Arthur Miller was born on 17th October 1915 in Harlem.
He was the son of Polish immigrants and his parents enjoyed good prosperity
up until the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
Financial hardship forced the Miller family to move to Brooklyn in 1929. He was not a good student and in fact he failed to graduate from High School, and his initial working career involved a mixture of labouring jobs either in the country or on the New York Waterfront. Miller learned much about life at the sharp end, and this was to stand him in good stead when he commenced his literary career. In fact, his work ‘A View from the Bridge’ dealt with life on the waterfront.
His work in the countryside gave him the inspiration for the movie, ‘The
Misfits’ which starred his late wife Marilyn Monroe. It was whilst he was earning a meagre wage from menial work that he started to read extensively, and he decided that a literary career should be the goal to
aim for. He was able to convince the University of Michigan to take him on as a student although he had never graduated from High School.
He supported himself at University by working on a Newspaper and entering
He graduated in 1938 and returned to New York. He soon became involved in writing scripts for radio and the theatre. Much of his work has the common thread of dealing with the problems faced by the man in the street.
His first major success was the play, ‘All My Sons’ published in 1947.
This was followed by ‘Death of a Salesman’ published in 1949 and which won the Pulitzer Prize.
Many misinterpreted Miller’s views regarding the common man as being
sympathetic with communism, and he was subsequently investigated in 1947 by the House Un-American Activities Committee, but was completed cleared by the Committee.
‘The Crucible’ was published in 1953 and there is no doubt that Miller is
making a direct comparison in this book of the Salem Witch Trials with the McCarthy Hunt for Communists.
However, it is to do the work injustice by viewing it as merely a swipe against the McCarthy era, and there is a far deeper message in this work concerning human nature and mass hysteria.
Miller was married to Marilyn Monroe in 1955 and he wrote the screenplay of
‘The Misfits’ for her in 1961. ‘After the fall’ was published in 1964, and is a fictionalised account of his relationship with Marilyn.
Also in 1964, he wrote ‘Incident at Vichy’. Other works include ‘Fame’
1970, ‘The American Clock’ 1980, ‘Elegy for a Lady’ 1982, and in the same year ‘Some Kind of Love Story’.
Miller wrote the screenplay for the movie version of ‘The Crucible’, which
was released in 1996.
In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Miller has received numerous awards over
the years, including The Gold Medal for Drama, by the National Institutes of Arts and Letters. In 1965 he was elected President of Poets, Essayists and Novelists.