“If a guy’s not a success, he’s got nobody to blame but himself.”
Four luxury-Bible salesmen in Florida experience varying degrees of success while going door to door in low-income neighborhoods.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Self-funded by brothers Albert and David Maysles (former salesmen themselves), this “non-fiction feature” offers a pathos-filled glimpse at mid-century American men attempting to make a living by convincing customers they “need” something luxurious. This simple premise generates a surprising amount of tension, as we can’t help wanting the salesmen — particularly sad-sack, overly honest Irishman Paul Brennan — to succeed in their careers, but we also hate seeing vulnerable customers succumb to a pressure-filled sales pitch. The Maysles apparently followed these four men along on their travels, then edited their footage into a compelling narrative — one that happened to document a unique slice of American life along the way. This would make an excellent double-bill, of course, with Death of a Salesman (1951).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A moving if depressing look at the life of salesmen in America
- Many memorable scenes
Yes, as a classic American documentary. Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1992.
- Genuine Classic
- Historical Relevance