Brown - Dark
Harlem, New York City, New York USA
Place of Death
Roxbury, Connecticut USA
Cause of Death
Claim to Fame
All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible
Has Detailed Data (New)
Profile Bio Text
The son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, Arthur Miller was born on October 17, 1915, in New York City. His father manufactured womens coats, but his business was devastated by the Depression, seeding his son`s disillusionment with the American Dream and those blue-sky-seeking Americans who pursued it with both eyes focused on the Grail of Materialism. Due to his father`s strained financial circumstances, Miller had to work for tuition money to attend the University of Michigan. It was at Michigan that he wrote his first plays. They were successes, earning him numerous student awards, including the Avery Hopwood Award in Drama for "No Villain" in 1937. The award was named after one of the most successful playwrights of the 1920s, who simultaneously had five hits on Broadway, the `Neil Simon (I)` of his day. Now almost forgotten except for his contribution to "Gold Diggers of 1933," Hopwood achieved a material success that the older Miller could not match, but he failed to capture the immortality that would be Miller`s. Hopwood`s suicide, on the beach of the Cote d`Azur, inspired Norman Maine`s march into the SoCal surf in A Star Is Born (1937). It seemed to encapsulate the American dilemma: the achievement of success was no panacea for an America soul-sick from its pursuit.
Like Fitzgerald, Miller tasted success at a tender age. In 1938, upon graduating from Michigan, he received a Theatre Guild National Award and returned to New York, joining the Federal Theatre Project. He married his college girlfriend, Mary Grace Slattery, in 1940; they would have two children, Joan and Robert. In 1944, he made his Broadway debut with "The Man Who Had All the Luck," a flop that lasted only four performances. He went on to publish two books, "Situation Normal" in `44, and "Focus" in 1945, but it was in 1947 that his star became ascendant. His play "All My Sons," directed by Elia Kazan, became a hit on Broadway, running for 328 performances. Both Miller and Kazan received Tony Awards, and Miller won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. It was a taste of what was to come.
Staged by Kazan, "Death of a Salesman" opened at the Morosco Theatre on February 10, 1949, and closed 742 performances later on Nov 18, 1950. The play was the sensation of the season, winning six Tony Awards, including Best Play and Best Author for Miller. Miller also was awarded the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play made lead actor Lee J. Cobb, as Willy Loman, an icon of the stage comparable to the Hamlet of John Barrymore: a synthesis of actor and role that created a legend that survives through the bends of time. A contemporary classic was recognized, though some critics complained that the play wasn`t truly a tragedy, as Willy Loman was such a pathetic soul. The fall of such a small person as Loman could not qualify as tragedy, as there was so little height from which to fall. Miller, a dedicated progressive and a man of integrity, never accepted the criticism. As Willy`s wife Linda said at his funeral, "Attention must be paid," even to the little people who were crucified alongside the capitalist gods in the pursuit of the American Dream.
In 1983 Miller himself directed a staging of "Salesman" in Chinese at the Beijing Peoples` Art Theatre. He said that while the Chinese, then largely ignorant of capitalism, might not have understood Loman`s career choice, they did have empathy for his desire to drink from the Grail of the American Dream. They understood this dream, which Miller characterizes as the desire "to excel, to win out over anonymity and meaninglessness, to love and be loved, and above all, perhaps, to count." It is this desire to sup at the table of the great American Capitalists, even if one is just scrounging for crumbs, in a country of which President Calvin Coolidge said, "The business of America is business," this desire to be recognized, to be somebody, that so moves "Salesman" audiences, whether in New York, London or Beijing.
Miller never again attained the critical heights nor smash Broadway success of "Salesman," though he continued to write fine plays that were appreciated by critics and audiences alike for another two decades. Disenchanted with Kazan over his friendly testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, the two parted company when Kazan refused to direct "The Crucible," Miller`s parable of the witch hunts of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Defending her husband, Kazan`s wife Molly told Miller that the play was disingenuous, as there were no real witches in Puritan Salem. It was a point Miller disagreed with, as it was a matter of perspective--the witches in Salem were real to those who believed in them. Directed by another Broadway legend, Jed Harris, the play ran for 197 performances and won Miller the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play. Miller had another success with "A View from the B
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BA Journalism, University of Michigan (1938)
Full Name at Birth
Arthur Asher Miller
Arthur Asher Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright, essayist, and figure in twentieth-century American theater. Among his most popular plays are All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953) and A View from the Bridge (1955, revised 1956). He also wrote several screenplays and was most noted for his work on The Misfits (1961). The drama Death of a Salesman has been numbered on the short list of finest American plays in the 20th century alongside Long Day's Journey into Night and A Streetcar Named Desire.
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