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Death of a Salesman (1951 film)

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Laszlo Benedek

Adapted from
Death of a Salesman





Music director
Alex North

United States

Death of a Salesman (1951 film) movie poster

Release date
December 20, 1951 (1951-12-20)

Arthur Miller (play), Stanley Roberts

Fredric March
(Willy Loman),
Mildred Dunnock
(Linda Loman),
Kevin McCarthy
(Biff Loman),
Cameron Mitchell
(Happy Loman),
Howard Smith
Beverly Aadland

Similar movies
Arthur Miller wrote the story for Death of a Salesman and All My Sons

Death of a Salesman is a 1951 film adapted from the play of the same name by Arthur Miller. It was directed by László Benedek and written for the screen by Stanley Roberts. The film received many honors, including four Golden Globe Awards, the Volpi Cup and five Academy Award nominations. Alex North, who wrote the music for the Broadway production, was one of the five Academy Award nominees for the film's musical score.


Death of a Salesman (1951 film) wwwgstaticcomtvthumbmovieposters79853p79853


Death of a Salesman (1951 film) Lszl Benedek Death of a Salesman 1951 Cinema of the World

Willy Loman has led a life consisting of 60 years of failure. Loman's wife supports him, but he soon begins to lose his grip on reality and slips between the past and the present, frantically trying to find where he went wrong.


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The cast consisted mainly of the Broadway cast, with the addition of Kevin McCarthy from the original London Cast. However, Fredric March replaced Broadway actor Lee J. Cobb after concerns arose over Cobb's alleged past with leftist politics.

Career of a Salesman

Just before the film was about to come out, Arthur Miller threatened to sue Columbia Studios over the short which was to appear before Death of a Salesman. This short film, Career of a Salesman, showed what the producers believed was a more typical American salesman, and was an attempt to defuse possible accusations that Death of a Salesman was an anti-American film. Eventually, Columbia agreed to remove the 10-minute short from the film's theatrical run.

Death of a Salesman (1951 film) Death of a Salesman 1951

Miller saw Career of a Salesman as an attack upon his work, proclaiming "Why the hell did you make the picture if you're so ashamed of it? Why should anybody not get up and walk out of the theatre if Death of a Salesman is so outmoded and pointless?" He argued against the portrayal of the salesman profession as "a wonderful profession, that people thrived on it, and there were no problems at all". Eventually, the very attitude that led Columbia to commission the intro led to the failure of Death of a Salesman: People and businessmen in the political climate of the 1950s tried to distance themselves from a film depicting American failure.


Death of a Salesman (1951 film) Lszl Benedek Death of a Salesman 1951 Cinema of the World

Benedek took great care in making the film a close transcription of the play. In many places, the film uses Miller's lines verbatim, sometimes leaving out only small lines of dialogue. However, the playwright claimed the movie was ruined by the truncation of key scenes. In fact, the playwright had no involvement with or control over the movie. Benedek also stressed the dreary, middle class setting of the film, using small rooms and gray shots.


Death of a Salesman (1951 film) FilmFanaticorg Death of a Salesman 1951

Though the film won over many film critics and received nominations for many awards, it was a box office failure. The subject matter, the failure of the American dream, did not appeal to many of the era's moviegoers. Miller himself denounced the adaptation of his play, claiming the actors all sounded like "Willy Loman with a diploma, fat with their success". He also claimed that, though he wrote the play cinematically, Benedek managed to "chop off almost every climax of the play as though with a lawnmower" and portray Loman as a lunatic rather than a victim.

Death of a Salesman (1951 film) death of a salesman 1951 chunk 2wmv YouTube

As of September 2011, the film has never been commercially released in any home-viewing format, primarily because Columbia lost the rights when these were sold for the television remake with Dustin Hoffman. However, the film was preserved in 2013 by Columbia and The Film Foundation, which would suggest that the rights problem may have at last been resolved.


1952 Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Cinematography - Black and White
  • Best Director - László Benedek
  • Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama - Fredric March
  • New Star of the Year - Actor - Kevin McCarthy
  • 1952 Venice Film Festival

  • Volpi Cup - Fredric March
  • New York Times Critics' Pick

  • Top 1,000
  • Nominations

    1952 Academy Awards

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role - Fredric March
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Kevin McCarthy
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Mildred Dunnock
  • Best Cinematography - Black and White - Franz Planer
  • Best Score - Adaptation or Treatment - Alex North
  • 1952 Directors Guild of America Awards

  • Award for Outstanding Directing - Feature Film
  • 1952 British Academy Film Awards

  • BAFTA Award for Best Film
  • Best Foreign Actor - Fredric March
  • 1952 Venice Film Festival

  • Golden Lion
  • 1952 Writers Guild of America Award

  • Best Written American Drama
  • Robert Meltzer Award
  • Digital restoration

    In 2013 digital restoration of the film was done by Sony. The digital pictures were frame by frame digitally restored at Prasad Corporation to remove dirt, tears, scratches and other artifacts. The film was restored to its original look. This was part of the Stanley Kramer 100 year celebration, he would have been 100 years old on Sept. 29, 2013.


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