Death of a Salesman (1951)
One of the greatest American plays, Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” defined dramatic intensity and thematic seriousness and tragedy for generations to come; it’s often revived all over the country, Miller expressed his sorrowing disapproval, his lamentations over lives devoted to false ideals of the American Dream.
The accomplished actor and star, Fredric March, is miscast as Miller’s pathetic Willy Loman, an aging salesman driven to suicide by the meaninglessness of his life. March, tall in height and stature, plays the frustrated little man as strange and disturbed man right from the start, thus short-circuiting a sense of real suffering and decline
Linda Loman is a fiercely loyal woman who understands the terrible significance of her husband’s weariness and exhaustion, desperately to protect him even from his own sons. The long-suffering wife of a faker, Linda is a woman who bears the agony of seeing her two sons and husband turn out to be failures.
As Linda Mildred Dunnock, who portrayed the part on Broadway two years earlier, gives a compelling but not a particularly touching performance.
Biff (Kevin McCarthy, brother of Mary), who initially represents all of Willy’s hopes and unfulfilled dreams for himself, soon reveal his own inadequacies.
In exposing cheating and dishonesty, the movie is grim and depressing, as it should be, but as directed by Laslo Benedect (known for the 1953 “The Wild One” starring Brando), it strangely lacks gravitas and emotional impact.
The use of flashbacks, in which Willy revisits his past, fail to make the work more cinematic and it’s still too static and stagy.
In 1985, the play was revived on Broadway (and then shot for TV), starring Dustin Hoffman.
Actor: Fredric March
Supporting Actor: Kevin McCarthy
Supporting Actress: Mildred Dunnock
Cinematography (b/w): Frank Planer
Score: Alex North
Oscar Awards: None
This was the last Oscar nomination for March, a two-time Oscar winner (1930 and 1946). The winner of Best Actor was Humphrey Bogart for “The African Queen.”
The Supporting Actor and Actress Oscars went to Karl Malden and Kim Hunter, respectively, both for “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
William C. Mellor won the Cinematography Oscar for “A Place in the Sun,” which also received the Score
Award for Franz Waxman’s work.
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