Alan Arkin passed away recently. Among the many tributes to this great actor was one in the New York Times that celebrates his role in the 1992 film Glengarry Glenn Ross as his greatest: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/30/movies/alan-arkin-glengarry-glen-ross.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage§ion=Movies
Hard to believe that the film is more than thirty years old and roughly coincides with when I launched my corporate training practice. I play a sanitized version of the opening scene where Alec Baldwin’s character berates a team of underperforming Florida real estate salesmen played by Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, and Arkin. High-flying Ricky Roma, played by Al Pacino, is across the street at a bar working a mark and the sales manager is portrayed by Kevin Spacey.
It is easy to understand with a cast like that why Arkin did not get top booking. But Jason Bailey writes that Arkin’s subtle depiction of humanity in the busted-up salesman George Aaronow is his finest part.
Based on David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize award-winning play, the movie has special meaning for me because my father, a corporate salesman during the day, would go out at night, like the movie’s cast, to sell Florida real estate to couples in their homes. I watched the movie with him and asked how realistic it was. Without using the term, he said it ranked high on verisimilitude. We were trained, he said, that the couples had your money and if you had enough testosterone, you would take it.
Baldwin’s Blake challenges the team by asking, “Are you man enough to take it?”
Confronting Neanderthal beliefs like these was one reason I was attracted to sales training. In the film, Baldwin claims that selling is simple as ABC for Always Be Closing. I counter with research and assert that selling is still ABC, but it now stands for Always Be Creating Value.
My wife and I went to a revival of the play on Broadway in 2012. This time, Al Pacino portrays Shelly “The Machine” Levene, Jack Lemmon’s part in the movie. The actor Ricard Schiff, perhaps best known as Toby Ziegler on TV’s West Wing, played George Aaronow. What we remember best, is an only on-Broadway experience, when a casually dressed Robert De Niro entered the theatre to see his friend Pacino perform.
Whether watching the movie for the first time or wanting to see some great acting again, look beyond the bombast of Baldwin and Pacino and focus on the artistry of Alan Arkin.