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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Playwright Arthur Miller Dies

Arthur Miller, whose 1949 drama "Death of a Salesman" secured his place among the United States' greatest playwrights, died Thursday at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, of congestive heart failure. He was 89 and had been in declining health, struggling with cancer, pneumonia and a heart condition.

His long career began as a college student in the 1930s, and the latest of his 17 plays, "Finishing the Picture," premiered in Chicago only last fall. He had been working recently on editing his diaries and writing short stories.

Miller wrote "Death of a Salesman" when he was 33, winning the 1949 Pulitzer Prize, the Tony Award and the Drama Critics Circle Award.

It made his reputation, although his writing career was overshadowed by political and personal events during the next decade. In 1956, he was cited for contempt by the House Un-American Activities Committee for refusing to name associates suspected of being Communists. That same year, the tall, pipe-smoking intellectual married the voluptuous movie actress Marilyn Monroe.

Miller was born in Manhattan on Oct. 17, 1915, the son of Isidore Miller, a wealthy clothing manufacturer, and Augusta Barnett Miller, a former schoolteacher. Although Miller, his older brother, Kermit, and younger sister, the noted actress Joan Copeland, who survives him, were raised Jewish, he was not a practicing Jew in later life, although he said he "did absorb a certain viewpoint" that informed much of his work.

During the Depression, in greatly reduced circumstances, the family moved to Brooklyn and Miller went to work in an auto-parts warehouse he depicted in his 1955 one-act, "A Memory of Two Mondays." He read little of significance until, at 17, he came upon Dostoevsky's "Brothers Karamazov," which kindled his literary ambitions.

Having saved money for tuition, he entered the University of Michigan, where he began writing plays, as well as novels and short stories. Returning to New York in 1938, Miller worked as a writer for the Federal Theater Project and, when it folded, as an author of radio dramas. To support himself, he drove a truck and was a steamfitter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

By the early 1940s, he had married his college sweetheart, Mary Grace Slattery, and written several plays. "The Man Who Had All the Luck" was produced on Broadway in 1944 but ran for only four performances. That dismal reception, Miller admitted during the play's successful 2002 revival, nearly prompted his exit from the theater.

Considered Miller's masterpiece, "Death of a Salesman" was made into a 1951 film, translated into 29 languages and performed all over the world. It has been periodically revived on Broadway, its heart-breaking message of lost dreams considered as essential today as when it was written.