Screenshot via New Line Cinema/YouTube
"Glengarry Glen Ross"

The real-life boiler rooms that inspired “Glengarry Glen Ross”

Tony Wagner Jul 1, 2024
Screenshot via New Line Cinema/YouTube

David Mamet drew on his own experience in a seedy sales office to write “Glengarry Glen Ross.” The sweaty, backstabbing salesmen in his Pulitzer Prize-winning work don’t seem to enjoy the job as much as he did, though.

“It was a wild, wild place, and I loved it,” Mamet told The New York Times when “Glengarry” debuted on Broadway in 1984. ”I would have done it forever. I’d be very, very wealthy.”

As an out-of-work Chicago actor Mamet helped manage an unscrupulous real estate office in the late 1960s. He told the Times if anything, “Glengarry” toned down the chicanery from salesmen desperate to make their nut.

But there’s not much “toned down” about the story’s inciting incident: A hotshot motivational speaker from corporate tells the salesmen that the two lowest performers, half the office, will be fired at the end of the month. Mamet added a new character and inserted a colorful motivational speech, delivered by Alec Baldwin, when he adapted the play for the silver screen in 1992. 

If you know anything about “Glengarry Glen Ross,” our selection for “Econ Extra Credit” this month, you know this scene. The rest of the movie is also a rich text, as we follow the four salesmen manipulating potential clients and each other while their wormy office manager dangles new leads for the titular development in Florida.

We hope you’ll join us this month as we unpack some of the sales tactics and business models on display in “Glengarry,” every Monday in July. As you watch and read, we want to hear from you too.

What’s your “Always Be Closing”?

Competition is stiff, but “Always Be Closing” might be Baldwin’s most famous line in the movie. He follows it up with another, more tortured mnemonic device on how to sell effectively: AIDA, “attention, interest, decision, action!”

Does your line of work have a similar chestnut? A saying, some jargon or an acronym that’s meant to inspire better performance? We’d love to hear about it, and we’d especially like to hear if it’s even good advice — one salesman told us “ABC” is a terrible way to sell.

Write to us at extracredit@marketplace.org or fill out the form below, and we’ll collect the best responses in a future newsletter. 

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How to watch “Glengarry Glen Ross”

The movie is available to stream for free with ads on YouTube. It’s also streaming free with some library cards on Hoopla and Kanopy, and with a subscription to Peacock and Netflix.

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