Arthur Miller dies at 89

Posted: Thursday, February 17, 2005

NEW YORK — Arthur Miller, one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century, gave America — and the world — ''Death of a Salesman'' and its iconic title character Willy Loman.

A dramatist of personal and public responsibility, Miller wrote forcefully about moral issues in such plays as ''All My Sons,'' ''The Crucible,'' ''A View From the Bridge,'' ''After the Fall,'' ''The Price'' and more over a span of six decades.

Broadway marquees dimmed their lights Friday in tribute to Miller, who died of congestive heart failure Feb. 10 at his home in Roxbury, Conn. He was 89.

Miller attained a celebrity few American playwrights achieve, in part because of his marriage to film star Marilyn Monroe. He first dealt with their relationship in ''After the Fall,'' his most autobiographical play, and later in ''Finishing the Picture,'' his final major work, which had its world premiere last October at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

Miller was particularly fascinated by success and failure, two components of the American Dream. And nowhere are success and failure more profound and treated with more compassion than in ''Salesman,'' his best-known play. Loman, its stoop-shouldered protagonist, became synonymous with everything that went wrong with the dream.

Miller married Monroe in 1956, following his divorce from his first wife, Mary Slattery.

In a 1992 interview with a French newspaper, he called Monroe ''highly self-destructive'' and said that during their marriage, ''all my energy and attention were devoted to trying to help her solve her problems. Unfortunately, I didn't have much success.''

In 1962, he married his third wife, photographer Inge Morath.

Miller's success, so overwhelming in the 1940s and 1950s, seemed to wane during the next two decades, despite the well-received Broadway revival of ''Death of a Salesman."

Undaunted, Miller continued to write, even as he became increasingly disillusioned with Broadway. In 1991, he premiered a new play, ''The Ride Down Mt. Morgan,'' in London — the first time he had opened a play outside of the United States.

''It is what I do,'' he said in a 1996 interview with The Associated Press. ''It is my art. I am better at it than I ever was. And I will do it as long as I can. When you reach a certain age, you can slough off what is unnecessary and concentrate on what is. And why not?''

Born Oct. 17, 1915, Miller was one of three children in a middle-class Jewish family. His father, a manufacturer of women's coats, was hard hit by the Depression and could not afford to send Miller to college. A tall, imposing man with a gruff accent, Miller worked as a loader and shipping clerk at a New York warehouse to earn tuition money and eventually attended the University of Michigan, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1938.

He wrote his first plays in college, where they were awarded numerous prizes. He also published several novels and collections of short stories. Miller also wrote screenplays. He wrote ''The Misfits,'' for Monroe, which turned out to be her last movie, and ''Playing for Time,'' (1981) a controversial television movie about the women's orchestra at Auschwitz.

He also wrote essays, a 1987 autobiography called ''Timebends,'' and a number of books with Morath, mainly about their travels in Russia and China.

Miller had two children, Jane Ellen and Robert, by Slattery, and he and Morath, who died in 2002, had one daughter, Rebecca, a filmmaker married to actor Daniel Day-Lewis.



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