Paywright, Arthur Miller, circa 1966. (Wikipedia)

Arthur Miller is considered to be one of the pre-eminent American playwrights. His play Death of a Salesman earned him a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and is arguable the most read American-written play. Miller focused on themes of the average Joe and the American Dream.

He once said that there was as much tragedy to be written about in the common person as there was for the kings of Shakespeare’s day. His first production of Death of a Salesman was directed by his good friend Eli Kazan. Both were eventually called in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Their friendship was strained when Miller refused to testify and name names while Kazan took an opposite tack. Each of their divergent views were artistically expressed in their works: Kazan’s On the Waterfront dealt with the choice between doing what is right or keeping an oath to wrongdoers, and Miller’s The Crucible shows characters choosing honor in the face of corruption in the Salem Witch Trials.

Both were blacklisted for different reasons and lost friends. Their friendship was eventually mended, with Kazan directing Miller’s play After the Fall about his failed marriage to his second wife, Marilyn Monroe. Miller died of heart failure on February 10, 2005, on the 56th anniversary of Death of a Salesman‘s opening on Broadway.

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