Dennehy Essay, Research Paper
Brian Dennehy in Miller s Death of a Salesman
Brian Dennehy is a bear of a man who portrays Willy Loman perfectly in the 1999 production of Arthur Miller s Death of a Salesman. Brian Dennehy was not an actor all of his life. He began his career as a football player for Columbia University, and also served a five-year stint as a marine during the Vietnam War. It was not until 1977 at the age of thirty-nine when he started his career with a small role in Semi Tough .
Known to me better as Big Tom in the 1995 hit Tommy Boy he also has over forty more television and movie roles, including appearances in NBC s Just Shoot Me as actor David Spades father and ABC s Birdland , where TV Guide named him the best actor in television.
Brian Dennehy is considered to be a bear of a man who does not care much anymore for the so called block buster movies with their big computer generated special effects and wage compression . Dennehy describes wage compression as, an actor like Jim Carrey who totes off with twenty million and does not leave much in the budget for the other acting talent. (Watson) Feeling that everyone else was working for peanuts he gave up the silver screen route and decided to go back to writing and acting in television. By returning to writing and acting in television Dennehy feels that he is finally getting paid a considerable return for his acting services, saying There was never any question as to whether or not I was a whore, it was just a matter of what the price was. And I’m proud to say that I am a very expensive whore, indeed. And hope to remain so.” (Watson 19)
This love for television has then brought him into the lights of Broadway once again taking on roles in Brian Freils Translations and Peter Brooke s The Cherry Orchard . Most recently Dennehy starred as the failing salesman Willy Loman in Robert Falls fiftieth anniversary production of Arthur Miller s The Death of a Salesman. In this production critics consider him the best Willy Loman to date. Linda Winter says The towering presence of actor Brian Dennehy returns to Broadway to portray Willy Loman, Arthur Millers American everyman, in Robert Falls production of Death of a Salesman a work of tremendous emotional impact, as relevant today as when it appeared fifty years ago. (Winter)
Dennehy being a larger man fit perfectly what Robert falls was looking for. He was looking for a man more like Lee Cobb who played Loman fifty years before. Falls was looking for someone near three hundred pounds to play Loman rather than a smaller, younger Dustin Hoffman, so the audience could see their rise and fall more physically. This rise and fall is portrayed perfectly by Dennehy who when asked how he prepared for this role quotes I am sixty years old, I’ve had some success, and a lot of failure. I’ve had some acceptance and some rejection. I can’t imagine playing Willy if I were 40 or 50. I think the sum total of the good and bad parts or my life have helped me invest in this role. (Dennehy)
Brian Dennehy is good actor to begin with, and through this play he enters the pantheon of theatrical gods. His is a performance as Loman is destined for legend, which already includes a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award in 1999 for best actor in a play. Brian Dennehy as Loman is a big man who can be gentle and quiet one moment, only to explode in anger and rage the next. He is an intelligent man who foolishly believes the myths he has created himself, who is at once brave and cowardly, aggressive and timid, loving and vengeful. Dennehy reaches out from the stage to grab us by the throat, daring us to look away from what we see. It’s not a pretty picture, for what we see is ourselves and our fathers, and we laugh and cry. (Lyons D9)
Brian Dennehy who we have seen as a powerful actor in such films as Tommy Boy and Cocoon fits the American everyone in Robert Falls production of Death of a Salesman. As Willy Loman the failing father and husband Dennehy puts together a performance worthy of anyone desiring to see Arthur Millers play as it was seen fifty years ago.
Dennehy, Brian. Live interview of Brian Dennehy. Digital City New York
(1999): n. pag. Online
Lyons, Donald. Review of Death of a Salesman. New York Post,
Watson, Neal. High Life Of Brian Dennehy. Sun Entertainment,
12 Sept. 1996: 17-19
Winter, Linda. Death of a Salesman. Newsday, 2000: n. pag. Online