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Arthur Asher Miller

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Arthur Asher Miller was born on 17 October 1915, in Harlem, the second of three children of a wealthy family. His father was an immigrant from Poland who owned a women' s clothing manufacturing business which employed a thousand workers. He was a wealthy and respected man, but he lost everything with the Wall Street Crash of 1929. The family moved to Gravesend, Brooklyn. As a teenager, Miller delivered bread every morning to help his family1, but after graduating in 1932 from Abraham Lincoln School, there was no money left to support his studies. He started to work at several small jobs and successfully earned his way to university.

The University of Michigan was known as a radical campus. Miller worked as a reporter and night editor for the student newspaper and meanwhile he wrote a series of student plays, two of which won the annual Avery Hopwood Award (No Villain and Honors at Down).

He switched his major from journalism to English and he graduated in 1938. After university he joined the Federal Theater, a nationwide organization of the New Deal, designed to give work to unemployed writers, actors, directors, and designers. Although he was offered to work as a scriptwriter for the 20th Century Fox, he chose the theater project and submitted a play about Montezuma and Cortes called The Golden Years which wasn't produced for fifty years, because the Congress, worried about possible Communist infiltration, closed the project in 1939.

Thereafter he worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard while continuing to write radio plays, some of which were broadcast on CBS. Because of an old football injury he was rejected for military service.

In 1940 he married Mary Slattery and they had two children, Jane and Robert.

In 1944 Miller wrote his first Broadway play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, that closed only four days after its opening. He returned to writing for a while and he wrote Focus, a work about anti- semitism in America. Finally, he reached a discrete success when he went back to theater with All My Sons, a drama that won three prizes and fascinated audiences across the country.

In 1948 Miller built a small studio in Roxbury, Connecticut, and in less than a day he wrote the first act of Death of a Salesman. Within six weeks he completed the rest of the play that premiered on Broadway on February 10, 1949 at the Morosco Theater. The play was a complete success, acclaimed by the critics, and won three prizes: the Tony Award for Best Author, the New York Drama Circle Critics' Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It was performed 742 times.

In 1952 the director of Death of a Salesman, Elia Kazan, appeared before the House of Un- American Activities Committee (HUAC). Fearful of losing his job in Hollywood, Kazan gave eight names of suspected communists. After speaking with him about his deposition, Miller went to visit Salem, Massachusetts, to research the site of the witch trials of 1692. The Crucible, that opened at the Beck Theater on Broadway on January 22, 1953, was a dramatization of the events happened in 1692 in Salem and an allegory of McCarthyism: the activities of the House of Un- American Activities Committee was likened to the witch hunt that had happened in Salem.

Both the public and the critics had come to expect a great deal from Miller, however the reactions to The Crucible were not altogether favorable. The play ran only six months, closing in July of the same year. Despite this, nowadays the play is produced all over the world and its reputation is high, being no longer the subject of heated controversy.

In 1956, Arthur Miller left his first wife and shortly thereafter he married the actress Marilyn Monroe. Later that year he was refused a passport renewal from the H.U.A.C., called to appear before the committee and asked to identify those who had attended meetings possibly related to communism and subversive acts. He refused, and sentenced to prison for contempt of Congress, a sentence later quashed on appeal.

During the same years, two of the Miller's one-act plays, A View From the Bridge and A Memory of Two Mondays, opened on Broadway. They were social dramas focused on the inner lives of working men and they did not have the expected success. Subsequently, Miller revised A View From the Bridge to contain two acts.

For the following nine years no play of Arthur Miller appeared on an American stage. He started to work on the screenplay for The Misfits after his wife, Marilyn Monroe, had a miscarriage. Shortly before the film premiere in 1961, the couple divorced.

"It was also" he explained " an expression of some kind of belief in her as an actress. But by the time we got to make the film three years had gone by and we were no longer man and wife. The film was there but the marriage wasn't."2

Marilyn Monroe died 19 months later, of a possible drug overdose.

Miller returned to the theatre in 1964 with the play After the Fall. It addressed the question of the Holocaust braiding it together with the anti-Communist hysteria but it was seen by the critics as an attempt to deal with one of the lowest point of his life, when his former wife committed suicide after the couple divorced.. The play opened on January 23, 1964 and in the same year, Miller produced also Incident at Vichy, which also addressed the Holocaust and the nature of human betrayal.

The author married his third wife, Inge Morath, on February 17, 1962. The couple had two children, Rebecca and Daniel. Daniel was born with Down-syndrome and the writer insisted that he be completely excluded from the family



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