ARTHUR MILLER, 89 Playwright stood for ideals, found fame with Marilyn
His writing won him the Pulitzer Prize.
ROXBURY, Conn. (AP) -- Arthur Miller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright whose most famous fictional creation, Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman," came to symbolize the American Dream gone awry, has died. He was 89.
Miller, who had been hailed as America's greatest living playwright, died Thursday night at his home in Roxbury of congestive heart failure, his assistant, Julia Bolus, said Friday. She declined to give details on his illness. His family was at his bedside when he died, she said.
His plays, with their strong emphasis on family, morality and personal responsibility, spoke to the growing fragmentation of American society.
"A lot of my work goes to the center of where we belong -- if there is any root to life -- because nowadays the family is broken up, and people don't live in the same place for very long," Miller said in a 1988 interview.
"Dislocation, maybe, is part of our uneasiness. It implants the feeling that nothing is really permanent."
Playwright Edward Albee said Miller had paid him a compliment, saying "that my plays were 'necessary.' I will go one step further and say that Arthur's plays are 'essential."'
Miller's career was marked by early success. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for "Death of a Salesman" in 1949, when he was just 33 years old.
His marriage to Marilyn Monroe in 1956 further catapulted the playwright to fame, though that was publicity he said he never pursued.
In a 1992 interview with a French newspaper, he called her "highly self-destructive" and said that during their marriage, "all my energy and attention were devoted to trying to help her solve her problems. Unfortunately, I didn't have much success."
"Death of a Salesman," which took Miller only six weeks to write, earned rave reviews when it opened on Broadway in February 1949, directed by Elia Kazan.
The story of Willy Loman, a man destroyed by his own stubborn belief in the glory of American capitalism and the redemptive power of success, was made into a movie and staged all over the world.
"I couldn't have predicted that a work like 'Death of a Salesman' would take on the proportions it has," Miller said in 1988. "Originally, it was a literal play about a literal salesman, but it has become a bit of a myth, not only here but in many other parts of the world."
In 1999, 50 years after it won the Tony Award as best play, "Death of a Salesman" won the Tony for best revival of the Broadway season. The show also won the top acting prize for Brian Dennehy, who played Loman.
Miller, then 83, received a lifetime achievement award.
"Just being around to receive it is a pleasure," he joked to the audience during the awards ceremony.
Miller won the New York Drama Critics' Circle's best play award twice in the 1940s, for "All My Sons" in 1947 and for "Death of a Salesman." In 1953, he received a Tony Award for "The Crucible," a play about mass hysteria during the Salem witch trials that was inspired by the repressive political environment of McCarthyism.
That play, still read by thousands of American high-school students each year, is Miller's most frequently performed work.
Miller and Monroe divorced after five years and in 1962 he married his third wife, photographer Inge Morath. That same year, Monroe committed suicide. Miller wrote the screenplay for the Monroe film "The Misfits," which came out in 1960, and reflected on their relationship in his 1963 play "After the Fall."
Reminiscing about Monroe in his 1987 autobiography, "Timebends: A Life," Miller lamented that she was rarely taken seriously as anything but a sex symbol.
"To have survived, she would have had to be either more cynical or even further from reality than she was," he wrote. "Instead, she was a poet on a street corner trying to recite to a crowd pulling at her clothes."
Miller had two children, Jane Ellen and Robert, by his first wife, Mary Slattery, and he and Morath, who died in 2002, had one daughter, Rebecca.