ROXBURY, Conn., Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Arthur Miller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of "Death of a Salesman," has died in Roxbury, Conn., of congestive heart failure at 89.
Miller's assistant, Julia Bolus, told the New York Times the playwright died Thursday in the 18th-century farmhouse he bought in 1958 while he was married to actress Marilyn Monroe. Miller had been moved to the house earlier this week from his sister's New York apartment, where he had been receiving hospice care following his discharge several weeks ago from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Family members who were with Miller when he died included his sister, actress Joan Copeland, and his daughter Rebecca, an actress-writer-director who is married to actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Miller's grandchildren were also there, along with his 34-year-old girlfriend, painter Agnes Barley.
Although Miller gained international fame as one of America's great writers, he became even more famous following his 1956 marriage to Hollywood sex goddess Marilyn Monroe. The marriage was short-lived, but the experience is generally thought to have been the inspiration for his drama "After the Fall" and his final work, "Finishing the Picture."
In the ageless debate about whether the true purpose of the theater is to confront life's conflicts or to provide audiences with amusing diversion, Miller chose confrontation. The Great Depression destroyed the Miller family's comfortable upper middle-class existence and contributed to his 1949 masterpiece, "Death of a Salesman" -- a fierce challenge to complacency and the growing power of commercialism at the expense of personal integrity.
In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, the play also won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and the Tony Award.
Miller's "The Crucible" -- an account of the Salem, Mass., witch trials -- was widely regarded as a rebuke of the U.S. government's crackdown on Communists.
According to the Times, the House Committee on Un-American Activities had called Miller as a witness in its investigations and demanded that he provide the names of those present at a 1947 meeting of Communist writers.
"My conscience will not permit me to use the name of another person," Miller told the committee. "I will tell you anything about myself, but I cannot take responsibility for another human being."
Miller said at the time that he was a "somewhat confused radical," but not a member of the Communist Party.
"The ultimate terror of our lives should be faced," he said, "namely our own sadism, our own ability to obey orders from above, our own fear of standing firm on humane principle against the obscene power of the mass organization."
Although Miller's later plays never achieved the kind of success he enjoyed during the 1940s and '50s, he continued to write essays, short stories and a 1987 autobiography, "Timebends: A Life." The Times noted that Miller remained politically engaged throughout, and was an outspoken critic of the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Arthur Ashur Miller was born in New York City on Oct. 17, 1915, the son of a manufacturer of ladies' coats. After the stock-market crash of 1929 wiped out the family's prosperity, the Millers moved to Brooklyn -- where Miller worked as a delivery boy for a bakery, learned carpentry and was exposed to some uncles who happened to be traveling salesmen.
Miller worked his way through college, graduating from the University of Michigan in six years. The Depression, he said, was "the ground upon which I learned to stand."
Miller won the Theatre Guild award in 1936 with one of his first plays, "The Grass Still Grows." He wrote radio scripts and toured Army camps in World War II, gathering material for the filming of war correspondent Ernie Pyle's "Story of G.I. Joe" and his own "Situation Normal."
His first big success was "All My Sons," the story of a war profiteer who made defective parts for combat planes and the effect his moral crimes had on his family. It won the Drama Critics prize in 1947.
Prior to writing "The Crucible" -- which won a Tony Award in 1953 -- Miller took on the subject of personal integrity vs. misplaced conventional wisdom with his English-language adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People" in 1950.
Miller startled the world in 1956 when he married Monroe. The two had met through mutual friends at the Actor's Studio in New York in 1955 and were married secretly at a courthouse ceremony in White Plains, N.Y.
He had been married to Mary Grace Slattery, his college sweetheart, for 17 years until 1955. They had a son and a daughter.
The pairing of Miller and Monroe caused many social critics to scratch their heads at the prospect of a leading intellectual finding happiness with an actress who the public largely saw as anything but his intellectual match. Miller defended Monroe.
"She is a very good actress and she is going to get better all the time," he said, "and I am in favor of good actresses being in the movies or on the stage."
Monroe had previously been married to baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. A year after Miller and Monroe divorced in 1961, Monroe died from a drug overdose.
Although most critics inferred that "After The Fall" was based on his marriage to Monroe, Miller denied it.
Miller's last play -- 2004's "Finishing the Picture" -- was based on the making of the movie "The Misfits," Miller's first Hollywood screenplay, which he wrote for Monroe. The 1961 production turned out to be screen legend Clark Gable's last picture -- he died of a heart attack after the movie was finished -- and it also brought Miller together with his next wife, Austrian born freelance photographer Ingeborg Morath, who died in 2002.
Their daughter, Rebecca Miller, is a filmmaker whose credits as writer and director include "The Ballad of Jack and Rose" and "Personal Velocity: Three Portraits." She has also adapted David Auburn's play "Proof" for a movie that is currently in post-production.
Daily Variety reported that Broadway's marquee lights would dim at 8 p.m. Friday night in observance of Miller's death.
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