Miller, Arthur 1915–
Miller, Arthur 1915–
PERSONAL: Born October 17, 1915, in New York, NY; son of Isidore (a manufacturer) and Augusta (Barnett) Miller; married Mary Grace Slattery, 1940 (divorced, 1956); married Marilyn Monroe (an actress), June, 1956 (divorced, 1961); married Ingeborg Morath (a photojournalist), 1962; children: (first marriage) Jane Ellen, Robert Arthur; (third marriage) Rebecca Augusta, Daniel. Education: University of Michigan, A.B., 1938. Hobbies and other interests: Carpentry, farming.
ADDRESSES: Agent—International Creative Management, 40 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Writer, 1938–. Associate of Federal Theater Project, 1938; author of radio plays, 1939–44; dramatist and essayist, 1944–. Also worked in an automobile parts warehouse, Brooklyn Navy Yard, and a box factory. Resident lecturer, University of Michigan, 1973–74.
MEMBER: Dramatists Guild, Authors League of America, National Institute of Arts and Letters, PEN (international president, 1965–69).
AWARDS, HONORS: Avery Hopwood Awards from the University of Michigan, 1936, for Honors at Dawn, and 1937, for No Villain: They Too Arise; Bureau of New Plays Prize from Theatre Guild of New York, 1938; Theatre Guild National Prize, 1944, for The Man Who Had All the Luck; Drama Critics Circle Awards, 1947, for All My Sons, and 1949, for Death of a Salesman; Antoinette Perry ("Tony") Awards, 1947, for All My Sons, 1949, for Death of a Salesman, and 1953, for The Crucible; Donaldson Awards, 1947, for All My Sons, 1949, for Death of a Salesman, and 1953, for The Crucible; Pulitzer Prize for drama, 1949, for Death of a Salesman; National Association of Independent Schools award, 1954; Obie Award from Village Voice, 1958, for The Crucible; American Academy of Arts and Letters gold medal, 1959; Anglo-American Award, 1966; Emmy Award, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1967, for Death of a Salesman; Antoinette Perry Award Nominations for best play, 1968, for The Price, 1994, for Broken Glass, and 2000, for The Ride down Mt. Morgan; Brandeis University creative arts award, 1969; George Foster Peabody Award, 1981, for Playing for Time; John F. Kennedy Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1984; Algur Meadows Award, 1991; Olivier Award (England), 1996, for Broken Glass; Amnesty International Media Spotlight Award, 1997; Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, 1999; Tony Lifetime Achievement Award, 1999; Tony Award for Best Play Revival, 1999; National Endowment for the Humanities Lecturer in the Humanities, 2001; National Book Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, 2001; Japan Art Association Praemium Imperiale Inter-national Arts Award, 2001; Tony Award nomination for best play revival, 2002, for The Crucible; Principe de Asturias Prize for Literature, 2002; Jerusalem Prize, 2003. Honorary degrees from Oxford University, Harvard University, Brandeis University, University of Michigan, and Carnegie-Mellon University.
Honors at Dawn, produced in Ann Arbor, MI, 1936.
No Villain: They Too Arise, produced in Ann Arbor, MI, 1937.
The Man Who Had All the Luck, produced on Broadway at Forest Theatre, November 23, 1944, revived on Broadway, 2002.
All My Sons (three-act; produced on Broadway at Coronet Theatre, January 29, 1947), Reynal (New York, NY), 1947, published with an introduction by Christopher Bigsby, Penguin (New York, NY), 2000.
Death of a Salesman (two acts; produced on Broadway at Morosco Theatre, February 10, 1949), Viking (New York, NY), 1949, published as Death of a Salesman: Text and Criticism, edited by Gerald Weales, Penguin (New York, NY), 1977, fiftieth anniversary edition published as Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem, with a new preface by Miller, and an afterword by Christopher Bigsby, Penguin (New York, NY), 1999.
(Adaptor) Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People (produced on Broadway at Broadhurst Theatre, December 28, 1950), Viking (New York, NY), 1951.
The Crucible (four acts; produced on Broadway at Martin Beck Theatre, January 22, 1953), Viking (New York, NY), 1953, published as The Crucible: Text and Criticism, edited by Gerald Weales, Viking (New York, NY), 1977, published as The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts, Penguin (New York, NY), 1995.
A View from the Bridge [and] A Memory of Two Mondays (produced together on Broadway at Coronet Theatre, September 29, 1955), Viking (New York, NY), 1955, published separately, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1956, revised version of A View from the Bridge (produced off-Broadway at Sheridan Square Playhouse, January 28, 1965), Cresset (London, England), 1956.
After the Fall (produced on Broadway at American National Theatre and Academy, January 23, 1964), Viking (New York, NY), 1964.
Incident at Vichy (produced on Broadway at American National Theatre and Academy, December 3, 1964), Viking (New York, NY), 1965.
The Price (produced on Broadway at Morosco Theatre, February 7, 1968), Viking (New York, NY), 1968.
The Creation of the World and Other Business (produced on Broadway at Shubert Theatre, November 30, 1972), Viking (New York, NY), 1972.
Up from Paradise, with music by Stanley Silverman (musical version of The Creation of the World and Other Business; first produced in Ann Arbor, MI, at Trueblood Theatre, directed and narrated by Miller, April, 1974; produced off-Broadway at Jewish Repertory Theater, October 25, 1983), Viking (New York, NY), 1978.
The Archbishop's Ceiling (produced in Washington, DC, at Eisenhower Theatre, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, April 30, 1977), Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1976.
The American Clock (first produced in Charleston, SC, at Dock Street Theatre, 1980; produced on Broadway at Harold Clurman Theatre, 1980), Viking (New York, NY), 1980.
Elegy for a Lady [and] Some Kind of Love Story (each one act; produced together under title Two-Way Mirror in New Haven, CT, at Long Wharf Theatre, 1983), published separately, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1984.
Playing for Time (stage adaptation of screenplay; produced in England at Netherbow Art Centre, August, 1986), Dramatic Publishing (Chicago, IL), 1985.
Danger: Memory! Two Plays: "I Can't Remember Anything" and "Clara" (each one act; produced on Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, February 8, 1987), Grove (New York, NY), 1987.
The Golden Years, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1990.
The Last Yankee, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1991.
The Ride down Mt. Morgan, Viking Penguin (New York, NY), 1992, reprinted, 2000.
Broken Glass, Viking Penguin (New York, NY), 1994, Dramatists Play Service (New York, NY), 1994.
Resurrection Blues, produced in Minneapolis, MN, 2002.
Finishing the Picture, produced in New York, NY, 2004.
(With others) The Story of G.I. Joe, United Artists, 1945.
The Crucible (based on the play of the same title; also known as The Witches of Salem), Kingsley-International, 1958, published as The Crucible: Screenplay, Penguin (New York, NY), 1996.
The Price (based on the play of the same title), United Artists, 1969.
The Hook, MCA, 1975.
Fame (teleplay), National Broadcasting Company (NBC-TV), 1978.
Playing for Time, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS-TV), 1980.
Everybody Wins, Grove/Atlantic (New York, NY), 1990.
Focus (novel), Reynal (New York, NY), 1945, with an introduction by the author, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1984.
The Misfits (novella), Viking (New York, NY), 1961.
Jane's Blanket (juvenile), Collier (New York, NY), 1963.
I Don't Need You Anymore (stories), Viking (New York, NY), 1967.
"The Misfits" and Other Stories, Scribner (New York, NY), 1987.
Homely Girl, a Life, Peter Blum, 1992, reprinted as Plain Girl: A Life, Methuen (London, England), 1995.
Situation Normal, Reynal (New York, NY), 1944.
In Russia, with photographs by wife Inge Morath, Viking (New York, NY), 1969.
In the Country, with photographs by Inge Morath, Viking (New York, NY), 1977.
The Theatre Essays of Arthur Miller, edited by Robert A. Martin, Viking (New York, NY), 1978, revised edition edited by Martin and Steven R. Centola, with foreword by Miller, Da Capo Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Chinese Encounters, with photographs by Inge Morath, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1979.
Salesman in Beijing, with photographs by Inge Morath, Viking (New York, NY), 1984.
Timebends: A Life (autobiography), Grove (New York, NY), 1987.
The Theater Essays of Arthur Miller, Da Capo Press (New York, NY), 1996.
(Also author of introduction) Arthur Miller's Collected Plays (contains All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, A Memory of Two Mondays, and A View from the Bridge), Viking (New York, NY), 1957.
Harold Clurman, editor, The Portable Arthur Miller (includes Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, Incident at Vichy, The Price, The Misfits, Fame, and In Russia), Viking (New York, NY), 1971.
Homely Girl: A Life, and Other Stories, Viking (New York, NY), 1995.
(Also author of introduction) Collected Plays, Volume II, Viking (New York, NY), 1980.
The Portable Arthur Miller, edited by C. Bigsby, Penguin (New York, NY), 1995.
(Author of text with others) Inge Morath: Portraits, Otto Muller, 1999.
Mr. Peters' Connections, Penguin (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Serge Toubiana) The Misfits: Story of a Shoot, photography by Magnum photographers, Phaidon (New York, NY), 2000.
Echoes down the Corridor: Collected Essays, 1947–1999, edited by S. Centola, Viking (New York, NY), 2000.
On Politics and the Art of Acting, Viking (New York, NY), 2001.
Contributor of essays, commentary, and short stories to periodicals, including Collier's, New York Times, Theatre Arts, Holiday, Nation, Esquire, and Atlantic.
The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of Texas at Austin, and the New York Public Library house collections of Miller's papers.
ADAPTATIONS: All My Sons was filmed as a movie by Universal in 1948 and as a television special by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1987; Death of a Salesman was filmed as a movie by Columbia in 1951 and as a television special by CBS-TV in 1985; The Crucible was filmed in France by Kingsley-International in 1958, adapted for use as an interactive CD-ROM by the University of East Anglia, 1994, and adapted for film again in 1996 by Nicholas Hytner and starring Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis; A View from the Bridge was filmed by Continental in 1962; After the Fall was filmed as a television special by NBC-TV in 1969.
SIDELIGHTS: Arthur Miller is widely recognized as a preeminent playwright of twentieth-century American theater. Miller's realistic dramas explore the complex psychological and social issues that plague humankind in the wake of World War II: the dangers of rampant materialism, the struggle for dignity in a dehumanizing world, the erosion of the family structure, and the perils besetting human rights. Several of Miller's best-known plays—All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, and The Crucible—have been performed for well over forty years, and according to Benjamin Nelson in Arthur Miller: Portrait of a Playwright, they "continue to endure,… in fact gaining in strength and impact." Nelson described the many plays in the Miller canon as "stunning dramatic achievements." Viewers, he noted, "are jolted by the immediate emotional impact of something real, something vibrantly alive exploding at them with a burst of meaning and a ring of truth. The impact is hardly accidental. Miller's plays are products of a meticulous craftsman with an unerring sense of the theater and the ability to create meaningful people in striking situations."
Although none of Miller's theater work is specifically autobiographical, it has been strongly influenced by his particular life experiences. An early influential event was the Great Depression of the 1930s. Miller was born in New York City in 1915, and until 1929 he lived the comfortable life of an upper-middle-class businessman's son. Then the stock market collapsed, and his father, a coat manufacturer, was forced out of work. First his parents sold their luxury items, one by one, to pay the bills. Later the family had to move from the spacious Harlem apartment of Miller's youth to a tiny house in Brooklyn. Miller told the New York Times that the Depression "occurred during a particularly sensitive moment" for him. "I was turning fourteen or fifteen and I was without leaders," he said. "This was symptomatic not just of me but of that whole generation. It made you want to search for ultimate values, for things that would not fall apart under pressure." Like many others at the time, Miller was attracted to the tenets of socialism. In Arthur Miller: A Collection of Critical Essays, Harold Clurman suggested that the young man realized "it was not financial stress alone that shook the foundations of American life at that time but a false ideal which the preceding era, the Twenties, had raised to the level of a religious creed: the ideal of Success." Miller saw how his father's fate was shared on all sides by those who had had blind faith in the so-called American Dream, and as a thoughtful man he sought an alternative vision of an ideal society.
In the midst of the Depression, Miller entered the University of Michigan where, to quote Nelson, "the atmosphere was one of challenge rather than despairing finality." An undistinguished high school student, Miller had to prove himself capable of college work in his first year. That accomplished, he matured into a good scholar who spent his spare hours writing for the college newspaper and working as a custodian in a research laboratory that housed several hundred mice. During a mid-semester break in his sophomore year, he turned his hand to playwriting in hopes of winning a prestigious (and lucrative) Avery Hopwood Award from the university. His first play, Honors at Dawn, won the award in 1936. The next year he won again with No Villain: They Too Arise. Both dramas tackled themes that would later fuel his major works: the sins committed in the name of "free enterprise," sibling rivalry, and moral responsibility to family and community. Modern American Playwrights author Jean Gould wrote: "In his plays Arthur Miller was to question and to sit in judgment against the false values of the past and present, as yet a distant outcome of his college years, but already clearly outlined in his early manuscript plays."
All My Sons was Miller's first successful "drama of accountability." In the play, an aging businessman comes to the anguished recognition that his responsibility extends beyond his immediate family to the wider world of humankind. Having sold defective merchandise to the army, and having lied to protect his business when the merchandise caused war planes to crash in battle, the businessman learns that he has in fact caused the death of one of his own sons. His other son, also a war veteran, savagely rebukes him for his warped sense of morality. The son, Chris, has learned from his war experiences that relatedness is not particular but universal; he is shocked by his father's unscrupulous renunciation of that knowledge. Sheila Huftel, in Arthur Miller: The Burning Glass, wrote that in All My Sons, "Miller is concerned with consciousness, not crime, and with bringing a man face to face with the consequences he has caused, forcing him to share in the results of his creation."
With the box-office proceeds from All My Sons, Miller bought a farm in rural Connecticut. There he built him-self a studio and began to work on another drama. It was produced in 1949 under the title Death of a Salesman, and it received overwhelming critical and public acclaim. The play centers on the emotional deterioration of Willy Loman, an aging and not too successful salesman, who can hardly distinguish between his memories of a brighter past and his setbacks in the dismal present. In the course of the play Willy grapples with the loss of his job and the failure of his two grown sons to achieve wealth, and with it, presumably, happiness. Nelson wrote of Willy: "Shot through with weaknesses and faults, he is almost a personification of self-delusion and waste, the apotheosis of the modern man in an age too vast, demanding and complex for him…. He personifies the human being's desire, for all his flaws, to force apart the steel pincers of necessity and partake of magnificence." Willy does aspire to greatness for himself and his sons, but he champions a success ethic that is both shallow and contradictory—the cult of popularity, good looks, and a winning personality. "From the conflicting success images that wander through his troubled brain comes Willy's double ambition—to be rich and to be loved," noted Weales. Facing ruin, Willy still cannot relinquish his skewed values, and he becomes a martyr to them. His sons must come to terms with their father's splintered legacy and determine the essence of his ultimate worth.
Because Willy struggles valiantly for money and recognition, and then fails on both accounts, some critics saw Death of a Salesman as an indictment of the American system. In Newsweek, Jack Kroll suggested that the drama was "a great public ritualizing of some of our deepest and deadliest contradictions. It is a play about the misplaced energy of the basic human material in American society." The message Miller sends in the work is not so simple, however. Nelson wrote, "One of the strengths of Death of a Salesman is its refusal to pin blame exclusively on a person, an institution, or even on an entire society. Although Willy Loman's destruction is partly the fault of his family and the failure of certain values propounded by society, it is no less his own doing." Indeed, while Willy adheres to an adolescent code of values, his son Biff and his neighbor Charley represent alternative reactions to family and society. According to R.H. Gardner in The Splintered Stage: The Decline of the American Theater, the play is "an affirmation of the proposition that persistent application of one's talents, small though they may be, pays off. And this, after all, is the substance of the American dream." Willy's tragic decline is given added poignancy by the suggestion that he might have become an expert carpenter had he not pursued the chimeras of wealth and popularity.
On one point most critics agree: Death of a Salesman is one of the significant accomplishments of modern American letters. In The Forties: Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Lois Gordon called it "the major American drama of the 1940s" and added that it "remains unequalled in its brilliant and original fusion of realistic and poetic techniques, its richness of visual and verbal texture, and its wide range of emotional impact." New York Times columnist Frank Rich concluded that Death of a Salesman "is one of a handful of American plays that appear destined to outlast the twentieth century. In Willy Loman, that insignificant salesman who has lost the magic touch along with the shine on his shoes after a lifetime on the road, Miller created an enduring image of our unslaked thirst for popularity and success." According to John Gassner in the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Miller "has accomplished the feat of writing a drama critical of wrong values that virtually every member of our middle-class can accept as valid. It stabs itself into a playgoer's consciousness to a degree that may well lead him to review his own life and the lives of those who are closest to him. The conviction of the writing is, besides, strengthened by a quality of compassion rarely experienced in our theatre."
Miller rose to prominence during a particularly tense time in American politics. In the early 1950s many national leaders perceived a threat of communist domination even within the borders of the United States, and public figures from all walks of life fell under suspicion of conspiring to overthrow the government. Miller and several of his theater associates became targets for persecution, and in that climate the playwright conceived The Crucible. First produced in 1953, The Crucible chronicles the hysterical witch-hunt in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts, through the deeds of one courageous dissenter, John Proctor. If Miller began his researches into the Salem witch trials with the communist-hunting trials in mind, he soon uncovered a deeper level for his prospective drama. In his autobiography, Timebends: A Life, Miller wrote: "The political question … of whether witches and Communists could be equated was no longer to the point. What was manifestly parallel was the guilt, two centuries apart, of holding illicit, suppressed feelings of alienation and hostility toward standard, daylight society as defined by its most orthodox proponents." What Miller reveals in The Crucible, to quote University College Quarterly essayist John H. Ferres, is the tenet that "life is not worth living when lies must be told to one's self and one's friends to preserve it."
Early reviewers of The Crucible saw the play—and often denounced it—as an allegory for the McCarthy hearings on communism. That view has been revised sig-nificantly in the wake of the work's continuing popularity. "For a play that was often dismissed as a political tract for the times, The Crucible has survived uncommonly well," stated Ferres. Robert A. Martin offered a similar opinion in Modern Drama. The play, he wrote, "has endured beyond the immediate events of its own time…. As one of the most frequently produced plays in the American theater, The Crucible has attained a life of its own; one that both interprets and defines the cultural and historical background of American society." In Twentieth-Century Interpretations of "The Crucible," Phillip G. Hill wrote of the play's pertinence, noting that the work remains "a powerful indictment of bigotry, narrow-mindedness, hypocrisy, and violation of due process of law, from whatever source these evils spring."
The eight-year period following the first production of The Crucible was extremely hectic and ultimately dispiriting for Miller. In 1955 he divorced his first wife, Mary Grace Slattery, and the following year married actress Marilyn Monroe. At the same time, his supposed communist sympathies caused his expulsion from a script-writing project based on New York City's Youth Board, and he was denied a passport renewal by the State Department. Shortly after his celebrated second marriage, Miller was subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he was queried about his political beliefs. Miller admitted to the Committee that he had attended a few informal Communist Party meetings many years earlier, but he refused to name others who had attended the meetings even when the Committee insisted he do so. Helterman wrote, "In a classic case of life imitating art, Miller took the precise position Proctor took before his Puritan judges. Just as Proctor is willing to implicate himself but refuses to name other dabblers with witchcraft, so Miller named himself, but refused to identify any others involved in communist-front activities." Miller was charged with contempt of Congress and was tried and convicted in 1957. His conviction was overturned on appeal the next year.
In 1962 Miller married his third wife, Inge Morath, a professional photographer, and turned his attention to more personal issues. This shift was reflected in his work. After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, and other plays from this era introduced a new theme in Miller's work: man's hopeless alienation from himself and others. Critical Quarterly contributor Kerry McSweeney maintained that the horrors of World War II as well as his more personal problems caused Miller to reject his vision of possible social harmony among humankind. "His characters now grope alone for values to sustain their dissipating lives and each value, once discovered, slips again into ambiguity," wrote McSweeney. "Most frightening of all is the realization that human corruption, once attributed to conscious deviation from recognizable moral norms, is now seen as an irresistible impulse in the heart of man. The theme of universal guilt becomes increasingly and despairingly affirmed."
In the 1970s, Miller wrote only three plays, The Creation of the World and Other Business, Up from Paradise, and The Archbishop's Calling. These works, and his 1980 The American Clock, did not attract the critical acclaim or popular attention of his earlier works. However, in 1984, his career received a boost with a revival of Death of a Salesman in Broadway. The play was an even bigger hit in 1998, and in 1999, it won a Tony Award for Best Revival. In 1996, Miller won an Olivier Award for Broken Glass, which was broadcast on the show Masterpiece Theater in 1996.
Over the course of his career, Miller has seen his best-known plays produced in such unlikely locales as Moscow and Beijing, where Death of a Salesman was one of the first American dramas to be performed. Miller directed the Beijing production of Salesman himself, with the help of translators. In The New Consciousness, 1941–1968, Helterman wrote, "That [Miller] was able to motivate [Chinese] actors who had survived the cultural revolution and that a play so embedded in American capitalism was able to reach the audience in the capital of communism is testimony that the play's true message is more personal and human than sociological." Miller claimed in Timebends that the Chinese reaction to Death of a Salesman confirmed "what had become more and more obvious over the decades in the play's hundreds of productions throughout the world: Willy was representative everywhere, in every kind of system, of ourselves in this time … not simply as a type but because of what he wanted. Which was to excel, to win out over anonymity and meaninglessness, to love and be loved, and above all, perhaps, to count."
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