Miller, Arthur 1915-2005

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Miller, Arthur 1915-2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born October 17, 1915, in New York, NY; died of heart failure, February 10, 2005, in Roxbury, CT. Writer. One of the most important American dramatists of the twentieth century, Miller was the author of such award-winning, celebrated plays as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. As a child, he was greatly affected by the Great Depression. His father, once a successful coat manufacturer, lost most of his money when the stock market crashed, and the young Miller's life changed dramatically from one of prosperity and comfort to near poverty. The 1930s would thus prove to be a great influence on his later writing, which would often comment on the loss of the American Dream. Resolved to become a writer, Miller worked at an automobile parts factory to earn enough tuition for his first year at the University of Michigan. Entering the university, he then decided to compete for the Avery Hopwood Award, which was given at the university for writing. This, he hoped, would pay for more schooling. Failing to win the first time he applied, he nevertheless managed to save enough to go back the next year. During his second year, he not only earned two Hopwood awards but also a Bureau of New Plays Award, which included a $1,250 prize that more than paid for the rest of his college education. Graduating in 1938, and encouraged by his early success, Miller attempted to make a career of playwriting. Unfortunately, he met with rejection after rejection. When his first professionally produced play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, was performed on Broadway in 1944, it had a run of only four performances before it closed. Miller, now married and with children to support, found a job at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and also managed to sell scripts for the radio. Still, he wanted to try to get another play produced and All My Sons (1947) appeared on Broadway to rave reviews and won the Antoinette Perry ("Tony") Award and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Miller's next play, considered his magnum opus, was Death of a Salesman (1949). Death of a Salesman earned Miller not only the Tony and Drama Critics Circle awards, but also the Pulitzer Prize.

Miller was now the most successful playwright of his day. His next two plays were obvious statements against Senator Joseph McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee. An Enemy of the People (1950) was Miller's adaptation of the Henrik Ibsen play, and his more famous The Crucible (1953) used the Salem witch trials as a metaphor for McCarthy's Communist witch hunts. Some of Miller's colleagues had been called before the committee, and the playwright was extremely upset when director Elia Kazan gave McCarthy several names of suspected Communists. Miller himself was called before the committee in 1956. He refused to cooperate and was cited for contempt; two years later, though, the charge was dismissed in court. The same year that he appeared before McCarthy's committee, Miller also made the headlines by marrying actress Marilyn Monroe. Miller had been seeing Monroe while he was married to his first wife and while Monroe was married to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. Miller found Monroe to be too much of a distraction from his writing, and he only produced one major work during their marriage—the 1961 screenplay The Misfits, in which Monroe starred. After four years of marriage, the two divorced, and Monroe died under mysterious circumstances. Miller's first play after his marriage dissolved was the semi-autobiographical After the Fall (1964), which is clearly about his failed marriage to Monroe. Plays such as Incident at Vichy (1964) and The Price (1968), which he also adapted as a screen-play in 1969, were not nearly as well received as his earlier work; and some dramas, such as Up from Paradise (1974), were outright failures. Though Miller continued to write, he never regained the level of his earlier successes. Among his more recent plays are Playing for Time (1985), The Last Yankee (1991), and Finishing the Picture (2004). He also wrote several other screenplays, including The Hook (1975) and Everybody Wins (1990), along with nonfiction and fiction, the latter including the novel Focus (1945), the novella The Misfits (1961), and Homely Girl, a Life (1992). He was still writing in 2005; his short story "Beavers" was published in Harper's magazine in February of that year. Though Miller may have lost much of his popularity by the time of his death, his influence on American theater remained significant, and productions of many of his early plays have become standards for the stage.



Chicago Tribune, February 12, 2005, section 1, pp. 1, 7.

New York Times, February 12, 2005, pp. A1, A14-A15.

Times (London, England), February 12, 2005, p. 76.

Washington Post, February 12, 2005, pp. A1, A8.