Arthur Miller

On this date in 1915, essayist and playwright Arthur Asher Miller was born into a Polish-Jewish family in Harlem, New York. As a child growing up in New York City, Miller delivered bread in the mornings before school to help his family, which had lost nearly everything in the financial crash of 1929. His career as a playwright began at the University of Michigan, where he won the Avery Hopwood Award for the play “No Villain” (1936), which he wrote as a sophomore. He won a second Hopwood for the play “Honors at Dawn” (1936).

Miller earned his first Tony Award (for best author) and Broadway hit with “All My Sons” (1947). A year later, after building his own studio in Roxbury, Conn., he completed “Death of a Salesman” (1949). It was an instant commercial and critical hit, and Miller was awarded his second Tony, a New York Drama Circle Critics’ Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A prolific playwright and screen writer, he wrote his first play in 1936 and his last in 2004.

His 1953 play “The Crucible” compared the national hysteria surrounding Communist Party membership to the Salem witch trials, which led to him being called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Miller refused to “name names” and was convicted of contempt of Congress, which was overturned on appeal.

Miller was married to Mary Slattery from 1940 to 1956, when he married the film star Marilyn Monroe. They divorced in 1961, 19 months before she died. He had written the screenplay for “The Misfits,” the last movie she completed. He married photographer Inge Morath in 1962. Miller had four children, including a son born in 1966 with Down syndrome. He had Daniel institutionalized against his mother’s wishes and refused to visit him. The couple kept their son’s birth a secret, finally revealed in 2007 by Vanity Fair. As of this writing in 2019, Daniel is doing well and living with a foster family in Connecticut. The 2018 play “The Fall” by Bernard Weintraub explored the situation.

Miller was an outspoken atheist for much of his life. In 2004, a year before his death at age 89, he participated in a BBC documentary titled “The Atheism Tapes.” Miller talked with Sir Jonathan Miller, an English neurologist and theater director, about his atheism and Jewish background. D. 2005.

Freedom From Religion Foundation