There are endless cliches out there about the importance of a first impression, but whatever truth they may hold in our everyday lives they go double for film. When there’s only a couple of hours to tell a story and capture its players, an audience’s first chance to meet a character is an asset no filmmaker worth their salt is going to waste. So with that in mind, CHUD is going to take a look through the many decades of cinema to extract the most special of those moments when you are first introduced to a character, be they small moments that speak volumes, or large moments that simply can’t be ignored.
Inevitably it will be the major characters and leads that are granted the grandest of entrances, but don’t be surprised to see a few supporting players and minor individuals get their due, when the impact of their appearance lingers longer than their screentime. Also know that these moments may be chosen for any number of reasons, and the list could never be exhaustive. But here you’ll find moments that make a big splash, say a lot with a little, or we think are just particularly cool.
We hope you enjoy, and can’t wait to hear from you about each and every entry. Don’t spend the effort guessing future choices or declaring what must be included– just enjoy the ride!
The Film… Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Director… James Foley
Entering From Stage Left… Alec Baldwin in the role of Blake.
What Makes it Special… The Writing, The Acting.
Usually when you’re hear “cult film” you don’t think of a claustrophobic story of a set of sad sack salesman running their mouths in the rain. Glengarry Glen Ross –or Death of a Fuckin’ Salesman as it is sometimes called– is certainly a cult film, a small film that wouldn’t be memorable at all if it weren’t for some of the best dialogue exchanges ever written performed by an immaculate cast. And there’s no scene more key, no scene more thunderously attention-grabbing in this whole symphony of male ego and insecurity than the speech delivered by Alec Baldwin’s character Blake to the rest of the sales guys at Mitch & Murray. It’s a scene built around a character that is entirely an introduction, followed by a swift exit that leaves the character a potent symbol that hangs over the rest of the film.
Truly one for the ages, Blake’s speech is the kind of unforgettable creation composed of one-liners that even people who have never heard the film’s title will recognize. I guarantee you the majority of surviving VHS tapes of the film suddenly get very blurry and distorted from frequent rewinding the moment Alec Baldwin appears on screen. We first see him as a small figure in an office, but soon he comes out and makes his presence known. The scene is shot in a mostly straightforward manner, with a few bits of flair, including a nice camera move at the very start that goes from high-angle down on Blake, to a normal close-up. Perhaps this represents the very sudden shift from condescension to respect/fear the other characters in the room feel for the unknown suit, before and after he opens his mouth.
But the magic here is the marriage of Mamet’s unmistakable writing, and Baldwin’s perfect handle on how to be a ball-busting presence that sweats confidence. Baldwin’s appearance and Blake’s speech is all about intimidation and emasculation- delivering the news to the sales fleet that they’re all fired, with only the dim prospect of big last-minute sales left to offer them hope. Blake, a successful sales executive from the parent company, proceeds to berate the crew with corporate platitudes and assurances that if only they weren’t such pieces of shit, they’d be able to sell this shitty land to only vaguely interested marks. Baldwin positively chews up and spits out Mamet’s famously sharp dialogue, which includes classic lines like…
“Only one thing counts in this world: get them to sign on the line which is dotted. You hear me you fuckin’ faggots?”
“A B C… A: Always. B: Be. C: Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.”
“The leads are weak? The fuckin’ leads are weak?! You’re weak.”
and of course…
“Fuck you! That’s my name.”
With the power of 10 Gordon Geckos, Alec Balwin managed to create decade’s worth of overly-used and shallowly-understood corporate catchphrases in about seven-and-a-half minutes.
Why it Resonates… There’s something terribly pathetic about the job of a low-rent salesman as portrayed here, but it’s ultimately a universal struggle that’s being represented. Salesmanship can be seen as a direct representation of your very worth as a person– the sum total of all of your charisma, charm, and personality. We all worry if we’re seen as the cheap, sleazy douchebag, and every time we don’t make a great first impression or charm a new friend right away… the fear lingers that maybe we’re worthless in that obvious way. Maybe this isn’t something everyone struggles with, but there’s a whole lot of insecure people out there that can understand the shrinking feeling of being faced with a Blake. For men specifically, this is a room filled with impotent, flaccid pricks and the diametrically-opposed presence of the thunderously raging hard-on that is early 90s Alec Baldwin. We all want to be that hard-on, deep down.
And frankly, it’s just fun to quote the “you’re weak” line if you can find a good moment to drop it.
Other Grand Entrances… Pacino does get a nice kind of slow-burn introduction, but Blake is all the entrance this film could handle. Nothing compares.
I’m always checking twitter, keeping an eye on the comments below, and going back and forth on the boards- so I want to hear your thoughts somewhere!