Arthur Miller was born in New York City on October 17, 1915. The son of Augusta and Isidore Miller. His father was a successful coat manufacturer. The stock market crash led to a dramatic change in the family circumstance and they were forced to move from an apartment overlooking Central Park to a more modest place in Brooklyn. Miller attended James Madison High School and graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1932. Miller worked in an automobile-parts warehouse during the Depression after graduating from high school. When he saved enough money he attended the University of Michigan.
In 1940, he married his college sweetheart, Marcy Grace Slattery, and had two children. He worked in the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II to support the family while he wrote plays.
Directed by Elia Kazan, his play, All My Sons, dealt with war and business corruption. It won two Tony Awards and was selected as one of the 10 best plays of 1947. His next play, also directed by Kazan, Death of a Salesman (1947), and featuring Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman, won the Pulitzer Prize, New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, and the Tony (the first play to sweep the awards), and became one of the most famous plays in history.
Miller broke with Elia Kazan over Kazan's decision to give names of former members of the American Communist Party to the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Miller was called before the committee and said he had never joined the Communist Party. When he refused to inform on his colleagues, he was cited for contempt of Congress (the courts dismissed the citation two years later).
Miller’s next play, Crucible (1953), based on the 1692 Salem witch trials was deeply influenced by the blacklisting of his left-wing friends and reflected the era of McCarthyism. The play won the Tony and became his most frequently produced work.
Miller met Marilyn Monroe in 1951 at a Hollywood party and married her (after she converted to Judaism) in 1956. The marriage lasted only four years, and Miller spent almost all his time attending to her needs. As a gift to his wife, he wrote the screenplay for the movie, The Misfits. The picture premiered in 1961, shortly after their divorce. It was Monroe’s last film appearance.
Miller married Inge Morath, an Austrian-born photographer, and they had a daughter who became a filmmaker (Rebecca Miller who is married to actor Daniel Day-Lewis). Miller and Morath collaborated on several books, In Russia (1969), In the Country (1977), Chinese Encounters (1979), and
Salesman in Beijing (1984). Morath died in 2002.
Other plays by Miller include A View from the Bridge (1955), After the Fall (1963), Incident at Vichy (1964), and The Price (1968), which was his last commercial success. In 1980, he wrote Playing for Time (1981), a television movie based on a book by Fania Fenelon. He staunchly opposed calls by critics who thought it was inappropriate to have Vanessa Redgrave, an outspoken critic of Israel, play the lead role of a woman in Auschwitz.
Miller also wrote an impressive autobiography, Timebends: A Life (1987). Miller wrote a total of 17 plays, but his later work never matched the success of his early productions.
Miller died of congestive heart failure at the age of 89 at his home in Roxbury, CT, on February 10, 2005.