February 11, 2005

Playwright Arthur Miller Dies at 89

NEW YORK - Arthur Miller, a giant of the American theater whose works included "Death of a Salesman," died at his home on Thursday night at the age of 89, his assistant said on Friday.

Miller's personal life, including a brief, stormy marriage to sex symbol Marilyn Monroe, often captivated America and his left-wing political views made him a target of the House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s.

"Mr. Miller passed away at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, last night at 9:17 p.m. of congenital heart failure," said Julia Bolus, the playwright's assistant. He was surrounded by family and friends when he died.

"Death of a Salesman" is considered a classic of 20th century drama and is studied in schools around the world. His major works also included "The Crucible," "A view from the Bridge" and "All my Sons."

"He was a big man and a deeply American man who was lucky enough to have extraordinary women in his life," said Zoe Caldwell, one of the great Broadway actresses who played in Miller's "The Creation of the World and Other Business."

"He was busy working on plays right until he got sick," the Australian-born actress told Reuters. "He had such a great life that you don't feel sad for Arthur."

Miller emerged out of the depression in the 1930s to write social dramas with the power of Greek tragedy. His private life was equally dramatic, notably his doomed marriage to Monroe.

"I always felt it was a deep tragedy that he never won the Nobel Prize," said Robert Weil, executive editor of publisher W.W. Norton, who was a fan of Miller's work. "His plays were so universal and affected a world generation."

The New York Post had reported earlier that Miller was battling cancer, pneumonia and a heart condition and that his family and friends, including his 34-year-old girlfriend, painter Agnes Barley, had gathered at the bedside.

Miller had been released from hospital some weeks ago and had been transferred by ambulance this week to his 18th century farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut, which he bought in 1958 while he was married to Monroe, Bolus said.

"That's where he wanted to go," his sister Joan Copeland was quoted as saying in the New York Post on Friday.

In a 1987 autobiography, "Timebends," completed when he was 72, Miller wrote vividly and painfully of his 1956 to 1960 marriage to Monroe, describing her as a woman haunted by ghosts of an unhappy childhood that eventually destroyed her.

He described himself as a hapless onlooker, unable to save her or in the end endure her rages against him. She was, he said, the saddest woman he had ever met and his account of their troubled four-year marriage was as powerful as any drama he ever penned.

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