From 1998: Miller Shares View of Marilyn

At the UK premiere of 'A View From the Bridge', 1956
At the UK premiere of ‘A View From the Bridge’, 1956

The tenth anniversary of Arthur Miller’s death is being marked with a London revival of A View From the Bridge – the controversial play that first opened in the same city back in 1956, during filming of The Prince and the Showgirl.

In tribute to Miller, The Guardian has republished a 1998 interview with Labour politician Roy Hattersley, who recalled that Arthur only seemed rattled when asked about Marilyn. (This could have been because their relationship has been so misrepresented in the press.)

“Was there a time when he was to be found by a Hollywood swimming pool in a white dinner jacket? Miller did not even smile. ‘No. I never did that. She wouldn’t have wanted to be there either.’ So she too was a basically serious person? ‘Oh yeah. She had hopes for herself in that direction, but she wasn’t allowed time to develop.’ At the press conference that launched the film version of Terence Rattigan’s Sleeping Prince, Monroe was asked if she really wanted to appear in a stage version of The Brothers Karamazov. [Actually, it was a film version.] She replied that she hoped to play Grushenka, adding, ‘It’s a girl’. The journalist, unwilling to be outsmarted, asked her to spell the name. Miller wrote that, ‘She could not be afforded the dignity of a performer announcing a new project. Sex and seriousness could not exist in the same woman.’ Metaphorically at least, Miller seems to have lived for years with a protective arm around her shoulder, which explains why such a reasonable man took unreasonable exception to the press’s attitude. ‘I thought of her as being very vulnerable, as indeed she was. And the press came in like birds chewing up what was left of the carcass. I understand why they were doing it. She hadn’t gotten out of the old personality – the dumb blonde from Niagara and Asphalt Jungle. She was trying to get out of it.’

‘The last I knew her, I think she was trying to be a tragic actress. She had a tragic life. And part of the attraction of her comedy was that it came out of a very sad person. If you’ve ever known any real funny people – clowns – you know that a lot of them are permanently depressed. In the long run she would probably have ended up as a moderately successful comedienne. Perhaps she already was.’ Questions should have followed about the Kennedys and her death. Decency made them equally oblique. ‘When you look back, do you feel bitter and resentful about what happened to her – bitter and resentful on her behalf?’ The answer was conclusive. ‘The whole thing worked out almost fatefully. The end had to be a tragedy. The cards were stacked too heavily in that direction. There was no way to change that course once she got on it.’ Miller and Joe DiMaggio, the baseball hero who had been Marilyn’s second husband, had agreed at the time of her death that ‘she needed a blessing’. Miller almost smiled. ‘She needed a miracle and there was none available.'”

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