‘After the Fall’ in Albuquerque

Arthur Miller’s controversial play, After the Fall, features a thinly-veiled portrait of his marriage to Marilyn (although he always denied this.) A new revival at the Aux Dog Theatre in Albuquerque, New Mexico, directed by James Candy and starring Sheridan K. Johnson, makes the allusion explicit – even putting Marilyn on the playbill, which is bound to attract the curious.

“‘It is no secret that Quentin is Miller and Maggie is Monroe,’ says Cady, ‘even though Miller himself insisted it was no more biographical than anything else he wrote. The presence of the character Maggie is so clearly the ultimate female sex symbol and icon that was Marilyn Monroe, his ex-wife. She had died two years before the play opened in 1964.’

In the play, Quentin is courting Holga, a German woman still struggling with her experiences during World War II. He questions his own ability to truly connect with the women in his life as he tries to decide the future of their relationship. The scenes with Holga take place in the present. However, the memories of his mother, father, brother, clients, partners and friends reassert themselves in his mind where most of the play occurs. They recede and re-emerge as Quentin proceeds from one thought/memory to another in a stream-of-consciousness. The most prominent memory is of his second wife, Maggie, and the dissolution of their marriage. Quentin understands that after the fall from Eden, no one is innocent and, finally, all we are left with are questions – and memories that haunt us forever.

The play implies a search for understanding of ‘responsibility’ toward Monroe, of her inability to cope, and of his failure to help her. ‘But more than that’, says Cady, ‘he must deal with the ultimate question – Can anyone ever help anyone, anywhere—anymore?'”

Conversations With Arthur Miller

miller conversations

The centennial of Arthur Miller’s birth falls this Saturday, October 17. Perhaps more revered in Britain than the US, the playwright will be honoured this week with two dedicated programmes on BBC Radio 4: The Life and Times of Arthur Miller, a play focusing on his early years; and Attention Must Be Paid, a documentary presented by his biographer, Christopher Bigsby.

Additionally, Conversations With Miller – originally published in 2002 – is being reissued. Here’s the blurb:

“Published to mark the centenary of Arthur Miller’s birth, this new edition of Conversations of Miller features a new Foreword by Richard Eyre, former Artistic Director of the National Theatre, and an Afterword by publisher Nick Hern, in which both reflect on their own conversations with America’s greatest playwright.

New York Times drama critic Mel Gussow first met Arthur Miller in 1963 during rehearsals of After the Fall, the play inspired by Miller’s marriage to Marilyn Monroe. They then met regularly over the following forty years.

Conversations with Miller records what was discussed at more than a dozen of these meetings. In the book, the author of Death of a Salesman, A View from the Bridge and The Crucible is astonishingly candid about everything from the personal to the political: his successes and disappointments in theatre, his role as an advocate of human rights, his staunch resistance to the United States Congressional witch hunts of the 1950s. He also speaks forthrightly about his relationship with Monroe.

Personal, wise and often very funny, the result is a revealing self-portrait of one of the giants of twentieth-century literature, who was both a ‘regular guy’ and a fiercely original writer and thinker.”

Liz Smith on Kazan, Miller, and Marilyn

Photo by Inge Morath
Photo by Inge Morath

Liz Smith, ‘the grande dame of dish’, has shared her thoughts on Elia Kazan’s recently-published letter about Marilyn in her latest syndicated piece – and it’s a doozy. You can read it in full here.

“The cruel irony/P.S. to this is that Kazan, after years of estrangement with Arthur Miller, would collaborate with him again, mounting one of (I think) the worst moments in American theater history — Miller’s play After the Fall. This was Miller’s confession/denunciation of Monroe as a castrating, self-destructive witch, from whom he had to escape. That Monroe was two years dead and unable to defend herself appeared of no interest to her ex-husband or her ex-lover. Miller’s pretense that the ‘Maggie’ of his play was not Monroe — or his version of her — compounded the insult. Marilyn’s good friend, author James Baldwin, walked out of After the Fall, so furious was he over Miller’s characterization of her. (The star, Barbara Loden was costumed, bewigged and given the appropriate Monroe-like gestures, in case anybody didn’t quite get it.)

THOSE who disliked Arthur Miller — and there were many — found some satisfaction in the fact that After the Fall was his last success. He would wallow in epilogue and various variations on Marilyn for the rest of his life.

Miller’s inactivity as a writer — except for his tedious screenplay for The Misfits — was often blamed on Marilyn. He himself said it. But right after the Miller/Monroe divorce, columnist Max Lerner opined that it was less likely that Monroe had constricted Miller, but that he had sought her out precisely because he had run out of material.

Several weeks before her death, an interviewer faced Marilyn with Lerner’s observation. Did she have a comment? She paused, and then said: ‘If I answer, will you promise to repeat my quote in its entirety?’

The writer said yes.

Marilyn replied: ‘No comment.’

This is the only thing Marilyn Monroe ever said criticizing a husband — or anybody else in public life for that matter. She was, as Kazan noted, ‘not vicious.’ And it is an indication of her agony, being blamed for the failures of a man she literally saved; standing with him and risking her own career as he was grilled by The House Un-American Activities Committee, in the matter of his youthful communist flirtations.

Miller and Kazan left that Marilyn out of After the Fall.”

Elia Kazan’s Private Letters

Kazan Letters

The Selected Letters of Elia Kazan, due to be published on April 22, has been excerpted in the Hollywood Reporter. One of the letters, written to wife Molly in 1955, is a confession of his affair with Marilyn four years earlier, while she was filming As Young As You Feel.

“In one sense it’s true to say that it meant nothing. On the other hand it was a human experience, and it started, if that is of any significance, in a most human way. Her boy friend, or ‘keeper’ (if you want to be mean) had just died. His family had not allowed her to see the body, or allowed her into the house, where she had been living. She had sneaked in one night and been thrown out. I met her on [director]Harmon Jones’ set. Harmon thought her a ridiculous person and was fashionably scornful of her. I found her, when I was introduced, in tears. I took her to dinner because she seemed like such a touching pathetic waif. She sobbed all thru dinner. I wasn’t ‘interested in her’; that came later. I got to know her in time and introduced her to Arthur Miller, who also was very taken by her. You couldn’t help being touched. She was talented, funny, vulnerable, helpless in awful pain, with no hope, and some worth and not a liar, not vicious, not catty, and with a history of orphanism that was killing to hear. She was like all Charlie Chaplin’s heroines in one.

I’m not ashamed at all, not a damn bit, of having been attracted to her. She is nothing like what she appears to be now, or even appears to have turned into now. She was a little stray cat when I knew her. I got a lot out of her just as you do from any human experience where anyone is revealed to you and you affect anyone in any way. I guess I gave her a lot of hope. She is not a big sex pot as advertised. At least not in my experience. I don’t know if there are such as ‘advertised’ big sex pots. She told me a lot about [Joe DiMaggio] and her, his Catholicism, and his viciousness (he struck her often, and beat her up several times). I was touched and fascinated. It was the type of experience that I do not understand and I enjoyed (not the right word) hearing about it. I certainly recommended her to Tennessee’s attention. And he was very taken by her.”

'As Young As You Feel' (1951)
‘As Young As You Feel’ (1951)

Kazan had first met Marilyn a year before, at a screening of A Streetcar Named Desire with Johnny Hyde (the aforementioned ‘keeper’.) Hyde died in December 1950. Kazan came to Hollywood with Arthur Miller in 1951, which is when their affair began. However, he has written elsewhere that even then, she was attracted to Miller.

Their relationship lasted a few months, until Kazan returned to New York. They remained friends afterward, and a letter from Kazan to Marilyn was auctioned on Ebay a few years ago.

Miller and Kazan fell out when the director co-operated with the House Un-American Activities Committee, at the height of the ‘red scare’ which ruined many careers in the movie and theatre world. While married to Miller, Marilyn tried to reconcile them.

During their affair, Marilyn naturally hoped Kazan would consider her for a future role. But he rejected her for the lead in Baby Doll (1955), though author Tennessee Williams thought her a perfect choice. He also refused to cast her in Wild River (1960), after Twentieth Century-Fox offered her the part.

Marilyn bore no grudges, though, and wrote in a 1961 letter to her psychiatrist, Dr Ralph Greenson, that Kazan ‘loved me for one year and once rocked me to sleep when I was in great anguish.’

Ironically, Miller and Kazan would reunite after her death to collaborate on After the Fall, a controversial, thinly-veiled account of Miller’s private demons, including a self-destructive character based on Marilyn.

Barbara Loden in 'After the Fall' (1964)
Barbara Loden in ‘After the Fall’ (1964)

Inside the Dream Palace

Arthur Miller works on 'After the Fall' at the Chelsea Hotel
Arthur Miller works on ‘After the Fall’ at the Chelsea Hotel

Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York’s Legendary Chelsea Hotel is a new book by Sherill Tippins. Among many other events, the author chronicles how Arthur Miller lived at the hotel after divorcing Marilyn Monroe, and wrote After the Fall, a thinly-veiled portrait of their marriage, which opened in 1964 amid intense controversy.

“Miller should have realized, as Warhol had demonstrated so efficiently with his Marilyn exhibition less than two years before, that New York audiences would identify with Maggie, or at least with the vulnerable spirit within themselves that she represented. Her story – her desires and her victimization – was their story. That night in the theater, it was almost as though Marilyn had stepped through the playwright’s dialogue to take command of the audience herself.”

 

‘Making The Fall’ and Marilyn

Making The Fall is a new book by Richard D. Meyer, who worked closely with Arthur Miller and Elia Kazan on their 1964 production of Miller’s controversial play, After the Fall – which many felt was based on Miller’s troubled marriage to Marilyn. (Shar Daws wrote an excellent essay on the play, which you can read at Loving Marilyn.)

The blurb for Making The Fall goes like this:

“An intimate account of Elia Kazan and Arthur Miller working together on After the Fall, Miller’s autobiographical play about Marilyn Monroe.

Lincoln Center’s Repertory Theater opened in 1964 with the premiere of Arthur Miller’s After the Fall, an explosive play about Miller’s personal life with an emphasis on his marriage to Marilyn Monroe.

Richard D. Meyer’s book, Making the Fall, is a first-hand account of that production, starting with initial meetings and rehearsals, all the way through the final performances.

The book offers the unique perspective of a newcomer on the scene, taking in every detail. It includes verbatim conversations between Miller, Kazan, and the cast, as well as excerpts from Kazan’s personal notes and letters.

As a director and theater scholar, Meyer delves into the play’s deeper theme, how it reflects the lives of those involved (and represented) in the play, and its impact on the American public.

Making the Fall is an in-depth, up-personal account of a historical year in American theater. It will appeal not only to theater buffs but to anyone interested in the complex tangle of relationships between Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, and Elia Kazan.”

Arthur Miller: Beyond Marilyn’s Shadow

Rebecca Miller, daughter of Arthur, is a writer, director, and actress. She was born a month after Marilyn’s death, to Arthur and his third wife, Inge Morath.

Rebecca spoke to the New York Post recently about the way some of her father’s plays are overshadowed by the memory of Marilyn.

“As for After the Fall and Finishing the Picture — Miller’s two plays about his second wife, Marilyn Monroe — Rebecca remains wary.

‘Anything that’s got the shadow of Marilyn in it — even something that has just a slight taste of her — gets overshadowed by her,’ she says.

Finishing the Picture, Miller’s final play, is about the making of Monroe’s last movie, The Misfits, for which he wrote the screenplay. There has been just one production, at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in 2004.

It’s a fascinating story with some terrific parts for larger-than-life stage actors. ‘But I’m holding back on it,’ says Rebecca. ‘I’m guarding it. Sometimes it’s good to hold.’

She calls After the Fall, which Miller wrote in 1963, shortly after Monroe died, ‘a wonderful play that unfortunately in his time got completely read as an autobiographical work about her. You can’t pretend she’s not there, but at the same time it is about other things. There are meditations on the Holocaust and how we all have murder inside us.’

Rebecca says she’d like to see a production that ‘skews the play’ away from the Monroe character.

Which probably means a production with a major star in the male lead.

‘If the right person comes along, I’d certainly consider it,’ she says. ‘But nobody’s asking to do it.’

Now that’s a challenge a great actor — Kevin Spacey, perhaps? — should pick up.”

‘After the Fall’ in Washington

Arthur Miller’s 1964 play, After the Fall – widely controversial for its unflinching portrait of a self-destructive woman, seemingly based on Marilyn – is being staged at Washington’s Theatre J, through to November 26.

Chris Klimek reviewed the production for the Washington City Paper:

“It’s the character of Maggie, however, who turns the parallels to Miller’s own life up to brazen volume. A husky-voiced bombshell who blossoms into a singing star after Quentin shows her a molecule of kindness, she looks an awful lot like a straw-Marilyn even before she falls under the sway of various seedy agents, managers, shrinks, and soon enough, barbiturates and booze. Gabriela Fernández-Coffey banishes any trace of mimicry or caricature from her performance, making Maggie’s descent into addiction and despair deeply disquieting to witness.”

Miller Reference in ‘The Good Wife’

Nancy Crozier (played by Mamie Gummer) is a recurring character in US legal drama, The Good Wife. In Season 2, Episode 4 (‘Cleaning House’), Crozier, who works for a rival firm, is appointed co-counsel on a case with Alicia Florrick (Julianna Marguiles.)

Florrick is defending a DJ at a nightclub where a young woman died in a stampede, while Crozier represents the security firm on duty when the tragedy occurred.

Judge Jared Quinn is a chauvinist who throws Alicia out of court for wearing trousers. Crozier wins Quinn over when she sees a photograph of his daughter in a high-school production of Arthur Miller’s 1964 play, After the Fall. She tells him that she once played Maggie (the character believed to be based on Marilyn Monroe), and quotes the line, ‘You tried to kill me, mister. I been killed by a lot of people, some couldn’t hardly spell, but it’s the same, mister.’

In the courtroom, Crozier exaggerates her ditzy blonde persona, stating that she knows nothing about the drug world while asking leading questions. She insinuates that the other clubgoers, high on PCP, became aggressive and attacked the woman.

It soon becomes clear that Crozier is seeking to clear the security firm of blame while showing Alicia’s client in a negative light. However, Alicia’s assistant discovers that the skids for holding the revolving stage were uncovered that night, which had caused the guests to trip and fall on top of the victim.

Therefore, Alicia finally outwits Crozier. It is interesting that Crozier had previously played a Monroe-like character in a play, because like Monroe, she is far more intelligent than she lets on, and uses her feminine wiles to manipulate men.

However, unlike Marilyn, Crozier is tough and calculating. Her character is also reminiscent of Elle Woods, the attorney played by Reese Witherspoon in the 2001 comedy, Legally Blonde.

In another plot twist, a deposition made to Alicia by Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver), Peter Florrick’s political rival, is leaked to the press. Childs believes (incorrectly) that Alicia, Florrick’s wife, is the source of the leak.

What’s also intriguing here is that Welliver previously played Joe DiMaggio in the 2001 mini-series, Blonde, while Griffin Dunne, who plays Judge Quinn in the After the Fall sequence, also featured in Blonde as the play’s author, Arthur Miller.

Finally, if Mamie Gummer (Crozier) looks familiar to you, she is, in fact, the 27 year-old daughter of acting legend Meryl Streep. Gummer also stars in the new medical drama, Off The Map, and will appear in John Carpenter’s forthcoming horror flick, The Ward.