In his new book from the BFI Film Classics series, NER’s J.M. Tyree writes about the landmark documentary film Salesman (1966–9), selected by the Library of Congress as one of the most significant American films ever made. This study also includes an exclusive exchange with filmmaker Albert Maysles.
Salesman follows a team of traveling Bible salesmen on the road in Massachusetts, Chicago, and Florida, where the American dream of self-reliant entrepreneurship goes badly wrong for protagonist Paul Brennan. This ruefully comic and quietly devastating film was the first masterpiece of Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin, the trio who would go on to produce The Rolling Stones documentary, Gimme Shelter (1970).
In addition to serving on NER’s Editorial Panel, J. M. Tyree is a Writer-at-Large for Film Quarterly and the co-author (with Ben Walters) of the BFI Film Classic on The Big Lebowski. He has taught at Stanford University, spoken at the BFI’s National Film Theater, and contributed to Sight & Sound magazine’s Greatest Films Poll.