Death of A Salesman (1951): Arthur Miller’s on Screen, Starring Lee J. Cobb

Producer Stanley Kramer (before he became a director) got the rights to Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. He also got most of the members of the Broadway cast for the movie, plus Kevin McCarthy from the London production.

Lee J. Cobb, who had played the part of Willy Loman on Broadway, did not reprise his part, due to his alleged past of leftist political associations. Instead, Kramer and Columbia cast the respectable actor, Fredric March.

As is known, Willy Loman has spent a lifetime pursuing materialistic success, only to find himself a failure at the age 60, a victim of poor choices, lost opportunities, and unrealistic expectations.

He is also disappointed with his two sons, particularly the older one, Biff (Kevin McCarthy).

Despite the support of his loving, patient wife Linda (Mildred Dunnock), Willy’s life comes apart along with his hold on reality.

He increasingly slips between the present and the past, reliving painful incidents in a desperate search for what went wrong with his life.

March brings a good deal of dignity to the role, but he lacks the energy and pathos of Cobb, who did the role again on TV in the 1960.  (Dustin Hoffman would play it on Broadway in the late 1980s).

McCarthy and Cameron Mitchell are decent but not great as his two sons.

The movie was a flop, partly due to the grim subject matter but also the poor execution by director Laslo Benedek, better known for directing Brando in the 1953 cult picture, The Wild One.

Oscar Nominations:: 5

 Actor: Frederic March

Supporting Actor: Kevin McCarthy

Supporting Actress: Mildred Dunnock

Cinematography (b/w): Frank Planer

Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture: Alex North