Marilyn, Arthur and ‘The Crucible’

Veteran off-Broadway producer Paul Libin shared his theatrical memories with the New York Times recently, including an anecdote about the day he met Arthur Miller – with his then-wife, Marilyn Monroe.

“Arthur Miller, more than anyone else, kept emerging in the table talk, almost Zelig-like. For starters, seeing a 1950 production of Miller’s Death of a Salesman back home in Chicago convinced a 19-year-old Paul Libin to pursue an acting career. This was not an ambition destined for fulfillment. He came to New York and, in 1953, auditioned for a part in Wish You Were Here, a Joshua Logan musical comedy. He did fine with his spoken lines.

‘And then,’ Mr. Libin said, ‘I had to sing. I heard Josh Logan say: Next! And that was it.’

Four years later, he decided that producing was for him, and he aimed high. His first play was The Crucible. Arthur Miller again.

‘What a producer is, at least in my mind, is putting the parts together and making it work with what you have,’ Mr. Libin said. But first you need those parts. For The Crucible, he did not even have a theater. He had to build one. But where?

On his way to the dentist one day, he passed the old Martinique Hotel, at Broadway and 32nd Street.

‘I saw a sign that said a ballroom was available,’ he recalled. ‘I talked to the manager of the hotel, a Mr. Foreman. A really tough character. Used to carry a snub-nosed .38.’ He explained his idea, and Mr. Foreman was unenthusiastic. Nonetheless, Mr. Libin phoned Miller’s agent and said, ‘We have the theater.’

‘Actually, we didn’t have anything,’ he said at lunch, his voice turning almost conspiratorial. ‘That’s what a producer has to do: be very positive about circumstances.’

Miller wanted to see for himself if the ballroom could be converted into a theater. He showed up at the Martinique with his wife. You may have heard of her: Marilyn Monroe.

In walked the hotel manager, who somehow failed to notice Monroe. He focused his attention on Miller and Mr. Libin.

‘I said, I’d like you to meet his wife,’ Mr. Libin said. ‘When the guy turned, I thought he was going to melt right there. He could hardly speak.’ By the time the young producer made it back by subway to the Upper West Side, where he worked, Mr. Foreman had left a message for him: ‘When are we going to sit down and make the deal?'”

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