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Miller, Arthur

Arthur Miller

Born: October 17, 1915
New York, New York

American dramatist, novelist, and screenwriter

Best known for his play Death of a Salesman, American playwright, novelist, and screenwriter Arthur Miller is considered one of the major dramatists of twentieth-century American theater.

Early years

Arthur Miller was born on October 17, 1915, in New York City, the second of Isidore and Augusta Barnett Miller's three children. His father had come to the United States from Austria-Hungary and ran a small coat-manufacturing business. His mother, a native of New York, had been a public school teacher. Miller was only an average student. He was much more fond of playing sports than doing his schoolwork. Only after graduating from high school in 1932 did Miller think about becoming a writer, when he read Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky's (18211881) The Brothers Karamazov. Miller attended City College in New York for two weeks, then worked briefly with his father and in an autoparts warehouse to earn money to attend the University of Michigan. He enrolled there two years later, continuing to work as a dishwasher and as a night editor at a newspaper to help pay his expenses while he studied drama. He graduated in 1938, having won several awards for playwriting.

Miller returned to New York City to a variety of jobs, including writing for the Federal Theater Project, a government-sponsored program that ended before any of his work could be produced. Because of an old football injury, he was rejected for military service, but he was hired to tour army camps to collect material for a movie, The Story of G. I. Joe. His notes from these tours were published as Situation Normal (1944). That same year the Broadway production of his play The Man Who Had All the Luck opened, closing after four performances. In 1945 his novel Focus, an attack on anti-Semitism (the hatred of Jewish people), appeared.

Three successful plays

Miller's career blossomed with the opening of All My Sons on Broadway in 1947. The play, a tragedy (a drama having a sad conclusion), won three prizes and fascinated audiences across the country. Then Death of a Salesman (1949) brought Miller the Pulitzer Prize for drama, international fame, and an estimated income of two million dollars. The words of its hero, Willy Loman, have been heard in at least seventeen languages as well as on movie screens everywhere.

By the time of Miller's third Broadway play, The Crucible (1953), audiences were ready to accept his belief that "a poetic drama rooted in American speech and manners" was the only way to produce a tragedy out of the common man's life. The play was set in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, a time when many people were accused of being witches and were burned alive. Miller's play pointed out how similar those events were to Senator Joseph McCarthy's (19091957) investigations of anti-American activities during the early 1950s, which led to wild accusations against many public figures. Miller himself was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in June 1956 and was asked to give the names of guilty parties. He stated, "My conscience will not permit me to use the name of another person and bring trouble to him." He was convicted of contempt of (lack of respect for) Congress, but the conviction was reversed in 1958.

Hit-or-miss efforts

Two of Miller's one-act plays, A View from the Bridge and A Memory of Two Mondays (1955), were social dramas focused on the inner life of working men; neither had the power of Death of a Salesman. Nor did his film script, The Misfits (1961). His next play, After the Fall (1964), was based on his own life. His second wife, actress Marilyn Monroe (19261962), was the model for one of the characters. Incident at Vichy (1965), a long, one-act play based on a true story set in France during World War II (193945; when Germany, Italy, and Japan battled France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States), examined the nature of guilt and the depth of human hatred. In The Price (1968) Miller returned to domestic drama in his portrayal of a tight, intense struggle between two brothers, almost strangers to each other, brought together by their father's death. It is Miller at the height of his powers, cementing his position as a major American dramatist.

But The Price proved to be Miller's last major Broadway success. His next work, The Creation of the World and Other Business, was a series of comic sketches first produced on Broadway in 1972. It closed after only twenty performances. All of Miller's works after that premiered outside of New York. Miller staged the musical Up From Paradise (1974) at the University of Michigan. Another play, The Archbishop's Ceiling, was presented in 1977 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

In the 1980s Miller produced a number of short pieces. The American Clock was based on Studs Terkel's (1912) history of the Great Depression (a slump in the country's system of producing, distributing, and using goods and services that led to almost half of the industrial workers in the country losing their jobs during the 1930s). Elegy for a Lady and Some Kind of Story were two one-act plays that were staged together in 1982. Miller's Danger, Memory! was composed of the short pieces I Can't Remember Anything and Clara. All of these later plays have been regarded by critics as minor works. In the mid-1990s Miller adapted The Crucible for a film version starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Joan Allen.

Later years

Despite the absence of any major successes since the mid-1960s, Miller seems secure in his reputation as a major figure in American drama. In addition to his Pulitzer Prize in 1949, his awards include the Theatre Guild National Prize, 1944; Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award (given for achievement in the theater), 1947 and 1953; Emmy Award (given for achievement in television broadcasting), 1967; George Foster Peabody Award, 1981; John F. Kennedy Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1984; Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, 1999; National Book Foundation lifetime achievement award, 2001; New York City College Alumni Association medal for artistic devotion to New York, 2001; and the Japan Art Association lifetime achievement award, 2001.

For More Information

Bigsby, C. W. E. A Critical Introduction to Twentieth-Century American Drama. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Glassman, Bruce. Arthur Miller. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Silver Burdett Press, 1990.

Miller, Arthur. Timebends: A Life. New York: Grove Press, 1987. Reprint, New York: Penguin Books, 1995.

Schlueter, June, and James K. Flanagan. Arthur Miller. New York: Ungar, 1987.

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Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller (born 1915), American playwright, novelist, and film writer, is considered one of the major dramatists of 20th-century American theater.

Arthur Miller was born on Oct. 17, 1915, in New York City. His father ran a small coat-manufacturing business; during the Depression it failed, and in 1932, after graduating from high school, Miller went to work in an auto-parts warehouse. Two years later he enrolled in the University of Michigan. Before graduating in 1938, he won two Avery Hopwood awards for playwriting.

Miller returned to New York City to a variety of jobs, writing for the Federal Theater Project, the Columbia Workshop, and the Cavalcade of America. Because of an old football injury, he was rejected for military service, but he toured Army camps to collect material for a movie, The Story of GI Joe, based on a book by Ernie Pyle. His journal of this tour was titled Situation Normal (1944). That same year the Broadway production of his The Man Who Had All the Luck opened and closed almost simultaneously, though it won a Theater Guild Award. In 1945 his novel, Focus, a diatribe against anti-Semitism, appeared.

With the opening of All My Sons on Broadway (1947), Miller's theatrical career burgeoned. The Ibsenesque tragedy won three prizes and fascinated audiences across the country. Then Death of a Salesman (1949) brought Miller a Pulitzer Prize, international fame, and an estimated income of $2 million. The words of its hero, Willy Loman, have been heard in at least 17 languages as well as on movie screens everywhere. By the time of his third Broadway play, The Crucible (1953), audiences were ready to accept Miller's conviction that "a poetic drama rooted in American speech and manners" was the only means of writing a tragedy out of the common man's life.

In these three plays Miller's subject was moral disintegration. His shifting from contemporary life in Salesman to the Salem witch hunt of 1692 in The Crucible hardly disguised the fact that he had in mind Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigations of Communist subversion in the United States and the subsequent persecutions and hysteria. When Miller was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in June 1956, he argued, "My conscience will not permit me to use the name of another person and bring trouble to him." He was convicted of contempt of Congress; the conviction was reversed in 1958.

Two one-act plays, A View from the Bridge and A Memory of Two Mondays (1955), were social dramas focused on the inner life of working men; neither had the power of Salesman. Nor did his film script, The Misfits (1961). His next play, After the Fall (1964), was a bald excursion into self-analysis. His second wife, Marilyn Monroe, was the model for the heroine. Incident at Vichy (1965), a long one-act play based on a true story out of Nazi-occupied France, examined the nature of racial guilt and the depths of human hatreds; it is discursive exercise rather than highly charged theater.

In The Price (1968) Miller returned to domestic drama in a tight, intense confrontation between two brothers, almost strangers to each other, brought together by their father's death. It is Miller at the height of his powers, consolidating his position as a major American dramatist.

But The Price proved to be Miller's last major Broadway success. His next work, The Creation of the World and Other Business, was a series of comic sketches first produced on Broadway in 1972. It closed after only twenty performances. All of Miller's subsequent works premiered outside of New York. Miller staged the musical Up From Paradise (1974, an adaptation of his Creation of the World), at his alma mater, the University of Michigan. Another play, The Archbishop's Ceiling, was presented in 1977 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In the 1980s, Miller produced a number of short pieces. The American Clock was based on author Studs Terkel's oral history of the Great Depression, Hard Times, and was structured as a series of vignettes that chronicle the hardship and suffering that occurred during the 1930s. Elegy for a Lady and Some Kind of Story were two one-act plays that were staged together in 1982. Miller's Danger, Memory! was composed of the short pieces I Can't Remember Anything and Clara. All these later plays have been regarded by critics as minor works. In the mid-1990s, Miller adapted The Crucible for the Academy Award-nominated film starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Joan Allen.

Despite the absence of any major success since the mid-1960s, Miller seems secure in his reputation as a major figure in American drama. He has won the Emmy, Tony, and Peabody awards, and in 1984 received the John F. Kennedy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Critics have hailed his blending of vernacular language, social and psychological realism, and moral insight. As the commentator June Schlueter has said, "When the twentieth century is history and American drama viewed in perspective, the plays of Arthur Miller will undoubtedly be preserved in the annals of dramatic literature."

Further Reading

Miller's Collected Plays was published in 1957, and a collection of his short stories, I Don't Need You Any More, in 1967. His Collected Plays, Volume II was published in 1980. The Portable Arthur Miller, which includes several of his major plays, was published in 1971. S.K. Bhatia's study Arthur Miller was published in 1985. See also C.W.E. Bigsby's A Critical Introductiion to Twentieth-Century American Drama, published in 1984. Partly biographical is Benjamin Nelson, Arthur Miller: Portrait of a Playwright (1970), although the focus is on the plays. Useful critical studies are Dennis Welland, Arthur Miller (1961); Sheila Huftel, Arthur Miller: The Burning Glass (1965); Leonard Moss, Arthur Miller (1967); and Edward Murray, Arthur Miller, Dramatist (1967). In addition to these sources, there are numerous Internet web sites devoted in whole or in part to Miller's life and works. □

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Miller, Arthur

Arthur Miller, 1915–2005, American dramatist, b. New York City, grad. Univ. of Michigan, 1938. One of America's most distinguished playwrights, he has been hailed as the finest realist of the 20th-century stage. Miller's plays are, above all, concerned with morality as they reflect the individual's response to the manifold pressures exerted by the forces of family and society. Recurring themes of his major works involve the overwhelming importance of personal and social responsibility and the moral corruption that results from betraying the dictates of conscience.

Miller's masterpiece, Death of a Salesman (1949; Pulitzer Prize), is the story of a salesman betrayed by his own hollow values and those of American society. The Crucible (1953) is both a dynamic dramatization of the 17th-century Salem witch trials and a parable about the United States in the McCarthy era (see McCarthy, Joseph Raymond); it has been his most frequently produced work. In A View from the Bridge (1955; Pulitzer Prize) Miller studies a Sicilian-American longshoreman whose unacknowledged lust for his niece destroys him and his family. Miller's tumultuous life with his second wife, Marilyn Monroe, to whom he was married from 1956 to 1961, is fictionalized in his After the Fall (1964), and a barely disguised version of the glamorous but troubled actress also appears in his last play, Finishing the Picture (2004).

Miller's other plays include The Man Who Had All the Luck (1940), All My Sons (1947), Incident at Vichy (1965), The Price (1968), The Creation of the World and Other Business (1972), The American Clock (1980), The Ride down Mount Morgan (1991), Broken Glass (1994), and Resurrection Blues (2002). He also wrote the screenplay for The Misfits (1961); the television dramas Playing for Time (1980) and Clara (1991); a novel, Focus (1945); and two books of short stories (1967, 2007). Miller's The Theater Essays (1971, rev. ed. 1996) is a collection of writings about the craft of playwriting and the nature of modern tragedy, and Echoes down the Corridor (2000) is a collection of essays (1944–2000), many of them autobiographical. He collaborated with his third wife, the photographer Inge Morath (1923–2002), on several books; their In Russia (1969) is a study of the Soviet Union.

See his autobiography, Timebends (1987); M. C. Roudane, Conversations with Arthur Miller (1987), S. Centola, Arthur Miller in Conversation (1993), M. Gussow, Conversations with Miller (2002); biographies by M. Gottfried (2003) and C. Bigsby (2008); J. Meyers, The Genius and the Goddess: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe (2010); studies by B. Nelson (1970), R. Hayman (1972), J. J. Martine, ed. (1979), D. Welland (1979, repr. 1985), L. Moss (rev. ed. 1980), H. Bloom, ed. (1987), J. Schlueter and J. K. Flanagan (1987), N. Carson (1988), P. Singh (1990), S. R. Centola, ed. (1995), A. Griffin (1996), T. Otten (2002), C. Bigsby (2004), and E. Brater, ed. (2005).

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"Miller, Arthur." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Miller, Arthur

Miller, Arthur (1915– ) US dramatist. Miller's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Death of a Salesman (1949) is a masterpiece of 20th-century theatre: an egocentric salesman, Willy Loman, has unrealistic aspirations, which he struggles to articulate. The Crucible (1953) is both a dramatic reconstruction of the Salem witch trials and a parable of the McCarthy era. Miller won a second Pulitzer Prize for A View From the Bridge (1955). Married (1955–61) to Marilyn Monroe, Miller wrote the screenplay for her film The Misfits (1961). After the Fall (1964) is a fictionalized account of their relationship. Other plays include All My Sons (1947), Playing for Time (1981), and The Ryan Interview (1995).

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