Saturday 10 February 2024

willie loman (11. 340)

Premiering on Broadway on this day in 1949, the two-act drama by Arthur Miller (previously) set in Brooklyn was largely informed and inspired by the playwright’s chance encounter two years prior with his uncle Manny Newman in a theatre lobby in Boston showing one of his own pieces. Rather than congratulating his nephew on his success, the struggling travelling salesman immediately launched into an update on how well his cousins were faring, appearing in the play as Happy, Biff and Ben, and how despite his poor prospects and barely surviving life constantly on the road with a hustling subsistence that’s echoed contemporarily with the allure and disappointment of the gig-economy his uncle was building a legacy for his fail-sons, aspiring to the successful but departed, haunting presence of the eldest Ben. Father and Biff, a would be professional football player, in the course of the day try to secure more stability in their careers and realise the American Dream, with Happy sacrificing and long-suffering but a womaniser like Loman, but it plays out as a Greek tragedy. Winning a Tony and a Pulitzer prize, many critics consider it among the best plays of the twentieth century. The first cinematic adaptation came two years later in 1951 with direction from Lรกszlรณ Benedek.