Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play written by American playwright Arthur Miller. It won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. The play premiered on Broadway in February 1949, running for 742 performances, and has been revived on Broadway four times, winning three Tony Awards for Best Revival. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest plays of the 20th century.
|Death of a Salesman|
First edition cover (Viking Press)
|Written by||Tony Antone|
|Date premiered||February 10, 1949|
|Place premiered||Morosco Theatre|
New York City
|Subject||The waning days of a failing salesman|
|Setting||Late 1940s; Willy Loman's house; New York City and Barnaby River; Boston|
Willy Loman returns home exhausted after a business trip he has cancelled. Worried over Willy's state of mind and recent car accident, his wife Linda suggests that he ask his boss Howard Wagner to allow him to work in his home city so he will not have to travel. Willy complains to Linda that their son, Biff, has yet to make good on his life. Despite Biff's promise as a football star in high school, he failed in mathematics and was unable to enter a university.
Biff and his younger brother, Happy, who is temporarily staying with Willy and Linda after Biff's unexpected return from the West, reminisce about their childhood together. They discuss their father's mental degeneration, which they have witnessed in the form of his constant indecisiveness and daydreaming about the boys' high school years. Willy walks in, angry that the two boys have never amounted to anything. In an effort to pacify their father, Biff and Happy tell their father that Biff plans to make a business proposition the next day.
The next day, Willy goes to ask his boss, Howard, for a job in town while Biff goes to make a business proposition, but both fail. Willy gets angry and ends up getting fired when the boss tells him he needs a rest and can no longer represent the company. Biff waits hours to see a former employer who does not remember him and turns him down. Biff impulsively steals a fountain pen. Willy then goes to the office of his neighbor Charley, where he runs into Charley's son Bernard, now a successful lawyer. Bernard tells him that Biff originally wanted to go to summer school to make up for failing math, but something happened in Boston when Biff went to visit his father that changed his mind. Charley gives the now-unemployed Willy money to pay his life-insurance premium. Willy shocks Charley by remarking that ultimately, a man is "worth more dead than alive."
Happy, Biff, and Willy meet for dinner at a restaurant, but Willy refuses to hear bad news from Biff. Happy tries to get Biff to lie to their father. Biff tries to tell him what happened as Willy gets angry and slips into a flashback of what happened in Boston the day Biff came to see him. Willy had been having an affair with a receptionist on one of his sales trips when Biff unexpectedly arrived at Willy's hotel room. A shocked Biff angrily confronted his father, calling him a liar and a fraud. From that moment, Biff's views of his father changed and set him adrift.
Biff leaves the restaurant in frustration, followed by Happy and two girls that Happy picked up. They leave a confused and upset Willy behind in the restaurant. When they later return home, their mother angrily confronts them for abandoning their father while Willy remains outside, talking to himself. Biff tries unsuccessfully to reconcile with Willy, but the discussion quickly escalates into another argument. Biff conveys plainly to his father that he is not meant for anything great, insisting that both of them are simply ordinary men meant to lead ordinary lives. The feud reaches an apparent climax with Biff hugging Willy and crying as he tries to get Willy to let go of the unrealistic expectations. Rather than listen to what Biff actually says, Willy appears to believe his son has forgiven him and will follow in his footsteps, and after Linda goes upstairs to bed (despite her urging him to follow her), lapses one final time into a hallucination, thinking he sees his long-dead brother Ben, whom Willy idolized. In Willy's mind, Ben approves of the scheme Willy has dreamed up to kill himself in order to give Biff his insurance policy money. Willy exits the house. Biff and Linda cry out in despair as the sound of Willy's car blares up and fades out.
The final scene takes place at Willy's funeral, which is attended only by his family, Charley and Bernard (Bernard says nothing at the funeral, but in the stage directions, he is present). The ambiguities of mixed and unaddressed emotions persist, particularly over whether Willy's choices or circumstances were obsolete. At the funeral Biff retains his belief that he does not want to become a businessman like his father. Happy, on the other hand, chooses to follow in his father's footsteps, while Linda laments her husband's decision just before her final payment on the house.
Death of a Salesman uses flashbacks to present Willy's memory during the reality. The illusion not only "suggests the past, but also presents the lost pastoral life." Willy has dreamed of success his whole life and makes up lies about his and Biff's success. The more he indulges in the illusion, the harder it is for him to face reality. Biff is the only one who realizes that the whole family lived in the lies and tries to face the truth.
Willy Loman dreams of being a successful salesman like Dave Singleman, somebody who has both wealth and freedom. Willy believes that the key to success is being well-liked, and his frequent flashbacks show that he measures happiness in terms of wealth and popularity. One analyst of the play writes: "Society tries to teach that, if people are rich and well-liked, they will be happy. Because of this, Willy thought that money would make him happy. He never bothered to try to be happy with what he had …" Willy also believes that to attain success, one must have a suitable personality. According to another analyst, "He believes that salesmanship is based on 'sterling traits of character' and 'a pleasing personality.' But Willy does not have the requisite sterling traits of character; people simply do not like him as much as he thinks is necessary for success."
Ben symbolizes another kind of successful American Dream for Willy: to catch opportunity, to conquer nature, and to gain a fortune. His mantra goes: "Why, boys, when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. (He laughs.) And by God I was rich."
After seeing his father's real identity, Biff does not follow his father's "dream" because he knows that, as two analysts put it, "Willy does see his future but in a blind way. Meaning that he can and cannot see at the same time, since his way of seeing or visualizing the future is completely wrong."
One thing that is apparent from the Death of a Salesman is the hard work and dedication of Charley and Bernard. Willy criticizes Charley and Bernard throughout the play, but it is not because he hates them. Rather, it's argued that he is jealous of the successes they have enjoyed, which is outside his standards.
The models of business success provided in the play all argue against Willy's "personality theory." One is Charley, Willy's neighbor and apparently only friend. Charley has no time for Willy's theories of business, but he provides for his family and is in a position to offer Willy a do-nothing job to keep him bringing home a salary. (Bloom 51)
Death of a Salesman first opened on February 10, 1949, to great success. Drama critic John Gassner wrote that "the ecstatic reception accorded Death of Salesman has been reverberating for some time wherever there is an ear for theatre, and it is undoubtedly the best American play since A Streetcar Named Desire."
The play reached London on July 28, 1949. London responses were mixed, but mostly favorable. The Times criticized it, saying that "the strongest play of New York theatrical season should be transferred to London in the deadest week of the year." However, the public understanding of the ideology of the play was different from that in America. Some people, such as Eric Keown, think of Death of a Salesman as "a potential tragedy deflected from its true course by Marxist sympathies."
The play was hailed as "the most important and successful night" in Hebbel-Theater in Berlin. It was said that "it was impossible to get the audience to leave the theatre" at the end of the performance. The Berlin production was more successful than New York, possibly due to better interpretation.
Compared to Tennessee Williams and Beckett, Arthur Miller and his Death of Salesman were less influential. Rajinder Paul said that "Death of a Salesman has only an indirect influence on Indian theatre practitions." However, it was translated and produced in Bengali as 'Pheriwalar Mrityu' by the theater group Nandikar. Director Feroz Khan adapted the play in Hindi and English by the name "Salesman Ramlal" played by Satish Kaushik and with the role of his son portrayed by Kishore Kadam.
Death of a Salesman was welcomed in China. There, Arthur Miller directed the play himself. As Miller stated, "It depends on the father and the mother and the children. That's what it's about. The salesman part is what he does to stay alive. But he could be a peasant, he could be, whatever." Here, the play focuses on the family relationship. It is easier for the Chinese public to understand the relationship between father and son because "One thing about the play that is very Chinese is the way Willy tries to make his sons successful." The Chinese father always wants his sons to be 'dragons.'
The original Broadway production was produced by Kermit Bloomgarden and Walter Fried. The play opened at the Morosco Theatre on February 10, 1949, closing on November 18, 1950, after 742 performances. The play starred Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman, Mildred Dunnock as Linda, Arthur Kennedy as Biff, Howard Smith as Charley and Cameron Mitchell as Happy. Albert Dekker and Gene Lockhart later played Willy Loman during the original Broadway run. It won the Tony Award for Best Play, Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Arthur Kennedy), Best Scenic Design (Jo Mielziner), Producer (Dramatic), Author (Arthur Miller), and Director (Elia Kazan), as well as the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play. Jayne Mansfield performed in a production of the play in Dallas, Texas, in October 1953. Her performance in the play attracted Paramount Pictures to hire her for the studio's film productions.
The play has been revived on Broadway four times:
Antony Sher played Willy Loman in the first Royal Shakespeare Company production of the play directed by Gregory Doran in Stratford-upon-Avon in the spring of 2015, with Harriet Walter as Linda Loman. This production transferred to London's West End, at the Noël Coward Theatre for ten weeks in the summer of 2015. This production was part of the centenary celebrations for playwright Arthur Miller.
2012 Broadway revival
The 1979 Society of West End Theatre Awards were held in 1979 in London celebrating excellence in West End theatre by the Society of West End Theatre. The awards would not become the Laurence Olivier Awards, as they are known today, until the 1984 ceremony.19th Primetime Emmy Awards
The 19th Emmy Awards, later known as the 19th Primetime Emmy Awards, were handed out on June 4, 1967, at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California. The ceremony was hosted by Joey Bishop and Hugh Downs. Winners are listed in bold and series' networks are in parentheses.
The top show of the night was Mission: Impossible, which won three major awards. Don Knotts won his fifth Emmy for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Comedy. This record still stands.24th Academy Awards
The 24th Academy Awards honored the best in film in 1951, as recognized by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Best Picture was awarded to An American in Paris, which, like A Place in the Sun, received six Academy Awards. A Streetcar Named Desire won four Oscars, including three of the acting awards. The film's only unsuccessful acting nomination was that of Marlon Brando, whose performance as Stanley Kowalski was later considered one of the most influential of modern film acting.Humphrey Bogart was the last man born in the 19th century to win a leading role Oscar.
An American in Paris became the second color film to win Best Picture, after 1939's Gone with the Wind.3rd Tony Awards
The 3rd Annual Tony Awards were held on April 24, 1949, at the Waldorf-Astoria Grand Ballroom in New York City, and broadcast on radio station WOR and the Mutual Network. The Masters of Ceremonies were Brock Pemberton and James Sauter.53rd Tony Awards
The 53rd Annual Tony Awards was broadcast by CBS from the Gershwin Theatre on June 6, 1999. "The First Ten" awards ceremony was telecast on PBS television. The show did not have a formal host.Arthur Miller
Arthur Asher Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright, essayist, and a controversial figure in the twentieth-century American theater. Among his most popular plays are All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953) and A View from the Bridge (1955, revised 1956). He wrote several screenplays and was most noted for his work on The Misfits (1961). The drama Death of a Salesman has been numbered on the short list of finest American plays in the 20th century.
Miller was often in the public eye, particularly during the late 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. During this time, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was married to Marilyn Monroe. In 1980, Miller received the St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates. He received the Prince of Asturias Award, the Praemium Imperiale prize in 2002 and the Jerusalem Prize in 2003, as well as the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Lifetime Achievement Award.Birth of a Salesman
"Birth of a Salesman" is a short story by P. G. Wodehouse, which first appeared in the United States in the 26 March 1950 issue of This Week magazine. Part of the Blandings Castle canon, it features the absent-minded peer Lord Emsworth, and was included in the collection Nothing Serious (1950).
The story's title is a play on Death of a Salesman, the now-classic stageplay by Arthur Miller, which had won a Pulitzer Prize the previous year.Brian Dennehy
Brian Manion Dennehy (born July 9, 1938) is an American actor of film, stage, and television. A winner of one Golden Globe, two Tony Awards and a recipient of six Primetime Emmy Award nominations, he gained initial recognition for his role as Sheriff Will Teasle in First Blood (1982). He has had roles in numerous films including Gorky Park (1983), Silverado (1985), Cocoon (1985), F/X (1986), Presumed Innocent (1990), Romeo + Juliet (1996), and Knight of Cups (2015). Dennehy won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or Television Film for his role as Willy Loman in the television film Death of a Salesman (2000).Death of a Salesman (1951 film)
Death of a Salesman is a 1951 film adapted from the play of the same name by Arthur Miller. It was directed by László Benedek and written for the screen by Stanley Roberts. The film received many honors, including four Golden Globe Awards, the Volpi Cup and five Academy Award nominations. Alex North, who wrote the music for the Broadway production, was one of the five Academy Award nominees for the film's musical score.Death of a Salesman (1966 U.S. film)
Death of a Salesman is a 1966 American made-for-television film adaptation of the play of the same name by Arthur Miller. It was directed by Alex Segal and adapted for television by Miller. It received numerous nominations for awards, and won several of them, including three Primetime Emmy Awards, a Directors Guild of America Award and a Peabody Award. It was nominated in a total of 11 Emmy categories at the 19th Primetime Emmy Awards in 1967. Lee J. Cobb reprised his role as Willy Loman and Mildred Dunnock reprised her role as Linda Loman from the original 1949 stage production.
Playbill markets this version of the play as an "abbreviated" one. Although the performance is abridged, it was adapted for television by Miller himself, meaning that not much substance was lost in the changes. The production was filmed after several weeks of rehearsals.It was a 1966 CBS television adaptation, which included Gene Wilder, James Farentino, Bernie Kopell and George Segal. Cobb was nominated for an Emmy Award for the performance. Mildred Dunnock, who had co-starred in both the original stage version and the 1951 film version, again repeated her role as Linda, Willy's devoted wife, and earned an Emmy nomination. In addition to being Emmy-nominated, Cobb and Dunnock were Grammy Award-nominated at the 9th Grammy Awards in 1967 in the category of Best Spoken Word, Documentary or Drama Recording. This movie is one of several adaptations of the play and was contemporaneous with a May 1966 BBC version starring Rod Steiger and produced by Alan Cooke.The production marked the acclaimed reunion of the leading actor and actress from the original 1949 broadway cast. The performance also marks a strong dramatic turn for George Segal who is known for his comic work, while a young Gene Wilder presents a comic but sensitive performance as Bernard.Death of a Salesman (1966 UK film)
Death of a Salesman was a 1966 television production adapted from the play of the same name by Arthur Miller. It was directed by Alan Cooke and starred Rod Steiger as Willy Loman. It served as 24 May 1966 episode of the BBC 1 Play of the Month series.
The production gained two BAFTA nominations. Despite this, a recording does not seem to have survived.Death of a Salesman (1985 film)
Death of a Salesman is a 1985 American made-for-television film adaptation of the 1949 play of the same name by Arthur Miller, directed by Volker Schlöndorff, starring Dustin Hoffman, Kate Reid, John Malkovich, Stephen Lang and Charles Durning. The film follows the script of the 1949 play almost exactly and originally premiered on CBS on August 16, 1985.
The film earned 10 Emmy nominations at the 38th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony and four Golden Globe nominations at the 43rd Golden Globe Awards ceremony, winning three and one, respectively.Death of a Salesman (2000 film)
Death of a Salesman is a 2000 television film directed by Kirk Browning, based on the 1949 play of the same name by Arthur Miller. The film stars American actor Brian Dennehy (who won a Golden Globe Award at the 58th Golden Globe Awards for his performance) as Willy Loman (the Salesman). The film earned two nominations at both the 7th Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2001 and the 52nd Primetime Emmy Awards in 2000.Lee J. Cobb
Lee J. Cobb (born Leo Jacoby, December 8, 1911 – February 11, 1976) was an American actor. He is best known for his performances in On the Waterfront (1954), 12 Angry Men (1957), and The Exorcist (1973). He also played the role of Willy Loman in the original Broadway production of Arthur Miller's 1949 play Death of a Salesman under the direction of Elia Kazan. On television, Cobb starred in the first four seasons of the Western series The Virginian. He typically played arrogant, intimidating and abrasive characters, but often had roles as respectable figures such as judges and police officers. He was twice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for The Brothers Karamazov (1958) and On the Waterfront (1954).László Benedek
László Benedek (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈlaːsloː ˈbɛnɛdɛk]; March 5, 1905 – March 11, 1992; sometimes Laslo Benedek) was a Hungarian-born film director and cinematographer, most notable for directing The Wild One (1953).
He gained recognition for his direction of the film version of Death of a Salesman (1951), for which he won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director and a Best Director nomination from the Directors Guild of America. However, it was for his directorial efforts on his next project that Benedek is best remembered. His motorcycle gang film The Wild One (1953) caused a storm of controversy and was banned in the United Kingdom until 1968.Mildred Dunnock
Mildred Dorothy Dunnock (January 25, 1901 – July 5, 1991) was an American stage and screen actress. She received two Academy Award nominations for her supporting performances in Death of a Salesman (1951) and Baby Doll (1956). Dunnock was also nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and a Primetime Emmy Award in her career.Motif (narrative)
In narrative, a motif (pronunciation) is any recurring element that has symbolic significance in a story. Through its repetition, a motif can help produce other narrative (or literary) aspects such as theme or mood.A narrative motif can be created through the use of imagery, structural components, language, and other narrative elements. The flute in Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman is a recurrent sound motif that conveys rural and idyllic notions. Another example from modern American literature is the green light found in the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Narratives may include multiple motifs of varying types. In Shakespeare's play Macbeth, he uses a variety of narrative elements to create many different motifs. Imagistic references to blood and water are continually repeated. The phrase "fair is foul, and foul is fair" is echoed at many points in the play, a combination that mixes the concepts of good and evil. The play also features the central motif of the washing of hands, one that combines both verbal images and the movement of the actors.
In a narrative, a motif establishes a pattern of ideas that may serve different conceptual purposes in different works. Kurt Vonnegut, for example, in his non-linear narratives such as Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle makes frequent use of motif to connect different moments that might seem otherwise separated by time and space. In the American science fiction cult classic Blade Runner, director Ridley Scott uses motifs to not only establish a dark and shadowy film noir atmosphere, but also to weave together the thematic complexities of the plot. Throughout the film, the recurring motif of "eyes" is connected to a constantly changing flow of images, and sometimes violent manipulations, in order to call into question our ability, and the narrator's own, to accurately perceive and understand reality.The Salesman (2016 film)
The Salesman (Persian: فروشنده, translit. Forušande, released in France as Le Client) is a 2016 drama film written and directed by Asghar Farhadi and starring Taraneh Alidoosti and Shahab Hosseini. It is about a married couple who perform Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman on stage, when the wife is assaulted. Her husband attempts to determine the identity of the attacker, while she struggles to cope with post-trauma stress. Farhadi chose Miller's play as his story within a story based on shared themes. A co-production between Iran and France, the film was shot in Tehran, beginning in 2015.
The film premiered in competition in the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, where it won two awards—Best Screenplay for Farhadi and Best Actor for Hosseini. The Salesman went on to receive more positive reviews, and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. However, Farhadi did not attend the 89th Academy Awards ceremony in protest of the U.S. Executive Order 13769.Willy Loman
William "Willy" Loman is a fictional character and the protagonist of Arthur Miller's classic play Death of a Salesman, which debuted on Broadway with Lee J. Cobb playing Loman at the Morosco Theatre on February 10, 1949. Loman is a 63-year-old travelling salesman from Brooklyn with 34 years of experience with the same company who endures a pay cut and a firing during the play. He has difficulty dealing with his current state and has created a fantasy world to cope with his situation. This does not keep him from multiple suicide attempts.