Arthur Miller was inspired to become a writer shortly after graduating high school when he read The Brothers Karamazov. Although he originally picked it up because he thought it was a detective story, Miller became fascinated by Dostoevsky's novel, and it aroused in him a love of serious literature. He would later refer to it as "the great book of wonder".
Arthur Miller's first Broadway production was The Man Who Had All the Luck which opened at the Forrest Theatre on November 23, 1944 to horrible reviews and closed after only 4 performances. The play would then go unproduced for more than fifty years until director Dan Fields finally staged a revival in 2000.
In 1949, Arthur Miller won a Pulitzer Prize for Death of a Salesman, his play about the tragic demise of Willy Loman, an aging salesman. The play would win many other awards as well. In fact, Death of a Salesman became the first play to win the "triple crown": the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The Broadway production, masterfully directed by Eliz Kazan and featuring Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman, enjoyed a run of 742 performances.
On July 1, 1956, Arthur Miller married Marilyn Monroe. But the marriage of the Hollywood sex symbol and the intellectual playwright was a turbulent one. The only work of note Miller finished during this period was the screenplay for The Misfits which he had written as a vehicle for Monroe. About a month before the film's 1961 release, however, the couple divorced, and Monroe died of a drug overdose the following year. Although the marriage was a brief one, it left a deep impression on the playwright, and two of his plays (After the Fall and Finishing the Play) presumably depict his relationship with Monroe.
Dustin Hoffman played Willy Loman in the 1985 TV version of Death of a Salesman which also featured Kate Reid as Linda, John Malkovich as Biff, and Stephen Lang as Happy. The film earned 10 Emmy nominations and won 3, including "Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special" (Dustin Hoffman) and "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Special" (John Malkovich).
Arthur Miller's daughter Rebecca (also a playwright and director) married actor Daniel Day-Lewis on November 13, 1996. The couple met during pre-production of The Crucible, a film adaptation of Arthur Miller's play about the Salem witch trials. Daniel Day-Lewis plays John Proctor, a man whose wife is accused of witchery by a young woman who is infatuated with him.
Arthur Miller's last play, Finishing the Picture, which premiered at Chicago's Goodman Theatre on September 21, 2004, deals with a big-budget Hollywood movie jeopardized by an emotionally disturbed actress. The play is thought to depict the problematic production of The Misfits (1961), a film Miller wrote for his wife Marilyn Monroe even as their marriage was collapsing. Miller previously explored his relationship with Monroe in the play After the Fall (1964).
On February 10, 2005, American playwright Arthur Miller died of congestive heart failure at his home in Roxbury Connecticut. He was 89 years old. The following night, Theaters on Broadway dimmed their marquee lights for a one minute tribute to the man many critics consider the finest American dramatist of the 20th century.