Arthur Miller: The Definitive Biography

Though Marilyn Monroe does not sashay in from the wings until two-thirds of the way through the book, her effect is no less explosive. The pair met at a Los Angeles party in 1951 and made an instant and dangerous connection. Returning to New York, Miller ‘felt like a man who had escaped the fire’. Elia Kazan recalls receiving letters that were ostensibly about script revisions but that ran ‘on in the most rapturous tone about certain feelings he’d been having, awake and asleep, dreams of longing’. In Kazan’s estimation, Miller ‘didn’t read like the constricted man I’d known’.

Their sensational and sudden marriage unravelled almost as soon as it began when the writer realised he would be swamped by the actress’s insecurities. ‘I wasn’t prepared for what I should have been prepared for, which was that she had literally no inner resources,’ Miller said later, while Monroe commented that she felt she had let down her new husband – who believed her an ‘angel’ – by showing the ‘ugly’ side of herself.

The sensitive, bedazzled Miller-in-love stands in contrast to the rigorous intellectual, but he is no less convincing. The two sides of the man unite in the playwright’s brittle response to the news of Marilyn’s death, years after they had parted. It was, he said, ‘inevitable’. He would not go to the funeral, he added, because ‘she won’t be there’.

Available January 1, 2009.