Arthur Miller Biography

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Arthur Miller was a famous American playwright, born on October 17, 1915 in Manhattan. He was the son of Isadore and Agusta Miller. His play The Death of a Salesman premiered on Broadway in 1949 and brought him widespread recognition. In fact, he is considered one of the top three dramatists of the 20th century in the United States. Despite struggling academically, Miller excelled in sports during his early years. These formative experiences played a crucial role in shaping him into the imaginative playwright that America admires today. Without them, Miller would not have been able to create his remarkable works.

During his career as a playwright, Arthur Miller demonstrated extreme talent on two of his greatest pieces, The Crucible and the Death of a Salesman. In addition to these works, Miller wrote other powerful plays such as A View from the Bridge, A Memory of Two Mondays, After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, and The Price. He is also known for his film The Misfits and the dramatic special Playing for Time. It is worth noting that Death of a Salesman was not Miller’s first success on Broadway; he had previously achieved acclaim with Honors at Dawn (1936) and No Villain (1937), both of which won the University of Michigan Hopwood Awards. The Pulitzer prize awarded to Death of a Salesman in 1949 further solidified Miller’s exceptional talent.

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Written during the McCarthy era in 1953, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible reflects a time when Americans were accusing each other of being Pro-Communist. This period also saw Miller’s friends being targeted as Communists. In 1956, Miller personally faced the House of Un-American Activities Committee and was found guilty of holding Communist beliefs. Fortunately, in 1957, an appeals court overturned this decision.

Miller’s play The Crucible is set in the late 17th century during the Salem witch trials, where a witch-hunt consumes the town due to false accusations by several girls. This leads to numerous executions for witchcraft and Miller uses this situation to explore the theme of truth and righteousness, highlighting its absurdity.

Before The Crucible, Miller achieved recognition and acclaim with his play All My Sons at the Coronet Theater. It received both the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the Donaldson Award, opening doors for him as a playwright and granting him creative freedom that was greatly appreciated. Taking a risk with his controversial play Death of a Salesman further increased his fame, earning him both the Pulitzer Prize and another New York Drama Critics Circle Award. This success elevated Miller’s status among great American playwrights, leading to comparisons being drawn between him and Ibsen as well as Greek tragedians.

Miller began his career after graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. He worked as a stock clerk in an automobile parts warehouse for two and a half years, saving enough money to pay for his first year at the University of Michigan. With financial aid from the National Youth Administration and income earned as a night editor for the Michigan Daily newspaper, he successfully completed college. During this time, Miller gained recognition for several plays he wrote, showcasing his talent. In 1936, he was awarded an Avery Hopwood Award worth $500, and in 1938, his play The Grass Still Grows won him a Theater Guild National Award valued at $1,200.

After returning to New York in 1938, Miller joined the Federal Theater Project. However, the project ended before his first play was produced. He then worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he wrote radio scripts for the Columbia Workshop and the Calvacade of America. Additionally, he wrote two novels about anti-Semitism, Situation Normal (1944) and Focus (1945), during this time period. Despite setbacks, Miller persevered in his playwriting ambitions. In November 1944, his play The Man Who Had All the Luck premiered on Broadway but was not as successful as he had hoped. This disappointment discouraged Miller, prompting him to write one final play. He decided that if this play did not succeed, he would give up.

In 1947, Arthur Miller wrote his first successful play called All My Sons. This play helped establish him as a significant American playwright. Shortly after, in 1953, Miller wrote The Crucible which became a hit on Broadway and even won a Tony Award. This gripping play retold the story of the witch trials and hangings in Salem, Massachusetts in 1962. However, it also reflected the controversial McCarthy era during Miller’s time. In 1964, Miller’s autobiographical play After the Fall stirred up both controversy and praise. His knowledge of the Brooklyn waterfront played a significant role in shaping his characters in A View from the Bridge, which was written in 1955. Later on, Miller drew more inspiration from his native city when he wrote The Price, a play about a New York policeman, in 1968. Some of Miller’s later works include The Creation of the Word and Other Business (1972) and The American Clock (1980).

In 1980, Miller was recognized with four Emmy Awards for the television premiere of Playing for Time. This true-life dramatic special portrays the narrative of an all-woman orchestra in a Nazi concentration camp. The production received an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Special, with Miller being acknowledged for Outstanding Writing. Additionally, Vanessa Redgrave achieved recognition as Outstanding Actress and Jane Alexander as Outstanding Supporting Actress.

Miller is a versatile writer, with novels and two books of reportage – In Russia and Chinese Encounters. These books feature photographs by his wife, Inge Morath. Miller’s Salesman in Beijing draws from his time in China while directing Death of a Salesman. His autobiography Timebends: A Life, published in 1987, delves into his childhood in Brooklyn, the political upheaval of the 1950s, and later years. Furthermore, Miller continues to be prolific as a playwright and was honored with the 1995 Oliver award for Broken Glass.

Arthur Miller was disorganized and more focused on sports than academics in his youth. He played football, baseball, skated, swam, dated, failed algebra three times, read adventure stories, and “just plain fooled around.” It wasn’t until he turned seventeen that he began reading Tom Swift and The Rover Boys and exploring the works of Dickens. Despite this, he managed to go through the public school system without any issues. His family remembered him as a child skilled with tools and even built their back porch and planted roses in the backyard. In summary, Arthur Miller had a physically active childhood which some suggest influenced the foundation of his remarkable plays. His experiences and loving upbringing with caring parents paved the way for his writings and prepared him to bravely speak out against tyranny. He utilized his talent to fight against societal wrongs.

Arthur Miller, widely recognized as one of America’s most esteemed playwrights, possessed a distinctive writing approach that effectively engaged readers with more than just action or romance. His ability to employ straightforward reasoning fascinated readers, as demonstrated by his skillful connection between his play, The Crucible, and contemporary social concerns. Such an element alone can be immensely captivating in a theatrical production, filled with unexpected plot twists and turns leading up to a surprising revelation in the ultimate act. Miller comprehended his specific audience and tailored his writing accordingly to maximize its appeal.

Arthur Miller consistently posed a fundamental question and sought a response, addressing his dramas to a wide audience. Although he initially conveyed his inquiry discreetly, his initial thirty plays were primarily for the purpose of entertainment, specifically intended for college, radio, and amateur performances. Surprisingly, nearly twelve of his full-length plays never made it to the stage. Miller’s characters not only reflect his personal beliefs but also portray elements of his own history. He endeavors to derive inspiration for his characters from real events of the past, with the exception of Focus. In fact, all of Miller’s plays indirectly reference actual individuals or locations.

Arthur Miller believed that it was best for the reader to have limited knowledge about the author, as too much information might generate a sense of knowing something forbidden and start contaminating the reader’s mind. Paradoxically, Miller’s notion is quite accurate because he frequently incorporates personal experiences into his plays, making it important to be aware of certain objective facts about his life. Although sometimes his plays possess mixed themes, they can provoke a positive impact, as seen in The Crucible, where truth and righteousness triumph over tyranny in both the town and the era. Nevertheless, there are instances where his plays render the audience feeling helpless, like in Death of a Salesman, leaving readers with a pessimistic sense of insignificance. Being able to not only provide information and develop a storyline, but also to manipulate the emotions of readers is an exceptional talent. Undoubtedly, this was a talent that Miller truly possessed during his lifetime.

To much stuff – USF library and UT library

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