Death of a Salesman (1951) Movie Review

By: Alex Phuong (A Toast) –

Ever since the founding of America in 1776, immigrants from all over the world came to the U.S. to pursue “The American Dream.” Even with such idealism, the bleakness of reality forced many dreamers to learn that such perfection is oftentimes unobtainable. Nevertheless, people still hold on to their dreams while searching for prosperity. Many of the greatest works in American literature actually attempt to dispel the myth of “The American Dream,” which resulted in some of the greatest stories ever written. Perhaps one of the most famous examples of such writing is Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and its 1951 film adaptation honors the legacy of Miller’s powerful drama.

A Toast

This film is a brilliant adaptation! A very unique feature of this film is its editing. There are numerous times in both the film and the original stage play in which the characters transition from the present reality to either other locations or events in their pasts. For example, there is a scene in which Willy Loman would walk out of the kitchen door, and then magically transport to a time in which his two sons, Biff and Happy, were washing the family car. The remarkable aspect of these shifts in time and space is that they flow almost naturally as the viewers understand the complexity of Willy Loman’s difficult life. As mentioned previously, the editing is remarkable because the transitions reiterate Miller’s theme of illusion versus reality while also giving the film a dream-like quality. Such an exploration of that powerful theme reminds viewers about the impossibility of idealism.

Verdict

It is a funny coincidence that two film adaptations of two of the greatest American plays would be released the same year. Fredric March excels as Willy Loman, but neither him nor Marlon Brando won the “Best Actor” award even though they played two of the most iconic characters in American drama. There are a lot of striking similarities between Death of a Salesman and A Streetcar Named Desire because of their themes as well as the nominations that they received at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards. In fact, Alex North received two nominations for “Best Original Dramatic Score” because he composed the music for both of these films even though the coveted Oscar eluded his grasp. Nevertheless, Death of a Salesman will always remain one of the greatest plays ever written, and is truly a landmark on both the stage and the silver screen.

Death of a Salesman (1951) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: during every smooth transition between fantasy and reality

Take a Drink: every time members of the Loman family abandon each other

Drink a Shot: for all of the sparkling lights that appear in a scene in which Willy Loman is driving and talking about diamonds

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