Last week, the theater world mourned the loss of a true genius. American playwright Arthur Miller died Feb. 10 of congestive heart failure at his Connecticut home. Known for penning classic works like “The Crucible” and “Death of a Salesman,” Miller was a pillar of 20th century American theater.
Born in New York in 1915 to Polish Jewish immigrants, Miller studied journalism at the University of Michigan. Here, his first play, “Honors at Dawn,” was produced. It earned Miller the Avery Hopwood Award, a prestigious scholarship for promising University of Michigan writers.
With a football injury that exempted him from service in World War II, Miller immersed himself in his work, producing some of the best-known plays in America. In 1949, he won a Pulitzer Prize, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and three Tony Awards for “Death of a Salesman.”
In 1956, Miller made headlines when he married starlet Marilyn Monroe, whom he met through Communist party leader Elia Kazan eight years earlier. His relationship with Kazan led Miller to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee for attending Communist party meetings. All charges involving Miller’s Communist affiliation were later dropped.
After divorcing Monroe in 1961, Miller married photographer Inge Morath, with whom he had two children, Rebecca and Daniel. Daniel, who was born with Down syndrome, was placed in an institution in Roxbury, Conn. Miller reportedly never visited his son, and Daniel was not mentioned in the 1987 autobiography “Timebends.”
In 1965, Miller was elected president of International PEN’s Writers in Prison committee, an organization which he co-founded. In 1985, he was honored at the American embassy in Turkey, but he cut the trip short in support of his traveling companion Harold Pinter, who was thrown out of the country for discussing torture.
In 2002, Morath died, and Miller was awarded Spain’s Asturias Prize for Literature. This same year, he began a relationship with 34-year-old artist Agnes Barley, who he planned to marry.
At the time of his death, Miller lived on Barley’s farm in Roxbury. Although Miller will contribute no more great works to American theater, his legacy lives on.