Arthur Miller: Advocate or Antagonist? – Part I

Disclaimer: This article is my opinion based on research done over the years I’ve been a Marilyn fan. It is based on the facts that we know to be true, taken from the most reliable sources we have.

This is not an article written to make you fall in love with Arthur Miller. My reason for doing it is to try to provide you with all the facts we have so that you can have an informed opinion about him.

Misconception 1: Arthur cheated on his wife with Marilyn.

When Marilyn met Arthur for the first time, he was married to his first wife, Mary Slattery, with two young children. They met through mutual friend Elia Kazan at a party. Author Michelle Morgan writes in Marilyn Monroe Private and Undisclosed, that Marilyn was open about her attraction to Arthur, whilst a “terrified” Arthur fled California after spending time with her. The two kept in touch by letter but did not meet again for four years.

“Flying homeward, her scent still on my hands, I knew my innocence was technical merely and the fact blackened my heart, but along with it came the certainty that I could afterall lose myself in sensuality.” Arthur Miller

Misconception 2: Arthur Announced Their Marriage Without Telling Her.

On June 21st, 1956, Arthur told the press gathered outside Congress, “I have a production which is in the talking stage in England, and I will be there with the woman who will then be my wife.” When asked if the woman was Marilyn, he admitted it was. Marilyn was said to be pleasantly surprised, ringing close friends the Rostens to tell them of her excitement.

Whilst probably not his best move, I don’t find this as offensive as I would if Marilyn had been offended herself!

Misconception 3: Marilyn Admitted On Her Wedding Day That She Did Not Want To Marry Arthur.

It’s claimed that on Sunday July 1st, 1956, while preparing for her wedding, that Marilyn said she didn’t want to marry Arthur but couldn’t back out because there were guests waiting. However, by this time Marilyn was married a couple of days already.

On Friday June 29th, Marilyn and Arthur were married in a civil ceremony by a judge at Westchester County Courthouse.

Personally, I find it very hard to believe that Marilyn would have gone through with the civil ceremony two days prior, if she had any doubts about the relationship. In all the footage and photos from the day, taken by Milton Greene, the couple both look extremely happy and in love and the intimacy between them is very evident.

Misconception 4: Arthur’s Interference On Set

The Prince & The Showgirl – Diary Entry

Whilst filming, Marilyn was looking for her script and happened upon Arthur’s open diary which contained an entry about her behaviour on set.

What the entry contained is anyone’s guess and that’s part of the problem! What we do know is that a very upset Marilyn broke down in front of the Strasberg’s, telling them that she’d been mortified to discover that “he was ashamed of me, ashamed to love me, how at first he thought I was an angel, and now he realised how he was wrong, I’d disappointed him” – Marilyn took this as Arthur siding with Olivier and allegedly saw it as a massive betrayal.

According to Susan Strasberg’s biography, Marilyn and Me, the Strasbergs talked her down, the crisis passed and Marilyn seemed to forgive and forget. So why then, does this incident come up time and again for Marilyn fans discussing how Arthur “abused” Marilyn?

This, in my opinion, goes back to people turning Marilyn into a victim. It happens constantly! Marilyn was a very strong woman. She stood up for herself always, I don’t see how her relationship with Arthur would be any different.

She divorced Joe DiMaggio after just 9 months citing mental cruelty, so to think that they would stay together, or try to have children together, if they didn’t truly love each other, is simply ridiculous.

Writing For Let’s Make Love

According to Donald Spoto in his book, Marilyn Monroe The Biography, by the time it came to working on Let’s Make Love, Marilyn told friends that The Misfits – Arthur’s valentine to her – might restore their marriage, however there was trouble ahead…

The script for Let’s Make Love was awful according to Marilyn, who told Rupert Allan “There was no script really. There was nothing for the girl to do!” Arthur agreed with her that it was ‘abysmally unfunny and riddled with cliches’.

During filming, a writers strike broke out and screenwriter Jerry Wald pleaded with Arthur to break ranks and help them. Arthur later said he only did it to give his wife emotional support, but it was the death knell to their marriage. Marilyn had always looked up to Arthur as a man who would never betray his ethics. Doing this flew in the face of all she believed of him and so, caused more problems between them. Marilyn forever lost confidence in Arthur.

“That was the moment I knew it was over. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore.” Marilyn to Rupert Allan in 1960.

Again, whilst this was probably a moment of poor judgement on Arthur’s behalf, I can understand how he probably undertook the rewrites thinking it would help Marilyn. He could be there with her and help filming along too. I don’t think he foresaw how it would change her view of him.

Misconception 5: Arthur Was Involved In The Split With Milton Greene

Marilyn’s relationship with Milton Greene has been romanticised over the years because the photos they took together were so beautiful and gave us an insight into a more candid, private Marilyn that, up to then, we hadn’t seen before.

Their relationship however, was very complex. Some may even say troubling… in 1955, both were attending the same psychiatrist, taking a lot of presription medication while going into business together setting up Marilyn Monroe Productions (MMP).

As Marilyn’s relationship with Arthur became more serious, issues between Marilyn and Milton came to the fore. It was never a simple case of Arthur hating Milton and trying to remove him from Marilyn’s life – It seems it was more a case of Marilyn and Milton’s relationship falling apart and Arthur supporting his wife.

  • Marilyn wrote to Jack Warner in April 1957 having seen the final cut of The Prince and The Showgirl, to complain that it was not the same one she had seen the previous winter. The implication being that Milton had secretly recut the film.
  • Marilyn took issue with Milton having an executive producer credit on the movie, saying it was neither contracted or deserved (which wasn’t true as per MMP documents).
  • Marilyn claimed that MMP was mismanaged by Milton and that he misinformed her of certain contractual agreements entering into secret negotiations for new deals without her knowledge or consent.

Their statements speak volumes for what was going on between them, and whilst it could be seen that Arthur was trying to “take conrol”, I think it could also be said that it was only natural that he would take a bigger hand in guiding her given their recent marriage.

“It seems that Marilyn doesn’t want to go ahead with the program we planned. I’m getting lawyers to represent me [but] don’t want to do anything now to hurt her career. I did devote about a year and a half exclusively to her. I practically gave up photography.” – Milton Greene

“He knows perfectly well that we have been at odds for a year and a half and he knows why. As president of the corporation and it’s only source of income, I was never informed that he had elected himself to the position of executive producer of The Prince and The Showgirl. My company was not formed to provide false credits for its officers and I will not become party to this. My company was not formed merely to parcel out 49.6% of all my earnings to Mr. Greene, but to make better pictures, improve my work and secure my income.” – Marilyn Monroe

Special thanks goes to Fraser, April, Tara, Jackie and Heather who have helped me countless times (and especially for this) with their unparralled knowledge of Marilyn.