I know I’m almost 15 years late, but I finally saw Glengarry, Glen Ross last night. The Mamet dialogue was sparkling, as expected, but what really blew me away was Jack Lemmon’s performance as the despairing Shelley “the Machine” Levine.
(spoilers below, if you can spoil such an old movie)
Just about every scene with him was a punch in the stomach. Remember him in the car in the rain with Kevin Spacey, begging for a lead? Offering 10%, 20%, $50 for each lead as Spacey sat there coldly twisting the knife.
Then there was the scene when Lemmon goes out on a pitch to some guy’s house. He oozes confidence and familiarity, but it’s a sham, and the guy is on to him right away. And Lemmon knows he’s not fooling anyone. But he persists, pressing onward and not giving up - inviting himself along on the guy’s errands - until he literally gets the door closed in his frantically composed face.
Then, of course, the climactic scene, when Spacey realizes what Shelley has done in his desparation to pay his wife’s medical bills. His quiet, frantic, desparate begging, his teary eyes when he realizes that his “big sale” was a mirage and that he has not only lost his job, he will probably be going to jail.
I just thought this was a masterful performance by Jack Lemmon (who had a lifetime of great roles). Why no Oscar nomination for him?
“This month’s sales rewards: First prize is a car. Second prize, these steak knives. Third prize, YOU’RE FIRED.”
Great movie- one of the only Mamet movies not to suck ass, maybe because he didn’t direct it as well.
I’ve wondered this too; Lemmon’s performance in that movie is a tour de force. I thought everyone was great, but he really brings it home. Watch him during the scene when he’s putting the screws (or thinks he is) to Spacey. He’s eating peanuts or sunflower seeds or something, but I think he’s actually miming it. You never actually see what he’s eating. It took 4 or 5 viewings before I noticed it.
I think I’ll have to go home tonight and watch the movie again.
I’d say the biggest reason is that it was a very competitive year. 3 of the 5 Best Actor nominees (including Lemmon’s co-star and eventual winner Al Pacino) were in Best Picture nominees, which shows there was a broad support for those films already. The other 2 nominees were in large-scale biopic films, so the “impersonation” aspect of those performances (regardless of how good they are) tends to really impress voters as well.
It was also released in early October in the states, and didn’t make much of a splash in the box office (barely inching over $10M), so when the heavy-hitting Oscar bait came out a few months later, it was largely forgotten. It only received one major critic’s award (for Lemmon) but virtually nothing else. Despite a writer’s guild nod, it couldn’t even score Oscar love for the screenplay adaptation, so it seemed to never really connect with Oscar voters (although that’s true with every Mamet film adaptation, actually).
Other deserving actors that year included Harvey Keitel (Bad Lieutenant), Jack Nicholson (Hoffa), and Tim Robbins (The Player & Bob Roberts), all of whom (along with Lemmon) I would’ve taken over Pacino’s Scent of a Woman winner.
At the time, the Academy had already given Lemmon two Oscars (for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor) and nominated him a total of 8 times. Often, once an actor is honored, the members will overlook him in favor of a younger actor or one who has never won, especially in a competitive year. Pacino at the time had never won, so when voters looked for someone to nominate from the film, an appreciable number thought, “Well, Jack has won a couple, and Al hasn’t, so I’ll pick Al”).
You can see this process in all competitive awards: people who have been honored in the past being overlooked in favor of others simply due to the feeling that the awards need to go to someone new.
It’s like the time Berke Breathed won a Pulitzer for editorial cartooning. He said straight up that he knew he wasn’t Best of Show, they just wanted to give it to somebody different that year.
Lemmon got plenty of recognition. Don’t you worry about ol’ Gil…
I seem to remember people being stunned Lemmon wasn’t nominated. There was much talk that he was far better than Pacino (who wasn’t that great in this movie).
Yeah, that’s another thing - I noticed that Pacino was nominated for Supporting Actor for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe, but really I didn’t think his performance was that special (but there was nothing wrong with it, either). I thought Spacey was actually the better supporting actor.
But the comments about previous awards, and the level of competition that year, are noted. Thanks.
Did you catch Spartan? It struck me only mildly on first showing, but the appeal increased with repeat viewings, especially as the allegory between the current Administration (and politicians in general) and the loyal footsoldier becomes clearer: Laura Newton: Did my father send you?
Robert Scott: That’s right.
Laura Newton: Why? Why? He wants me dead.
Robert Scott: He sent me.
Laura Newton: One man.
Robert Scott: “One riot, one Ranger.” You ever heard that?
Laura Newton: Leonidas, King of Sparta… when a neighboring state would plead for military aid, would send one man.
Robert Scott: Well, there you go.
Laura Newton: You ever hear that?
Robert Scott: No. I think we went to different schools. Effing brilliant. And it thankfully doesn’t feature Rebecca Pidgeon, who is the thespian version of a sea anchor.
By the way, the scene in Glengarry Glen Ross with Blake (Alec Baldwin’s character) was specifically written by Mamet for the film. “You have to have a pair of these [holds up a pair of brass balls] if you want to make it in this business.” This was the role Alec Baldwin was born to play. “Put that coffee down! Coffee is for closers.”
Stranger- yes, I saw Spartan, and my opinion is pretty much the same as for all Mamet crime films- while you are watching them, you are pretty much glued to the screen, because they are well paced and don’t have a lot of down time. Only after you are thorough and you are going over them in your head do you realize they have some pretty archaic dialogue, stiltedly delivered, and the plots are usually too ridiculous to be believable. Like with Spartan- (it’s been awhile)- the basis for the film is the daughter of the POTUS is kidnapped due to a set of unbelievable circumstances - way too ludicrous to be taken seriously. So was the finding of the earring, the face drawn on the window, etc.
But I think Homicide is brilliant and has a great twist ending (one of the best ever), and also features William H Macy. Heist suffers from archaic dialogue (Danny Devito calls someone a “doxie”) and, as you noted, Rebecca Pigeon, who also ruins The Spanish Prisoner, well her and a con so elaborate it would use up all the money the con would net, and more. House of Games is ruined by nepotism as well, this time in the form of Lindsay Crouse.
Lemmon’s Character in GG/GR did not recieve an oscar or nomination, but it did leave to immortality (well kinda) of another form.
The character Gus (the desparate, failure/salesman on the Simpson is directly based on him. See their last christmas special for yourself if you don’t believe me.
Yeah, I think that’s pretty common knowledge. Heck, I recognized Gil since his first appearance and I hadn’t even seen the film until this week. That just goes to show what an iconic character Lemmon (and Mamet) created.
Wasn’t Gil’s first appearance the ep where Marge sells real estate?
“Walls are for closers!”
Yep… the name is Gil… sorry… just goes to show what a nebbish the character is… I can’t even remember his name…
regards (And thanks for the correction)
Gil’s first appearance came about a year after Lemmon himself appeared on the show, playing a Pretzel franchise salesman who was a touch slimy but not as desperate as Shelly or Gil.
I’ve never been a Jack Lemmon fan, but thought he was remarkably good in “Glengarry,” as the entire cast was.
What impressed me most was how Jack turned Shelley from a sad sack into an obnoxious prick so fast, in the moments after he thinks he’s made a big sale to the Nyborgs. He was so effective at being pathetic for most of the movie, but as soon as the Nyborg deal was closed, Jack showed us a different side of Shelley. For that brief period, you get a sense of what an arrogant, insufferable bastard Shelley must have been years earlier (when he was known as “the Machine”), and we start to understand why office manager Williamson (Kevin Spacey) loathes him so much.
Nitpick/clarification: the title of the movie is “Glengarry Glen Ross” - no punctuation.
My BIL recommended this movie to our MIL and her sales friends. Since the movie is about a bunch of scummy salesmen why wouldn’t our MIL and the other sales folks not like it? Well, the language absolutely turned them off. Like, immediately.
And I’ve never seen it. Been meaning to…
Nevertheless, Spacey does a hysterical Lemmon impression, as for the mock Star Wars auditions that appeared on SNL a few years back.
There are other clips, including Spacey doing Walter Matthau reading for Obi-Wan and Spacey doing Christopher Walken reading for Han Solo (which actually might have worked rather well).