Favorite Fictional Characters, #241: Blake
Alec Baldwin is onscreen for less than eight minutes in Mamet's film version of his play Glengarry Glen Ross. Seven minutes and eight seconds, to be precise. The credits give his name as Blake, though he tells the sad-sack salesmen at Mitch & Murray his name is something a bit more vulgar. In fact, his entire seven minutes and eight seconds are a vulgar tirade of such scathing precision and evangelical fervor that it overwhelms the remainder of a brilliantly written and acted film in popular memory. This is Baldwin at his sleek, dismissive, alpha-wolf pinnacle, grinding Ed Harris and Alan Arkin and Jack Lemmon under his wingtipped heel.
I've been in sales before in the banking world, and while I've never been fortunate enough to receive such a magnificently offensive pep talk, I can certainly vouch for the authenticity of the pressures the private sector exerts on its frontline sales staff. Third prize is you're fired, indeed. A, always, B, be, C, closing. Always be closing. Baldwin preens and browbeats and perfectly personifies the competitive, soul-crushing nature of the sales world. He smugly impugns the manhood and even personhood of the already numb employees he was ostensibly brought in to motivate. You get the sense Blake doesn't care if their sales numbers improve. He doesn't even care how much the company is paying him to deliver his brief sermon of invective. He's there for the sheer sadistic joy of showering the inferior with his venom.
It's the barbed tip of the arrow on this wonderful, ugly story, and the fantastic thing is that it didn't even exist in the original stage version. Mamet added it to provide extra length for the film. Well, it added seven minutes and eight seconds. And it gave the world Alec Baldwin as we know him.