Arthur Asher Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright, essayist and author. He was a prominent figure in American literature and cinema for over 61 years, writing a wide variety of plays. Miller's best-known works are The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, All My Sons (which won the 1947 Tony Award for best play), and Death of a Salesman, which are still widely studied and performed world wide. He was also known for his marriage to Marilyn Monroe (1956-1961). Miller's marriage to Monroe lasted longer than either of her two previous marriages: four years and seven months. By contrast, her marriage to Joe DiMaggio lasted only nine months.
Miller was born into a moderately wealthy Jewish family in New York City. His father, Isidore Miller, was a ladies-wear manufacturer and shopkeeper who was ruined in the Great Depression. His mother, Augusta, was a housewife who valued literature and education. His sister, Joan became an actress known as Joan Copeland and has appeared in some of her brother's plays.
Miller attended P.S. 24 in Harlem from 1920 to 1928, and saw his first play (a melodrama) in 1923 at the Shubert Theatre. At Abraham Lincoln High School near Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York, Miller was a talented athlete and mediocre student. He was at first rejected by the University of Michigan. Nonetheless, Miller put $13 of every $15 pay check he earned into a college fund and reapplied to the University of Michigan, where he was accepted in 1934.
At Michigan, Miller first majored in journalism and then switched to English, becoming particularly interested in ancient Greek drama and the dramas of Henrik Ibsen. During spring break in 1936 (his sophomore year), he wrote his first work, No Villain (reportedly because of a contest offering a $250 prize), which won the Avery Hopwood Award, the first of two he received. Miller retained strong ties to his alma mater throughout the rest of his life, establishing the Arthur Miller Award in 1985 and Arthur Miller Award for Dramatic Writing in 1999, and lending his name to the Arthur Miller Theatre in the forthcoming year. In 1938, Miller received his bachelor's degree in English. On August 5, 1940, he married his college sweetheart, Mary Slattery, with whom he had two children, Jane and Robert (a director, writer and producer whose body of work includes producer of the 1996 movie version of "The Crucible," starring Daniel Day Lewis). He was exempted from military service during World War II because of a football injury. Miller was a high school football star but injured his left kneecap while being tackled.
Miller rose to prominence with All My Sons in 1947, which was about a factory owner who sells faulty aircraft parts during World War II. All My Sons won the New York Drama Critics Circle award and two Tony Awards. His 1949 play Death of a Salesman won the Pulitzer Prize and three Tony Awards, as well as the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. It was the first play ever to win all three of these prizes.
Miller adapted Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" as his response to what he perceived as the Red Scare promoted by Joseph McCarthy. He went to Salem, Massachusetts to research the witch trials of 1692. The Crucible opened on Broadway on January 22, 1953. It is Miller's most frequently produced work.
In 1955 his verse drama A View From The Bridge opened on Broadway. It was considered by audiences to be too cold and distant in the verse form, and was revised as a prose play in the Greek Tragedy tradition the following year.
In 1956, he divorced Mary Slattery and appeared before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. On June 29, he married Marilyn Monroe, whom he had met eight years earlier through Elia Kazan. Monroe converted to Judaism.
His marriage to Monroe was thought by some informants to be a cover up for Miller's communist activities, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation "shadowed" Miller in the 1940s and up until 1956 when the Bureau discontinued updating Miller's file.
On May 31, 1957, Miller was found guilty of contempt of Congress for refusing to reveal the names of members of a literary circle suspected of Communist affiliation. His conviction was reversed August 7, 1958, by the U.S. Court of Appeals. The same year, he published Collected Plays.
On January 24, 1961, Monroe was granted a divorce from Miller. Miller wed photographer Inge Morath on February 17, 1962. They had met when she and other photographers from the Magnum Photos agency documented the making of The Misfits (1961). The couple had two children, Daniel and Rebecca, and were married 40 years until her death on January 30, 2002. Rebecca Miller is an actor, writer, and director, and is married to actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who she met on the set of her father's 1996 film version of The Crucible. Arthur Miller announced his engagement to painter Agnes Barley in 2004, though they did not marry; the couple had been living together since 2002.
Miller was one of the original founders of International PEN's Writers in Prison committee, and in 1965 was elected its president, a position he held for four years.
In 1985, when Miller visited Turkey with Harold Pinter on behalf of International PEN and a Helsinki Watch committee, he was honored at a dinner party held at the American embassy; after Pinter raised the issue of torture with the American ambassador, it was strongly suggested that he leave, and Miller left with him in support.
On May 1, 2002, Miller was awarded Spain's Principe de Asturias Prize for Literature as "the undisputed master of modern drama." Previous winners include Doris Lessing, Günter Grass and Carlos Fuentes. The following year Miller won the Jerusalem Prize.
Miller's final play, a drama with humor entitled Finishing the Picture opened at the Goodman Theatre in the fall of 2004. The play is a poetic, thinly-veiled autobiographical examination of the time Miller and Monroe spent shooting The Misfits (1961). Miller and Monroe's marriage was deteriorating at the time of shoot -- the summer and fall of 1960 -- due to her rampant drug abuse, her open infidelity with actor Yves Montand, and her panoply of mental illnesses. A similar account may be found in Miller's autobiography, Timebends (1987), as well as in the 2001 PBS documentary, Making 'The Misfits'. The Misfits was directed by John Huston, who was nominated as best director by the Director's Guild of America.
Arthur Miller died of congestive heart failure on the evening of February 10, 2005. Coincidentally, Miller passed away on the 56th anniversary of the Broadway debut of Death of a Salesman. Miller was surrounded by family when he died at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, four months after the death of his older brother, Kermit Miller, and three years after the death of his wife of forty years, Ingeborg Morath. Miller's writing career lasted nearly 70 years, and he is often considered the conscience of American theater.
Major Works by Arthur Miller