©1968, directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles and
Charlotte Zwerin, 16mm, b/w, 91 mins.
Salesman follows four door-to-door Bible salesmen as
they walk the line between hype and despair. Paul
"The Badger" Brennan, Charles "The Gipper" McDevitt,
James "The Rabbit" Baker, and Raymond "The Bull" Martos,
are so nicknamed for their particular selling styles -- on their
rounds. First making calls in and around Boston, where the
company is based, then in Chicago at a sales conference,
and finally in the promising new "territory" of Miami and
vicinity. Their mission is simple: to convince people to buy
what one of them calls "still the best seller in the world."
But although their customers are mostly middle, working-
class Catholics recommended by the local church, the Bible
is a hard sell. In action, the salesmen rely on trusty catch
phrases: "Could you say if this would help the family? Could
you see where this would be of value in the home? A gain to
you?" Talking, pushing, cajoling, telling jokes and stories,
throwing out compliments, the salesmen make their "pitches"
to a wide range of customers -- lonely widows, married couples,
Cuban immigrants, bored housewives -- from those who clearly
cannot afford the $50 book to those who, in the end, are
convinced by the salesman's somewhat too-cheerful patter.
From Webster, Massachusetts to Opa-Locka, Florida, the
operating costs of the American Dream. Today Salesman
is considered 'the direct cinema classic'.
"I was spellbound. I've seen Salesman three times and each
time I've been more impressed. Fascinating, very funny,
- Vincent Camby, NEW YORK TIMES, April 18, 1969
"One of the most important films ever made. It must be seen."
- Hollis Alpert, SATURDAY REVIEW, 1969
"Ten times more fascinating than the big budget hokum turned
out by Hollywood."
- Rex Reed, 1969
"Far and away the most important film of the year! A brutally
- Donald Mayerson, VILLAGER, 1969
"Probably the most important film you will see this year."
- Joseph Gelmis, NEWSDAY, 1969
"Eloquent and genuinely funny. No other land could have imaginably
produced this picture."
- Penelope Gilliatt, NEW YORKER MAGAZINE, 1969
"Greater insight into America than all the Broadway shows I've
seen this season."
- Harold Clurman, THE NATION, 1969
"Funny, touching, compassionate, an extraordinary portrait of a
- John O'Connor, WALL STREET JOURNAL, April 18,1969
"A marvelous movie, Salesman is a non-documentary, non-fiction,
opinionated film· Salesman is a funny film about sadness, a cruel
film about sensibilities, a patter-filled film about dumbness."
- VOGUE, March 15, 1969
World Premiere: 68th St. Playhouse, New York City (April 17, 1969)
Broadcast on PBS series "P.O.V." (1990)
Official Selection for Library of Congress National Film Registry (1993)
Official U.S. entry at Venice International Film Festival (1969)
Official Selection, Berlin Film Festival
Official Selection, Moscow Film Festival
Official Selection, Edinburgh Film Festival
Official Selection, Mannheim Film Festival
Official Selection, Chicago Film Festival