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Glengarry Glen Ross

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Glengarry Glenn Ross

Glengarry Glenn Ross is a film that received a great deal of praise from movie critics when it was released by New Line Cinema in 1992. Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, gave the movie three and a half stars out of four, and was quoted as saying that Glengarry Glenn Ross was the “Death of a Salesman” of modern times (Ebert). While this comparison might not be made by all viewers of this movie, Glengarry Glenn Ross is a great viewpoint into the sales offices of today, and gives an insight into the pressures that salespeople face today. The movie is loaded with supervisory styles and situations, as well as showing how unforgiving the sales world really can be.

Glengarry Glen Ross was written by playwright David Mamet in 1984. The play was so well received that it received a Pulitzer Prize for Drama that same year (Emanuel Levy). Mamet adapted his play into a screenplay for the 1992 movie release. Mamet is also credited with writing the screenplays for such notable movies as “Hoffa”, “The Untouchables”, “About Last Night”, and most recently “Hannibal.”(IMDB) Mamet, however, did not direct “Glengarry Glenn Ross” even though he had previous directing experience on a movie named “House of Games” (Levy). “Glengarry Glen Ross” was instead directed by James Foley, a director responsible for directing such films as “Who’s That Girl” and “The Chamber”(IMDB).
There have been several movies made over the past few fifteen years such as “Ocean’s Eleven” and “A Few Good Men” that present such an impressive ensemble of actors that the lead actor and the role actors are hard to define due to the heavyweight names associated with these movies. “Glengarry Glenn Ross” can be associated with these movies due to the collection of well-known actors starring in this movie. Beginning with such A-listers as Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, and Alec Baldwin, the movie would stand alone with these names, even if the remaining cast were unfamiliar. However, other notables such as Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, and Alan Arkin do a terrific job of rounding out the all-star cast. These actors bring such prestige and notoriety to the film that it makes it hard for this not to be a success. Obviously, this movie must be considered a success, because it is still being discussed today.
The movie starts out in a downtown real estate sales office where Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, and Alan Arkin are real estate salesman working for Premiere Properties. Their jobs are based upon making calls on sales leads which consist of cards with the names of potential customers. These cards are given to them by their sales manager, played by Kevin Spacey. Alec Baldwin, who only appears in one scene in the movie, is sent to the sales office from the management team downtown, known as Mitch and Murray, who are referred to throughout the movie, but never introduced. Baldwin’s character gives the office a “motivational” tirade that is full of insults and personal attacks on each member of the team. Al Pacino’s character, Ricky Roma, the leading salesman of Premier Properties sales team, is noticeably absent from the meeting. In his speech, Baldwin’s character informs the staff that there is a new monthly sales contest for the four salesmen. The criteria is quite simple, yet offers the highest stakes imaginable. The winner of the sales contest receives a new Cadillac, second place receives a set of steak knives, and the remaining two are fired. To add insult to injury, the top salesmen will also be introduced to the Glengarry leads, which are the new leads that hold the most promise. The salesmen cannot have access to the new leads until they successfully converted the old leads into sales, which is very hard because the old leads have been called on many times. As you can imagine this sends the three salesmen present at the meeting into quite an uproar.
Jack Lemmon’s character, known as Shelley Levene, is the oldest and most experienced member of the sales team. Unfortunately for Shelley, times have been better. He has not made a sale in quite a while and his daughter is in the hospital. Shelley gets to the point of desperation that he offers his sales manager 20% of his commission check if he can get early access to the coveted Glengarry leads. After a few minutes of deliberation, Shelley is not able to close the deal with his office manager.
During the time that Shelley and his manager are trying to make a deal, the character that Ed Harris portrays, known as Dave Moss, is so fed up with the entire situation that he decides to take matters into his own hands. He develops a plan to steal the “Glengarry” leads from the office and sell them to a competitor of Premiere Properties. He includes Alan Arkin’s character, known as George Aaronow, in the plan. Dave makes an attempt to convince George that he needs to be the one that actually breaks into the office and steals the leads.
While the other three salesmen are having zero luck with their present leads, Ricky Roma is in the process of closing a potential customer that he has met in a bar. Roma’s slick talking and visions of paradise convince the customer to go ahead and make the purchase of real estate in Florida. It should be noted that Al Pacino’s superb performance in this movie earned him an Oscar nomination. Pacino did not win the Best Actor for “Glengarry Glenn Ross”, but did take home the prize for his role in “Scent of a Woman”, released the same year (IMDB).
After a night of hard selling and harder scheming, the salesmen arrive at the office the next morning only to discover that their office had been broken into, and of course, the Glengarry leads are missing. The police and the office manager begin to question each member of the sales team separately to find out who stole the leads. During the interrogations, Roma’s real estate customer from the night before appears at his office with buyer’s remorse, and attempts to get his money back. In the meantime, Shelley is beaming with pride about the $82,000 deal he made that morning that has got him back in the action.
The movie ends with the realization that the actual thieves are not Dave and George, which the viewer is led to believe, but actually Shelley, who steals the leads and sells them to the competition for $5000 each. After the manager discovers that Shelley is the guilty salesman, Shelley tries to convince his sales manager to go in with him on the deal, but to no avail. Shelley is also informed that his big sale from that morning is no good, due to the fact that the buyers are actually broke. The movie exits with Shelley heading into the managers office to face the music with the investigators.
Due to the fact that the premise of this movie is real estate sales and basically a look at the day in the life of a real estate salesman, it is not surprising that the movie deals with several sales concepts and lessons in supervision. Concepts such as McGregor’s Theory on X and Y management, authoritarian leadership, ethics in the workplace, and supervisors’ relationships with their employees were addressed in the movie and will be discussed.
In 1960, Douglas McGregor developed a set of attitudes that managers have about their employees and their workplace. He referred to these attitudes as Theory X and Theory Y orientation, discussed by Certo on pages 199-200. McGregor defined Theory X as “managers that assume that workers are basically lazy, are unmotivated by virtually every kind of incentive except coercion, dislike work, inherently immature, need external control, are incapable of self-control, and shun responsibility.(Neuliep)” This concept is evident in the movie when Alec Baldwin’s character is brought in to motivate the salesmen. His attitude, as well as the attitude of the office manager, clearly illustrates what McGregor had in mind when he developed Theory X. The monthly sales contest that is introduced to the employees, where the winner receives a Cadillac and the losers are fired, is a form of coercion by threatening the employees to perform or else. Another way in which the managers demonstrate Theory X philosophies is by keeping the Glengarry leads out of the salesmen’s hands until they prove that they are worthy. Baldwin’s character remarks that the salesmen are not worthy of the Glengarry leads, they are reserved for “closers.”
In the textbook, page 198 discusses three types of leadership styles: authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire. In the movie the only leadership style that can be observed is authoritarian leadership. In an article in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Samuel Aryee defines authoritarian leadership as a style that “tends to initiate structure, provide the information, determine what is to be done, issue the rules, promise rewards for compliance and threaten punishments for disobedience”(Aryee). The managers of Premiere Properties again demonstrate this style in several ways. First of all, they provide the information by providing the real estate leads to their employees. The salesmen are trained to rely on these leads as the only way to obtain sales. The only salesman who does not rely on the company for the leads is Ricky Roma, who is able to sell without the leads, shown when he creates a deal with his customer at the bar. This is more than likely the reason why he is the top salesman, by thinking “outside of the box” and looking for sales in ways that his counterparts do not. Secondly, the managers also threaten punishments for disobedience, in this case, threatening their employees with their jobs if they do not perform.
In the case of ethics in the workplace, it is almost laughable to mention “Glengarry Glenn Ross” and ethics in the same sentence. Certo mentions on page 95 that “business ethics” is an oxymoron, due to the fact that profitability should be the overriding concern of business. As for Premiere Properties, profitability is the only concern, and ethics are not given a second thought. On virtually every sales call made by Shelley Levene during the movie, he is misleading his potential customers, telling them different stories in an effort to get them to buy. Shelley also bribes his office manager with a percentage of his sales but only his lack of pocket cash keeps the deal from going through. Easily the biggest breach of ethics in the movie is made by Ricky Roma, the smooth talking sales leader. After convincing a customer to purchase land in Florida over drinks one night at a bar, Roma’s customer appears at the office the next day to rescind his offer and get his money back. Roma attempts to confuse the customer with Better Business Bureau laws, as well as telling the customer that the check had not been processed. The office manager, in an attempt to help Roma, told the customer that the check had already been processed which costs Roma the deal.
To be fair to the salesmen of Premier, they honestly cannot be expected to possess any ethics, considering the supervisor they work for is more than unethical in his management style. Certo states on page 101 that supervisors must portray such ethical behavior as loyalty, fairness, and honesty (Certo). The office manager displays exactly zero of these behaviors during the movie. Instead, he shows his willingness to be bribed, his willingness to lie to the customer, and total dislike for all of his employees.
The last concept observed in the movie, supervisors’ relationships with their employees is covered on page 209 of the textbook. Certo is quoted as saying, “Today’s supervisor empowers rather than commands employees, seeking consensus and spending time with employees to learn what they need for job success and career development.” Certo also goes on to mention that supervisors should be seen as role models and develop trust among their employees. Once again, Kevin Spacey’s character fails in all previously mentioned areas. Not only does he not empower his employees, instead of making an effort to help them achieve their sales goals, he goes home to spend time with his family. Several times during the movie each salesman for Premiere shouts obscenities at the manager for different reasons, but it is made very clear that none of the employees have any respect for the office manager. In fact, if the salesmen are not pictured attempting to make a sale, they are complaining about the manager or the lack of quality leads. This lack of respect for the company and upper management was a major factor in Shelley’s decision to steal the leads and sell them to the competition.
Due to the fact that there is not one moral character in this movie, it makes it difficult to choose a character that is similar to me. All of the salesmen fit into the car salesman stereotype, where the sale is the bottom line and the customer is not the number one priority. The one character that I barely identified with was Alan Arkin’s character, George Aaronow. The reason I identified with George is the fact that he turned down Dave’s plan to break into the sales office and steal the Glengarry leads. George was at least moral enough to make the decision that stealing was wrong, and that he did not need to be a part of Dave’s plan. If I were in George’s situation, I would have done exactly the same thing. I still would have the potential to lose my job, but at least I would not have wound up in jail for several years. As Shelley’s actions showed us, stealing the leads was not worth losing his job and going to jail.
When looking at the entire cast, the character that I am least like would be Dave. Dave and I are not alike in many ways, but one way is the amount of time Dave spends complaining. Dave complains the entire movie about how bad the company is, and how bad the leads are. The fact of the matter is that all of the salesmen have undesirable leads, but Dave makes the situation worse with his constant complaining. Instead of looking at a new ways to approach his customers, Dave develops the plan to steal the Glengarry leads, and the best part is that he gets 50% of the cut without having to do any of the dirty work. I have been in group situations with people like Dave, and they have a way of breaking down any constructive thoughts with their pessimistic attitude. People like Dave are cancers to group situations, and should be avoided when possible. As I watched this movie, there were several thoughts that came to mind. The first thought was that the language in this movie was extremely vulgar. As movies have changed over the years, obscene language has become more and more accepted. However, “Glengarry Glenn Ross” takes the vulgarity to the extreme. Another thought that came to mind was that I would probably not purchase this movie for my personal collection. Most women would probably not enjoy this movie, due to the cast being composed entirely of males. Also, this movie takes place in two settings, the sales office and the bar across the street. The primary audience this movie is intended for would be males ages 25-65, with an appreciation for the sales aspects, as well as an acceptance of the vulgar language.

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