sell" approach is no longer effective, and he hasn't closed a deal in months, which makes him a prime candidate to be fired after Mitch and Murray's "sales contest" ends. However, he insists to Williamson that he's just having bad luck and that he'll start bringing in thousands in commission any day now, if he could just have better leads (which Williamson refuses to give him, at least not for free... or even at a price he can afford).
  • Wins by Doing Absolutely Nothing: Since Moss and Levine will almost certainly be going to jail for their role in the theft, Aaronow and Roma are the only salespeople left. So Aaronow effectively "wins" the sales contest despite not making a single sale during the entire story.
  • 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 the four salesmen have come across to sell, apparently representing the high points of a salesman's life, or life in general. The similarity of the names further suggests that although the once desirable Glen Ross Farms plots are now nearly impossible to sell, while the new Glengarry Highlands plots practically sell themselves, there's almost no difference between the properties themselves and what they represent.
  • Worthless Treasure Twist: A variant of this occurs with Levene. After Williamson drops it on Levene that it's clear he's the thief thanks to knowing that the check from another sale wasn't cashed, Williamson also says that Levene's big sale won't go through. The $82,000 sale he supposedly made on those eight units? The people that Levene sold the units to "just like talking to salesmen", because they'd already been flagged by the company six months ago as bad buyers. This pulls the rug out from under Levene, who instantly deflates and realizes how hopelessly screwed he is.

ABT. A-Always. B-Be. T-Troping. Always be troping. ALWAYS BE TROPING!