" A contemporary classic. . . listen to this album." --The New York Times Death of a Salesman burst upon the scene in 1949, and is as fresh and meaningful today as it was when it opened on Broadway - and won the Drama Critics' Circle Award, the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize. As Death of a Salesman is Miller's great play, Willy Loman is Lee J. Cobb's great role. He created the part on Broadway, just as Mildred Dunnock created the role of Linda Loman. They both recreate their roles here, with an exceptional cast including Michael Tolan as Biff, Gene Williams as Happy, and in the role of Bernard - Dustin Hoffman. Arthur Miller took an active part in this production, undertaken expressly for this recording - from Miller himself recording the introduction with which the play opens to choosing the director, participating in the casting, and attending the rehearsals. Arthur Miller was born in New York City in 1915. His first theatrical success occurred in 1947 with All My Sons, which earned him the Drama Critics' Circle Award. In 1949, Death of a Salesman was given the Pulitzer Prize and Drama Critics' Circle Award. The Crucible won a Tony Award four years later. His other plays include A View From the Bridge, The Price, After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, The American Clock, Danger: Memory, The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, and Broken Glass.
Arthur Miller's 1949 Death of a Salesman
has sold 11 million copies, and Willy Loman didn't make all those sales on a smile and a shoeshine. This play is the genuine article--it's got the goods on the human condition, all packed into a day in the life of one self-deluded, self-promoting, self-defeating soul. It's a sturdy bridge between kitchen-sink realism and spectral abstraction, the facts of particular hard times and universal themes. As Christopher Bigsby's mildly interesting afterword in this 50th-anniversary edition points out (as does Miller in his memoir, Timebends
), Willy is closely based on the playwright's sad, absurd salesman uncle, Manny. But of course Miller made Manny into Everyman, and gave him the name of the crime commissioner Lohmann in Fritz Lang's angst-ridden 1932 Nazi parable, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
The tragedy of Loman the all-American dreamer and loser works eternally, on the page as on the stage. A lot of plays made history around 1949, but none have stepped out of history into the classic canon as Salesman has. Great as it was, Tennessee Williams's work can't be revived as vividly as this play still is, all over the world. (This edition has edifying pictures of Lee J. Cobb's 1949 and Brian Dennehy's 1999 performances.) It connects Aristotle, The Great Gatsby, On the Waterfront, David Mamet, and the archetypal American movie antihero. It even transcends its author's tragic flaw of pious preachiness (which undoes his snoozy The Crucible, unfortunately his most-produced play).
No doubt you've seen Willy Loman's story at least once. It's still worth reading. --Tim Appelo