Salesman Documentary Paul Brennan

Always Be Closing

Get to Know the Real Life Salesmen Who Inspired “Globesman”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Salesman" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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This Wednesday at 10P, Documentary Now! goes back to a simpler time when door-to-door salesmen stalked the suburbs in three-piece suits reeking of cigarettes, steak sauce and desperation. But before you watch Fred Armisen and Bill Hader as traveling globe salesmen peddling their wares in a world of atlases, learn all about the real life salesmen who inspired “Globesman,” the latest non-fiction masterwork from Documentary Now!.

Before Grey Gardens, There Was Salesman

“Globesman” takes its inspiration from Salesman, the 1969 Maysles Brothers documentary that follows a group of traveling Bible salesmen. Having cut their teeth directing television documentaries, the Maysles decided to tackle a feature-length film based on their own experiences as door-to-door salesmen peddling everything from brushes to encyclopedias. Just like with their classic documentary Grey Gardens (the inspiration for Documentary Now!‘s “Sandy Passage”), the Maysles adopted a fly-on-the-wall filmmaking approach and let the salesmen tell their stories.

Every Good Salesman Needs a Nickname

Maysles Films

Throughout the documentary, we meet several Bible salesmen, all with nicknames that fit their personalities and sales methods. There’s James “The Rabbit” Baker, a smooth talker whose calm demeanor helps him close sales with lonely housewives. Charles McDevitt, aka “The Gipper,” and Raymond “The Bull” Martos earn their nicknames with their jocular attitudes and aggressive sales tactics. And most notable is Paul “The Badger” Brennan, a real life Willy Loman who can’t seem to catch a break.

Death of a Salesman

Salesman The Badger
Maysles Films

Over the course of the film, Paul Brennan emerges as the most tragic figure. As we watch Brennan try to get out of his sales rut, the film becomes an indictment of the American dream. As the salesmen commiserate in nondescript diners (where they chain smoke and scarf down some artery clogging 1960s grub) and motel rooms, a portrait of the struggling middle class comes through. The scene where the salesmen are told by an aggressive sales rep that if they don’t sell Bibles, it’s their fault, hammers home the Maysles’ depiction of the dark side of the American dream. (An alternate title for this film could be “Sad Men.”)

Always Be Closing

New Line Cinema

The Maysles’ groundbreaking documentary has influenced everything from Glengarry Glen Ross (the film version of which features a famous scene where Alec Baldwin’s company rep berates a sales team with his “Always be closing” mantra) to the desperate salesman character Gil from The Simpsons. By following the salesmen and letting their stories emerge gradually, the Maysles pioneered a “direct cinema” approach that is still used today in everything from political documentaries (the recent Anthony Weiner doc unfolds like a Maysles film) to reality television. We can basically thank the Maysles for inspiring both Kim Kardashian and the Documentary Now! crew.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Salesman Wednesday at 10P on IFC. 

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was written, produced, directed and narrated by Robert Evans. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on and the IFC app.

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