June 21

This Day in History

Literary

Jun 21, 1956:

Arthur Miller refuses to name communists

Playwright Arthur Miller defies the House Committee on Un-American Activities and refuses to name suspected communists.

Miller's defiance of McCarthyism won him a conviction for contempt of court, which was later reversed by the Supreme Court. His passport had already been denied when he tried to go to Brussels to attend the premiere of his play The Crucible, about the Salem witch trials.

Miller was born in 1915 to a well-off German-Jewish family with a prosperous clothing store. However, the store went bankrupt after the stock market crash in 1929, and the family moved to Brooklyn. Miller finished high school at 16 and decided to become a writer after reading Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.

Miller worked for two years in an automobile-parts warehouse before he attended the University of Michigan, where he studied journalism and playwriting. His student plays, largely studies of Jewish families, won awards. His first literary success was a novel called Focus (1945), about anti-Semitism. His first hit Broadway play, All My Sons, was produced in 1947. In 1949, Death of a Salesman was produced and won a Pulitzer Prize.

In 1956, Miller divorced his first wife and married glamorous movie star Marilyn Monroe. The couple remained married until 1961, the same year she starred in the movie he wrote for her, The Misfits. In 1962, he married his third wife, photographer Ingeborg Morath, and continued to write hit plays.

Miller died on February 10, 2005 at age 89 of congestive heart failure.

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