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  • Clearly, "Death of a Salesman" is the best play that Arthur Miller has written. It is almost as if he wrote it with Lee J. Cobb in mind to play salesman Willy Loman. Lee J. Cobb (then 38 years old) had performed this role on Broadway starring in the original cast. The play ran for 742 performances from February 10, 1949 thru November 18, 1950.

    I saw the television movie which ran on CBS television when it was broadcast in 1966. Back then we only had a black and white TV. Thirty-nine years later I purchased the DVD and marveled in seeing "Death of a Salesman" in color.

    Sixteen years later a now 55 year old Cobb reprises his Broadway stage role for the television cameras and was emotionally and dramatically perfect. Cobb plays road salesman Willy Loman so well that the viewer can see him having an emotional breakdown as the play progresses to it's conclusion.

    Part of the beauty of this television production is how it was video taped on a stage to resemble how an audience would see "Death of a Salesman" if it were being performed on the Broadway stage. The sets resembled those of a stage play. The only major difference is that, unseen by the viewers, the cameras were positioned to afford many dramatic angles and facial shots that could not be realized on a stage with a live audience.

    The television movie co-stars Mildren Dunnock as Willy's wife Linda Loman. Ms. Dunnock was also in the original Broadway cast. Her dramatic and long suffering role as Willy's wife is played with emotion and genuine love for her salesman husband. I can never forget when she is scolding her adult sons for their lack of compassion to their father when she says, "....So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be paid to such a person."

    George Segal turns in an excellent performance as Willy's son, Biff Loman, a son whom Willy had such dreams for Biff to be a college football star only to have a riff happen between Biff and his father. When Biff and Willy physically attack each other one can relate to real life when love covered over by hatred exists in real life families.

    James Farentino plays the playboy son, Happy Loman who is a disappointment to Willy's dreams and his mother's respect for him. Farentino is well matched as Biff's brother and at times the two brothers reflect upon their youthful years when they were still in high school and the pride of their father's eye.

    Gene Wilder (of Willy Wonka and Young Frankenstein fame) turns in a surprise performance at age 33 years old as Bernard the smart son of Willy's neighbor, Charley.

    Veteran character actor Edward Andrews gives a fine performance as Charley. Maybe Charley is Willy's only true friend. Throughout the play, Charley tries shows genuine concern for Willy's predicament and tries to help him, to no avail, because Willy will not listen to Charley's wise counsel.

    Albert Dekker plays Willy's older brother Ben. Ben is played as an hallucination. Ben's appears in Willy's mind dressed as a successful man who went away to make his fortune. Willy speaks to his brother as Hamlet spoke to his dead father and asks for Ben's advice on whether Willy has done right by his sons. Brother Ben's apparent success torments the mind of Willy.

    Bernie Kopell plays Howard Wagner the heir and president of the Wagner Company that Willy has worked at for many years. Bernie Kopell went on to become well known as Dr. Adam Bricker in the TV series "The Love Boat" as well as being cast in many movies and TV series.

    Character actor Stanley Adams has a small role as a waiter when Biff, Happy, and Willy meet for dinner. Up until his death in 1977 Stanley Adams appeared in roles in 65 motion pictures. Supporting roles were played by June Foray, Joan Patrick, Marge Redmond, and Karen Steele. At 88 years of age in 2005, June Foray continues to work in films doing cartoon voices. She is the voice of Rocky the Squirrel, Tweety Bird's Granny, and other various voices in 158 movie roles.

    The dialogue written by Arthur Miller in Death of a Salesman is quite lengthy and difficult to perform by it's scope. Some passages delivered by Willy Loman comprise a whole page of dialogue. Biff, Happy, and Linda, likewise have dialogue segments of large paragraphs of speech.

    I followed the TV play using the play script and did notice that some lines from the play script were omitted during the television production. Some lines were combined and rearranged for the benefit of keeping the camera on the speaker for continuity. Yet, in no way did this detract from the movement of the play.

    Everyone who is a lover of good drama should find this DVD and enjoy what used to be the standard fare on television drama during the 1960s when great literary writings were presented to an appreciative audience much different than today's fast paced TV, remote control clicking audiences are now.

    Death of a Salesman will keep you glued to your seat and you won't even think of going to the refrigerator for snacks. See this movie. It is a "10."
  • Just got this from Broadway Theatre Archive. I would recommend this to anyone remotely interested in this play and the history of American theater. While not the "film" the Dustin Hoffman version is, I found it more moving. It preserves two great performances, the original ones on Broadway. Lee J. Cobb is amazing. More than any other performance of this I've seen, he successfully shows Willy's horrifying diminishment in mental capacity while losing none of his character's or the play's emotional power. Mildred Dunnock is softer toward Willy than her successors but shows the steel within her when she deals with her sons. All in all a heartbreaking performance.

    George Segal is good as Biff, but unlike the more evenly balanced Dustin Hoffman-John Malkovich version, is somewhat dwarfed by Lee J. Cobb's Willy. James Farentino, who made a superb Biff on Broadway with George C. Scott, makes a superb Hap.
  • The only slight reservation I have about this TV version of the play is the fact that it was clearly shortened for the medium. The greatest thing about this recording is that it preserves Lee J. Cobb's interpretation of the lead role. I was enrolled in a drama school in the early 60s, a time when several of our teachers had actually seen him in the 1947 stage play. They would frequently speak, in reverent tones, of the scorching great performance that Cobb delivered. This 1966 television revival makes Cobb seem all the more remarkable to me due to the nearly twenty year interval that had passed since the New York run of the play. No matter how great a performance he might have initially delivered, many an actor would have lost a lot of the original intensity in that span. On top of this, Cobb had experienced a battering ordeal at the hands of the House on Un-American Activities Committee toward the end of the run of the play. There is a fascinating story behind Cobb's development of the role. During rehearsals, the director was considering replacing Lee, as his work was not showing promise. The story goes that, at a critical point, Cobb had been staring at a crack in a wall in the rehearsal space. Suddenly he was seized by a strong sense of the character which immediately endowed his reading with uncanny feeling and intensity. Late in the run, it is told that the characterization took such a pervasive hold on the actor that he started to take it home with him, unable to snap out of it.
  • Arthur Miller's play is an American classic, timeless and poignant. I've seen three film/TV and one stage version of the play. Lee J. Cobb's performance is the most powerful and frightening, comparable to his earlier performance in "12 Angry Men". As far as the character of Willy Loman and the sales profession a recommended viewing of "Glengarry Glen Ross" would be enlightening.
  • This is my favorite adaption of the play, "Death of a Salesman". The play itself is timeless and could be portrayed in a modern setting (with some updating). Willie Loman and his family will always exist as long as people in all walks or professions are perceived as being past their prime and a liability rather than an asset to society. It is a tragic episode in the life of a family that outgrow dreams and ambitions and must accept reality and human imperfection.

    I have had arguments over the fact that I believed Gene Wilder played Bernard in this play before he became prominent in a movie career. This cast is unique with such excellent actors as Mildred Dunnock, Lee J. Cobb, George Segal, James Farrentino, Bernie Koppell and the remaining members of the cast.
  • This was my first meeting with the play. After finishing it, I felt satisfied, but also far from finished with the play itself. I immediately wanted to see other versions of this, both to compare with this, and to enjoy the great writing. As this is an abridged (by the author himself) version, I'm obviously curious as to what more there is to it. I never felt anything missing.

    Lee J. Cobb was made for a role like this. The vulnerable, temperamental and old fashioned man that's grasping for happiness. I can imagine how intimate it must have been to see him act this on stage, and I'm happy that at least we have this TV version of his performance.

    The touches done to make this a TV movie instead of a filmed play, did not really add much to the movie. The locations still felt like sets and the performances were good, but theatrical. The transitions, dialogue happening over each other, etc, that is only possible in an edited medium like this, did not add much to the story.
  • Willy Loman never realises until the end that he is a loser. Although his son Biff knows he himself is a loser, his father won't accept this. Son, Hap, like his father doesn't know he is a loser, either. Miller seems obliquely to imply that society is to blame for Willy's sad life. Maybe so, surely society doesn't cut him much slack, especially as represented by the son of his long time firm, for which he has been a fairly successful salesman much of his life. Whatever one's opinion on this subject, the play certainly portrays very genuine emotions and problems as the aging Willy more and more loses contact with reality and harkens back to nodal points in his life, especially contacts with his successful brother Ben. Or is Ben just a figment of his imagination. We can only guess. At the final funeral scene, Hap's losing philosophy continues. Could he and Biff take Willy's $20,000 insurance award and make it as ranching partners out west? We'll never know; Hap is determined to "make it big" in the Big Apple. Fat chance!

    A better cast would be hard to imagine and the stage setting is beautifully photographed. The "fantasy" scenes are smoothly integrated with bits of "movie magic" that emulate what would be accomplished in the theatre with tricks of lighting. Cuts from the complete play are minor. This was TV at its best.
  • When "All My Sons" became too hard to take and critics began to call it a mere timepiece, Arthur Miller wrote another. Instead of life from the well-to-do point of view, he would wander to the other side of the street and look back. "Death of a Salesman" is life from the working man's front porch. And what a telling it is!

    Finally, Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock have one more opportunity together, this time recorded for the ages. And the rest of the cast, superb.

    Dear television gods, please bring it back at least one more time. This is a piece that needs to be seen by each generation: a constant reminder of how great the temptation always is to live in greed at the expense of the common man. Thank you again, Mr. Miller, for your wisdom and haunting words.
  • Seeing Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman in this David Susskind produced version is as close as possible to seeing the original play on Broadway, and a far sight better than just about any live production one could find nowadays.

    Mr. Cobb's performance is so absorbing, so powerful and so disturbing, that we, (the audience) feel genuinely dazed at its conclusion. It's as though, by the time of the final scene, that we too, are attending Willy's funeral, and all stumble away drained and awed.

    The supporting cast are each and all superb, with Mildred Dunnock probably topping anything else in which she has appeared. Set design is also inventive in its combination of abstract and realistic interiors and exteriors.

    As to the character of Willy, it is to Mr. Cobb's credit, that for all of his past moral compromises and shabby aspirations, the most honest of us, will admit that we recognize something of ourselves in him.

    Theater and television at its best! Thank you Mr. Susskind. (Also interesting to note Karen Steele relegated to a bit role while still such a young woman--what a step down from "Marty.")
  • Alex Segal and Lee J. Cobb leaves a piece of visual art for the ages with Segal's 1966 made for television version of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman. Lee J. Cobb's exceptional turn as a salesman at the end of his rope, in more ways than one, is one that will stick with audiences long after the film's conclusion. Telling the all too relatable tale of the lack of control we all have over our lives is one which will strike a chord with audiences whether they are in the spring or autumn of their lives.

    Willy Lowman (Lee J. Cobb) is a salesman relegated to the traveling circuit after a series of failures. In his 60's and tired Willy begins contemplating his life, both its successes and failures. He begins to get hung up on his failures and loses control of his life. When Willy's sons come home, be spirals even further into his failures as a father. Willy is constantly criticizing his son Biff (George Segal) claiming that he has yet to make anything of his life. His demure and obedient wife Linda (Mildred Dunnock) is constantly trying to both soothe Willy's doubts and support her sons. Ever nearing a nervous breakdown, Willy begins to relive each of his many personal failures, from the affair he committed against his wife, to the failed business decisions he made with his brother. The family is reeling from Willy's current business failures becoming behind on the final mortgage payment on their home. Dripping further and further into self-loathing, the Lowman family seeps to the pit of despair each wallowing in their various missteps in life.

    Life is full of transition phases, and each member of the Lowman family was experiencing their own unique life transitions. The boys were transitioning into adulthood which oftentimes requires one to abandon the way you thought adulthood would be and embrace what it is. Willy is transitioning in his career, not being as needed in his sales industry like he once was. Linda is transitioning into the autumn of her life, as she has stopped coloring her gray hair and seems to be accepting her decline in years. Oftentimes as we transition in our stages of life, we attempt to assemble a sense of control over things that we truly have no control over. One cannot stop the hands of time, and with each passing year comes a new reality of life. The more we try to control our lives, like Willy did, the more we realize we have no control. Another unfortunate truth we learn with each successive stage in life is just how little freedom we have. For most of our lives, human beings are chained to jobs out of necessity to make money to survive. We spend our lives away at jobs just so we can pay to have somewhere to live, even though we never get to spend any time there because we are always working. Willy worked his whole life only to die before the final payment on his house was made. Willy's is the story of so many everymen, living life for someone else only to be supremely disappointed by its outcomes because we never get to live our lives for ourselves.

    I watched this version of Death of a Salesman for Gene Wilder, although Lee J. Cobb is always a treat. It is disappointing to watch the earlier films in a favorite actor's filmography, as they are often only relegated to a handful of scenes. The few scenes Wilder was in were wonderful, and his gentle presence commanded the screen. He enjoys a powerful scene with Cobb in which he calls him to question what happened at what turned out to be a fateful meeting between him and his son. In spite of his minimal screen time, Gene Wilder was fantastic in the role of Bernard, Biff's tutor. I came for Gene Wilder, and stayed for Lee J. Cobb, and one can't really be disappointed about that.
  • Death of a Salesman, in a tough competition with Long Day's Journey Into Night, is considered to be the best American play ever written. Our branch state university, conveniently located just 2 miles from my home, is presenting Salesman with an imported NY actor playing Loman. I wanted very much to see it but the $35 ticket price stopped me dead in my tracks. So, instead, I got this DVD from the library. Miller wrote his play to be performed live in a theatre, and while I agree that live theatre is the preferred medium, still, I'm grateful that the 1966 performances of Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock, both of whom appeared in the original 1949 stage production, have been preserved and are available to us. Both are superb, but Cobb is the star. In this performance he's the equal of Olivier. Although he swallows some of his lines, and makes me wish there were DVD captions for the 'hearing impaired', Cobb is Willy. What did the audiences of 1949, 17 years earlier, think of his Willy? Was Cobb as effective then as he is in 1966? In the 1966 filmed version Cobb was 55, in age closer to the play's 63 year old Willy. Also, another benefit of this DVD over any stage performance is that we see the actors in closeups, which is a major plus. As Norma Desmond said, "We had faces then", meaning that faces, not words, conveyed emotions to an audience. The other actors are all fine, although it's a bit unsettling to see that Hap is very Italian compared to his brother Biff. I'm now reading the play in preparation to viewing this DVD again, and probably a third time. It's that good.