powered by AFI
One evening on his normal New York route, traveling salesman Willy Loman turns back home, fearful of his inability to keep his car on the road. His wife Linda consoles him, while his eldest son Biff, who is home after a long absence, is suspicious about his father's early return. Willy's pleasure at seeing Biff fades quickly and he bemoans his son's drifting, irresponsible life as a migrant farm worker. He reminisces about Biff and his younger brother Happy as cheerful, energetic teenagers while Biff listens upstairs, deeply disturbed. Happy explains to Biff that Willy's mind often wanders this way and worries that their father is losing his mind. Alone in the kitchen, Willy recalls his sons's enthusiasm whenever he returned from the road, and his promises of one day being more successful than his neighbor Charley and staying home for good. Willy reflects on how he brushed aside Biff's low grades in school, because he had earned a football scholarship, and that father and son enjoyed scoffing at Charley's whining, clingy son Bernard. Willy's musings take a darker turn as he frets about his lack of prosperity and the loneliness inherent in a life of constant travel. His ranting reminiscences are cut short when Charley comes by to see if everything is all right. Willy tells Charley that he has always regretted not taking his brother Ben's offer to go to Alaska, where Ben struck it rich. Charley, who is about to take a trip west, offers Willy a job overseeing his office in his absence, but Willy angrily refuses and continues discussing Ben reverently. Charley leaves, disgusted by his friend's foolish obstinacy. Later, Biff expresses his concern about Willy to his mother, who angrily resents Biff's disrespect and distance from his father. Both Biff and Happy are dismayed to learn from Linda that for some time Willy has worked solely on commission, having been cut from his full salary. Linda secretly discovered that Willy borrows money from Charley to make ends meet. She berates her sons and pleads with Biff to make up with his father. Biff refuses, claiming he knows his father is a fake, but grudgingly promises to stay at home and find work. In desperation, Linda confides that Willy has attempted suicide and that any hope of a better life rests with his sons. When Biff finds rubber tubing by the gas furnace, confirming Linda's suicide story, he promises Willy that he will speak with his old boss the next day. The next morning, Willy enthusiastically informs Linda that Biff has asked him to dinner that night with Happy. When Linda reminds him about an outstanding payment on the refrigerator and their last mortgage payment, Willy decides to see his boss, Howard Wagner, and demand a sales position in town at the company store. Willy's hopes are dashed, however, when his young boss tells him that at sixty, he should retire and promptly fires him. Panicked, Willy telephones Charley for an appointment. On the way to see his friend, Willy falls into another reverie, reliving Ben's Alaskan offer and Biff's burgeoning football stardom. At Charley's office, Willy runs into Bernard, now a successful attorney, who asks after Biff and wonders why he went wrong. He recalls that Biff changed after visiting Willy in Boston, which upsets Willy. After Bernard departs, Willy again refuses Charley's offer of a job. That evening, Biff meets Happy at the restaurant and confesses that his former boss, Oliver, did not remember him and kept him waiting for several hours. While waiting, Biff recalled that he had been fired by Oliver for stealing long ago and bolted rather than endure a humiliating confrontation. Happy presses Biff to lie to Willy, but when their father arrives, Biff tries to tell him the truth. Willy abruptly reveals he has been fired, and as his sons respond with dismay, his mind replays Biff's inexplicable rejection of college and all his hopeful plans. He accuses Biff of being a failure to spite him and leaves. Biff tells Happy about their father's suicide attempt and declares he cannot help him. Meanwhile, Willy painfully recalls the night Biff found him in a Boston hotel room with a woman. That night at home, as Biff, Happy and Linda argue, Willy plants seeds in the garden while envisioning Ben offering him advice. Biff is determined to tell Willy the truth and over his mother's protests informs his father that his grandiose expectations have ruined the family and pleads for Willy to let him live his own life. When Willy accepts that Biff loves him despite his failure, he appears satisfied, but later drives off alone, imagining Ben at his side, and fatally crashes the car. Only the family and Charley attend the funeral and Linda is unable to weep for the loss of her husband.