Monday, April 15, 2013

A to z Challenge - M is for Miller

Not Maryann Miller, although I have written several plays that have been produced in local community theatres, but Arthur Miller, who is considered one of the greatest dramatists of the twentieth century. His career spanned over seven decades and he wrote plays, screenplays and books.


Miller, who was born in 1915, studied at the University of Michigan, where he majored in journalism. There he worked as a reporter and night editor for the student paper, the Michigan Daily, and it was then that he wrote his first play, No Villain. When the play gained some recognition, he decided that he would pursue a career as a playwright. He went on to write such notable plays as  All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953) and A View from the Bridge. Death of a Salesman was his most critically acclaimed work, winning a Tony Award for Best Author, the New York Drama Circle Critic's Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It was the first play to win all three of these major awards.

During the 1950s and early 60s, Miller was often in the news for his appearances before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), as well as his marriage to Marilyn Monroe.  He divorced his first wife in 1956 and married Monroe. It was also in 1956 that Miller was called before the HUAC. Miller requested that the committee not force him to name names, and the chairman agreed, only to renege when Miller appeared, accompanied by Monroe. The committee demanded that Miller give the names of colleagues who had participated in activities connected to communism, but he declined, so he was fined and blacklisted.

Earlier, in 1952 a colleague, Elia Kazan, did name names when he testified before the HUAC. Like so many in Hollywood at the time, he flirted with the communist concepts, but then turned away from them. When the committee called him to appear, he was afraid to risk his career in Hollywood, so he told the committee about a number of his colleagues who had connections to communist groups, including Lillian Hellman.

Miller and Kazan had become friends when Kazan directed Death of a Salesman, so Miller was aware of the HUAC activities and talked with Kazan at great length about the testimony. Miller was so incensed over what the HUAC was doing, he likened it to the Salem Witch Trials, and the whole experience led to him writing The Crucible. The play was only moderately successful at the time, but today it is Miller's most frequently produced work throughout the world.


By the way, we are not related, although I would love to say my talent has a direct connection to his, but since I am a Miller by marriage, its doubtful I could make that claim. When it comes to the letter "v" in the Challenge, I'll have to see if there were any talented writers named Van Gilder. (smile)

What famous person do you wish you had a connection to?

5 comments:

Melissa Sugar said...

What a fascinating topic for your blog post. Arthur Miller is a legendary play-write icon. Death of A Salesman was my favorite. Can you imagine, adding, married to Marilyn Monroe to your list of life-long adventures? I studied Miller, in one of my Jewish studies classes, many, many years ago, I enjoyed your blog post.

Hi, I am your newest follower from the A to Z challenge. I am number 528 on the list.

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks for stopping by, Melissa. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I believe Miller won an award from a Jewish organization for his play, Death of a Salesman, in addition to all the other awards the show won. He was indeed an incredible talent.

Tigermouse said...

A very interesting post about Arthur Miller. The Crucible was the first play I was involved with in drama group at high school in th late 1960s.

LD Masterson said...

While I respect Miller, I can't say his plays are my favorites. Too heavy and dark for me to enjoy.

Maryann Miller said...

You're right, LD, the plays are dark.mI have seen The Crucible done in high schools for UIL competition, and that was my first introduction to his work. It is dark, but I do like the message.