Miller, Arthur (17 October 1915 - 10 February 2005)
Miller, who was married to Marilyn Monroe after her 9-month marriage to baseball player Joe DiMaggio, was a major American playwright. For many, he was as well known for being Monroe’s husband as for having invented the character of Willy Loman, the “ordinary” person in Death of a Salesman (1949) who is destroyed by hollow materialistic values.
Miller’s work, which deals with moral and political issues, includes All My Sons (1947), and A View from the Bridge (1955), the latter of which gained the censors’ wrath because one of the male characters “contemptuously” kisses another man. The Crucible (1953), which was a powerful depiction of religious paranoia and its resulting mayhem, was made into a 1997 movie. Its director, Nicholas Hytner, said
- The sad truth about this story is that it will always be topical. It speaks directly about the bigotry of religious fundamentalists across the globe, about communities torn apart by accusations of child abuse, about the rigid intellectual orthodoxies of college campuses. There is no shortage of contemporary Salems ready to cry witchcraft.
After the Fall (1964) is a thinly disguised story of his marriage to Monroe (whom he married in Connecticut in a ceremony presided over by a Unitarian minister - the marriage lasted for 4 years and 7 months). The work appears to say that we are all, indeed, fumbling around in a godless world, so what responsibility do we have to others!
Thoughts About Humanism
In 1989, the son of Polish-Jewish immigrants wrote to Warren Allen Smith,
- Humanism? I don’t know, I guess it has to be the opposite of inhumanism, and we all know what that is.
In 1992, still unwilling to be labeled, he wrote Smith concerning which kind of humanist he might be:
- Depends on the day. I’d call myself a secular humanist, excepting when the mystery of life is overwhelming and some semi-insane directing force seems undeniable.
When the Sydney Theatre Company produced his Broken Glass, Miller was quoted in 1995:
- I have no formal religion but there’s a space in my head for it. Maybe I would believe in God if he believed in me. But we’re living in a reality that’s so hard to understand. In the last seventy-five years the human race has been humiliated in a way we’ve never known before.
Once asked if he would attend Monroe's funeral, he responded, "Why should I go? She won't be there." He also once said, "Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets."
The Last Years
At the age of 89, Miller died of cancer, pneumonia, and a heart condition in his 300-acre Roxbury, Connecticut, estate. Whereas his Death of a Salesman character Willy Loman had committed suicide and no one but his family and Charley went to his funeral, with Miller at the end were members of his family. On that same date 56 years prior, Death of a Salesman had opened at the Morosco Theatre in New York City.
Daniel, Miller's Son
"No photograph of him has ever been published, but those who know Daniel Miller say that he resembles his father," wrote Suzanna Andrews Vanity Fair, September 2007).
Andrews relates the story of Inge Morath's having given birth to Daniel, Miller's fourth child, a boy born with Down syndrome. Broadway producer Robert Whitehead, whom Miller called on the day of the birth, said the playwright was "overjoyed" and might name the baby Eugene, possibly after Eugene O'Neill. The following day, however, he called to tell him the baby "isn't right." "Arthur was terribly shaken - he used the term 'mongoloid,' " Whitehead recalled, adding that Miller said, "I'm going to have to put the baby away."
Within days, the child was placed in a home for infants in New York City. Inge tried to bring him home when he was two or three, but Arthur would not have it. When four, Daniel was placed at the 1600-acre Southbury Training School, a Connecticut institution for the mentally retarded. Although Inge visited regularly on Sundays, Arthur chose from the beginning to have nothing to do with his disabled son. One friend, Andrews reported, thought Miller was afraid - "ashamed" is the word another used - of the genetic problems in his family. Miller also may have feared losing Inge's attention to a needy child. The condition could have interfered with his work. On rare occasions he visited Daniel at Southbury but never acknowledged him as a son, painting his child out of his life. Miller's younger sister, Joan Copeland, said, "Arthur was detached, that's how he protected himself. . . . It was as though he thought if he didn't speak about it, it would go away.
Miller's will bequeathed whatever was left after taxes and special bequests to his four children, "a dramatic gesture, and one that almost no attorney would have encouraged," Andrews explained - to receive state and federal funding, people with incapacitating disabilities must maintain assets at or below the poverty level.
Upon Miller's death, the State of Connecticut's Department of Administrative Services "issued one reimbursement claim to Danny Miller," according to the estate's lawyer, for a "portion of his care when he was a minor." In 2007, the claim was in the process of being settled. Miller's 39-year effort to keep his son's existence a secret was no longer a secret.
Asked his views about humanism, Miller responded in 1989 and again in 1992.