Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Literary: A Playwright’s Life, With Marilyn
Published in The New York Times: June 2, 2009
Arthur Miller was 35 and at the top of his career when, in 1951, he first set eyes on Marilyn Monroe. He was the author of “All My Sons” and “Death of a Salesman,” the first play to win all three major drama prizes (the Pulitzer Prize, the Tony Award and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award). He would soon begin work on “The Crucible.” She was 24 and, with minor film roles behind her, virtually unknown.
Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe as a newly married couple in July 1956.
By Christopher Bigsby
Illustrated. 739 pages. Harvard University Press. $35.
When Monroe arrived, she was “almost ludicrously provocative,” he wrote, squeezed into a dress that was “blatantly tight, declaring rather than insinuating that she had brought her body along and that it was the best one in the room.” The director Elia Kazan caught “the lovely light of lechery” in Miller’s eyes.
Miller and Monroe would not meet properly until a short time later, on the lot at 20th Century Fox. Each was jolted awake by the other. For Monroe, meeting him “was like running into a tree!” she recalled. “You know, like a cool drink when you’ve got a fever.” But Miller — tall, Lincolnesque, a beacon of now troubled moral probity — returned to his life and family in New York. Monroe would soon marry Joe DiMaggio. She wouldn’t see Miller again for several years, and they would not marry until 1956.