Arthur Miller - Biography, Origin, Studies, Family, Work & Death

Arthur Miller (1915 – 2005) was a multifaceted American novelist and playwright. His political commitment was also reflected in his socially critical works. 

Throughout his life, he questioned the negative sides of the "American way of life". Miller has received numerous awards and honors, including the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for the drama Death of a Salesman. Since its premiere in 1949, the play has experienced an unprecedented performance history and is still on the schedules of theaters around the world.

Arthur Miller

Birth and Origin

Arthur Miller was born in New York on October 17, 1915, as the son of Austrian immigrants. His father was a wealthy Jewish textile manufacturer. The Great Depression and the Great Depression of the late 1920s drove the family into bankruptcy. She had to move to Brooklyn, which was poorer at the time.

Graduated from Ann Arbor University of Michigan

After graduating from high school in 1933, Miller studied journalism at the Ann Arbor University of Michigan 1934. In 1936 his first play Honors at Dawn was performed. In the same year, he won the Avery Hopwood Award in Drama for his drama »No Villain« and then switched to majoring in English. After completing his studies in 1938, Miller went back to New York. He was able to finance part of his livelihood with his literary work. He also took on various jobs.

Wives and children

In 1940 Miller married Mary Grace Slattery, with whom he had two children. The marriage was divorced in 1956. In the same year, Miller married the well-known actress Marilyn Monroe, for whom he wrote, among other things, the screenplay for »Misfits« (Eng. »Unsociable«). While shooting the film in 1960, Miller met the Austrian photographer Inge Morath, whom he married after divorcing Marilyn Monroe in 1962. This third marriage lasted until Inge Morath died in 2002. Two children were born of her.

Great stage successes

The drama »All My Sons« (Eng. »All My Sons«, 1948) was already a great success in 1947 and received the »New York Drama Critics' Circle Award«. In 1949 Miller received the coveted Pulitzer Prize in the drama category for his well-known work »Death of a Salesman« (1950). The piece has autobiographical traits. At the time of its creation, Miller, like his protagonists, was affected by economic insecurity and even existential hardship.

In 1953, Miller dealt with a witch hunt in the state of Massachusetts in 1692 in the historical drama The Crucible (1954). The play sheds light on the subject of mass madness. It is closely related to the propaganda against communists in the USA in the 1950s, which also affected Miller personally. The Republican McCarthy was particularly responsible politically, which is why this time is also known as the “McCarthy era”.

Political commitment

Miller's political involvement began with anti-fascist and communist activities in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1968 he was elected a delegate at the Democratic Convention. In 1972 he campaigned in particular against the oppression of artists. Miller first traveled to China in 1978. In collaboration with Chinese theater companies, »Death of a Salesman« was staged in Beijing in 1983. In 1986, Miller met CPSU General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow.

Appreciation of the entire work

Arthur Miller was at home in almost all literary genres and left behind a diverse body of work. In addition to his well-known plays, he wrote reports, radio plays, and screenplays. He wrote travelogues, radio features, short stories, and essays. On the occasion of his 80th birthday, he was honored with a ceremony in London in 1995.

In 2002 he received the renowned Spanish »Prince of Asturias Prize« in Oviedo in the literature category. Only two non-Spanish authors had previously received this award (Günter Grass 1999 and Doris Lessing 2001). In 2003 he was awarded the »Jerusalem Prize for Freedom of the Individual in Society« in Jerusalem.

Death after a serious illness

Arthur Miller was 89 years old. He died of cancer on February 10, 2005, in Roxbury/Connecticut, USA.

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