Marilyn Brings ‘Niagara’ to Hartford

Niagara, the technicolor film noir which gave Marilyn one of her best dramatic roles, gets a rare outdoor screening on July 14, as part of the Summer Sizzle Under the Stars program at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut (only 35 miles from Marilyn’s former home in Roxbury.) The movie complements a Pop Art exhibition at the museum, and there will be live music and dinner available – more info here.

Tippi Hedren Remembers Marilyn

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Actress Tippi Hedren is best-known for her roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie and The Birds. In her new autobiography, Tippi: A Memoir, she recalls an ‘almost meeting’ with a rather subdued Marilyn at Milton Greene’s home in the mid-1950s. (Immortal Marilyn member Kylie Christine has also written an article about Tippi for the Marilyn’s Contemporaries series.)

“They invited me to their home in Connecticut for several weekend gatherings, and on one particular weekend Marilyn Monroe happened to be staying with them. I’m still trying to figure out whether or not I can say I met her.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and hours passed before Marilyn emerged from her suite on the second floor. I looked up to see her descending the stairs, presumably to come down and join the group.

Instead, she stopped on the landing, where she sat down in the corner and stayed there.

End of story.

Seriously, she never said a word, she just sat there on that landing with a rather blank, unwelcoming look on her face. I never saw anyone approach her, and I kind of lost track of her. Later I noticed she’d just disappeared, perhaps back to her room or who knows where.

I have no idea what was going on with her. I wrote it off to terrible shyness or insecurity and left it at that. Milton and Amy didn’t seem to think a thing about it, and I wasn’t about to ask them. It was none of my business, and frankly, I wasn’t that interested.

So that was the perfectly lovely Sunday afternoon in Connecticut when I either did or didn’t meet Marilyn Monroe.

Your call.”

Marilyn’s Inn Key Sold on Ebay

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A vintage room-key from the Homestead Inn in New Milford, Connecticut, where Marilyn is said to have stayed during her courtship with Arthur Miller, was sold for $131 on Ebay last week, as Barry Lytton reports for the Danbury News-Times.

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“‘We just bought all the keys because people like old hotel keys,”’ said Loretta Kretchko, who co-runs Bob Kretchko Antiques with her husband, Bob. ‘We weren’t thinking Marilyn.’

In 1956, Monroe stayed in the inn while she was dating playwright Arthur Miller, who lived in Roxbury at the time. The two later married.

The Kretchkos purchased the keys two years ago, right before a new owner renovated the inn, Loretta said, and they planned on selling them. Many of the rooms had several sets, which was great for the Kretchkos — more old keys to sell, she said.

‘But this was the only No. 22 key,’ Loretta said. ‘(Monroe) always stayed in 22.’

The Homestead Inn has had its share of famous guests over the years, including Joseph and Rose Kennedy, who stayed in New Milford while their future-president son, John, was an eighth-grader at the Canterbury School.”

Marilyn at Julien’s: Home and Relationships

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In daily life, Marilyn often went unrecognised. This rare photo shows her wearing a black wig. When travelling ‘incognito‘, she sometimes used false names (including ‘Zelda Zonk’.)

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In the summer of 1953, Joe DiMaggio joined Marilyn in Canada, where she was filming River of No Return. She took these snapshots of Joe during his visit. Also pictured is Jean Negulesco, who had directed Marilyn in How to Marry a Millionaire. Although his work on River was uncredited, Negulesco may have helped to smooth the differences between Marilyn and the somewhat tyrannical Otto Preminger.

D47DFE90-6FCB-488D-8FB2-CB180F31C5BC-1016-000000CA7AD64E5B_tmpShortly before her third marriage to Arthur Miller, Marilyn converted to Judaism. This Jewish prayer book was probably a gift from Rabbi Robert E. Goldburg.

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Some photos of Arthur Miller, including one taken with Marilyn in 1959.

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Marilyn’s Minolta 16mm camera. This model was introduced in 1957.

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These photos are of the farmhouse at Roxbury, Connecticut, bought by the Millers after their marriage. It is incorrectly identified in the Julien’s catalogue as Marilyn’s Los Angeles abode. The Millers’ country home required extensive renovations. After their marriage ended, Marilyn kept their city apartment while Arthur lived at Roxbury until his death in 2005.

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Marilyn with her friend, actor Eli Wallach, in 1957. They would later co-star in The Misfits (1961.)

Correspondence with Xenia Chekhov, widow of Marilyn’s acting teacher, Michael Chekhov.

“A single-page typed, unsigned file copy of a letter dated December 19, 1958, to ‘Mrs. Chekhov’ reading ‘My husband and I were so happy with the pictures you sent us of Mr. Chekhov. We will treasure them forever. I am not able to shop for Christmas, as you may already know I have lost the baby, so I would like you to use this check as my Christmas greetings with all my most affectionate good wishes. My husband sends you his warmest regards.’ The letter is accompanied by Xenia Chekhov’s response written on a notecard dated January 10, 1959, reading in part, ‘[Y]our personal sad news affected me very much and I could not find the courage to write you sooner. All my warmest feelings of sympathy go out to you and Mr. Miller.’ This is a deeply personal note with an acknowledgement of a miscarriage in Monroe’s own words.”

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“An assortment of receipts from seven different bookstores: including: Doubleday Book Shop, Beekman Place Bookshop, and E. Weyhe Inc., all of New York City, and Wepplo’s Book Store, Lee Freeson, Martindale’s Book Stores and Hunter’s Books, all of Los Angeles. Titles include The Great Gatsby; Van Gogh’s Great Period; I , Rachel; An Encyclopedia of Gardening; Hi – Lo’s – Love Nest; a book listed simply as ‘Yves Montand’, among others. The receipts are dated 1958 and 1960.”

A Royal Quiet de Luxe model typewriter owned by Marilyn.

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A letter from Marilyn, with photos of Jane Miller and Hugo, Marilyn’s basset hound.

Various letters from Marilyn to her stepdaughter, Jane Miller.

“A 1957 letter is written to Janie at summer camp and recounts a number of amusing stories about Hugo the Bassett Hound reading in part, ‘He got kicked by that donkey. Remember him? His nose swelled up with a big lump on top and it really wrecked his profile. I put an ice pack on it and it took several days for it to go down but the last time I saw him it was pretty well healed. Bernice is taking care of him and the house while I am at the hospital.We are going home tomorrow and then I will write you by hand. Listen, I had better stop now because I want to get off a note to Bobby today. Don’t worry about me in the hospital. I am feeling much better now and I have the funniest Scotch nurse.’ (Marilyn had recently been taken to hospital after suffering an ectopic pregnancy.)

The 1958 letter is typed on the back of a piece of stationery from the Hotel Bel-Air and is addressed, ‘Dear Janie-bean.’ The letter, written as Marilyn prepared for Some Like It Hot, reads in part, ‘Thanks for helping me into my white skirt. I almost didn’t make it -but now that I’m busier I’ll start losing weight – you know where. Along with ukulele lessons I have to take I’m learning three songs from the 1920 period. … I don’t know how my costumes in the picture will be yet. I’ll let you know.'”

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Three colour slides from the estate of Frieda Hull, showing the Millers leaving New York for Los Angeles in November 1959. Marilyn’s parakeet, Butch, travelled with them. He was a noisy passenger, constantly squawking, “I’m Marilyn’s bird!”

75B2208F-1E21-4D44-B98A-C6A51983F869-17970-00000A2C0EAF1C44_tmpAn electroplate ice bucket, made in England, and a receipt for 12 splits of Piper Heidsieck champagne, delivered to the Millers’ bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel during filming of Let’s Make Love in December 1959.

DE0487BB-FB02-41A6-958C-7E5739B4B7D6-17970-00000A2E272B8C4D_tmpAddress books from 1955 and 1962. The first includes a handwritten ‘to-do list’, with entries such as “as often as possible to observe Strassberg’s [sic.] other private classes”; “never miss my actors studio sessions”; “must make strong effort to work on current problems and phobias that out of my past has arisen.”

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Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Julien’s sale is that Marilyn was planning to buy a home in New York, even commissioning a series of architectural drawings for a property on East 61st Street in November 1961. In addition to her rented Manhattan apartment, she bought a small bungalow in Los Angeles in 1962, but clearly hadn’t given up her dream of a permanent East Coast base.

“An original letter from John E. Holland of the Charles F. Noyes Real Estate Company dated October 18, 1961, addressed to Miss Marilyn Monroe, 444 East 57th Street, New York, “Attention: Miss Marjorie Stengel” (Monroe’s secretary). The letter reads in part, ‘L]ast summer Mr. Ballard of our office, and I showed you the house at the corner of 57th Street and Sutton Place and Mr. Arthur Krim’s house on Riverview Terrace. I spoke to Miss Stengel yesterday and told her of a house which we have just gotten listed for sale at 241 East 61st Street. She asked me to send you the particulars on this house as she thought you might be interested in it. I am enclosing our setup. … The garden duplex apartment is now occupied by the owner and would be available to a purchaser for occupancy. You may possibly have been in this apartment as Miss Kim Novak … just moved out in September. Before that it was occupied by Prince Aly Khan.’

An original letter from John E. Holland of the Charles F. Noyes Real Estate Company dated November 15, 1961, addressed to Miss Marjorie Stengel, stating, ‘I am enclosing herewith Photostats which I had made of the drawings adding a stairway which would include all or half of the third floor with the duplex garden apartments. These sketches may be somewhat confusing, but I could easily explain them if you would like to have me do so,’ together with six Photostat copies of original architectural drawings for the redesign of an apartment located at 241 East 61st Street in New York. The drawings go into great detail as to the redesign of the apartment, with space for an art studio and specific notes stating, ‘This could be another bedroom or boudoir, or health studio with massage table, chaise lounge, private living room…or…with numerous closets.'”

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This grey pony handbag may have been bought by Marilyn during her February 1962 trip to Mexico. She was also a keen gardener, and a Horticulture magazine subscriber.

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“An extraordinary, blue cloth over board, ‘project management‘ three-ring binder kept by one of Monroe’s assistants chronicling the purchase and ongoing renovation and decoration of her home located at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, California. The notebook begins with an information sheet and lot diagram as well as a typed renovation and additions budget for the property totaling $34,877.36 against a purchase price of $57,609.95. The book also contains approximately 28 pages of notes on various renovation projects and to-do lists; a page with notes regarding terracing and planting the hillside; seven drawings of exterior floor plan for possible apartment above the garage for a cook; three renderings of options for a table and another decorative element for the home; and a listing of bills due as of August 16, 1962. The last page of the book lists ‘Moet – Champagne vintage 1952/ et Chandon a Epernay/ Cuvee Dom Perignon – 13.88.’ The book lists dates that furniture is due to be delivered from various suppliers, many after Monroe’s death, as well as dimensions of each room of the home for the purpose of ordering ‘white India’ carpet. It also has estimates to have the pool resurfaced, water heater moved, fountain built, and laundry room and shower expanded for people using the pool as well as notes about decoration of a ‘play room,’ fabrication of a new gate, bars for windows, and shelving to be built, among many other things.

A group of invoices dating to February 28, 1962, from various Mexican boutiques listing the purchase of a great number of pieces of furniture and home furnishings, purchased in Mexico for Monroe’s Fifth Helena Drive residence. Together with a two-page typed signed letter dated July 26, 1962, signed ‘Mura’, giving a full report to Monroe’s secretary Eunice Murray regarding her buying trip in Mexico. The letter demonstrates the fact that Monroe was still quite actively working on her home at the time of her death.”

Marilyn: a Russian Perspective

Marilyn in 'The Misfits', photographed by Inge Morath (1960)
Marilyn in ‘The Misfits’, photographed by Inge Morath (1960)

Marilyn was an admirer of Russian culture: she studied Stanislavsky’s teachings on acting, and campaigned (sadly without success) to star as Grushenka in a movie adaptation of Dostoevsky’s classic novel, The Brothers Karamazov. At the height of America’s anti-Communist fervour, she observed, ‘They’re for the people, aren’t they?’ She briefly considered visiting Russia in 1956, and was later introduced to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev at a Hollywood luncheon.

However, when the Russian press unjustly accused her of ruining Arthur Miller’s career, she shot back: “Listen! I know Arthur Miller better than the Russians do and I’ve learned more from Arthur Miller than the Russians have. I’ve learned from Arthur Miller that he does not believe in a communistic state. The Russians can talk all they want about my ‘climb to the stars,’ his ‘broken life,’ and what I’ve done to somebody. But I know the man. They’re talking about an idea. They can have their ideas. I had the man.” (Redbook, 1962.)

In some quarters, however, it appears that these prejudices still exist. In a recent article entitled ‘Candle in the wind: America, Russia, and Marilyn Monroe’s Free Fall’ for the RBTH website, novelist Viktor Yerofeyev recalls meeting Miller with his third wife Inge Morath during the 1990s, and ruminates on Miller’s prior marriage to Marilyn.

“I looked at Inge and realized that it was for this woman with an intelligent look that Miller had refused to be the skyscraper roof for Monroe, after which the star flew downward. Although in her flight, possibly, she remained the most popular actress in America.

America, at first glance, is not about actresses, singers or writers. It is about the absolute success of an individual, who was nothing and then became everything (as our revolutionary song goes).

And it is not important whether this person had a poor or rich childhood, whether he lived in an orphanage or he quietly went to school. Because this, from the national audience’s view, is routine, but what is important is that the chosen one reached the sky and turned into the Himalayas.

In such a system happiness is only a substitute for powerful success and in this system Monroe and Miller were like twins. And they appeared equal on the cover of a popular magazine that announced their union to the whole country.

Why equal? Because Miller’s high-altitude flight was stronger than Death of a Salesman, which held up a mirror to America. And Monroe’s high-altitude flight was stronger than all of her roles and all of her money. Two high-flying planes.

However, America is actually a country with a double cultural circulatory system. While the larger circle of cultural circulation is destined for the mass public, which creates the broth of national success, the smaller circle is the one in which I found myself in Connecticut, and where a lot opposes the larger circle … Properly speaking, where the Millers live, happiness … is valued more than success and talent is more important than money…

The participants were snobs but as I have just said, they were the cream of the crop. And in this circle Monroe and Miller were opposites. She was no one and he was everything. But she was burning with desire to be included in this world.”

Miller Book Exhibit in Connecticut

Pages from 'Arthur Miller: A Life' by Martin Gottfried (2003)
Pages from ‘Arthur Miller: A Life’ by Martin Gottfried (2003)

In anticipation of Arthur Miller’s centenary next month, the Pequot Library in Southport, Connecticut – close to where the playwright lived during his marriage to Marilyn, and until his death in 2005 – is currently hosting ‘Arthur Miller’s Focus‘, a display of books published by, or about Miller, in their Rare Book Case at the Reading Room, running through to October 8, reports the Fairfield Sun.

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Milton Greene’s New York Apartment Up for Rent

east68thstMilton Greene’s New York apartment at 127 East 78th Street is up for rent at a staggering $27,500 a month, reports the Daily MailUnsurprisingly, the Monroe connection is being played to the hilt, with the realtor describing it as her ‘sanctuary’. However, while Marilyn stayed with the Greenes at their family home in Weston, Connecticut during the winter of 1954-55, and Milton was her business partner until 1957, the East 78th Street apartment was never her official address.

Carleton Varney on Marilyn’s Roxbury Style

The Millers inside their garage at Roxbury, 1957
The Millers inside their garage at Roxbury, 1957

Interior designer Carleton Varney was consulted by Marilyn and Arthur Miller in 1957, after they bought an 18th century farmhouse in Roxbury, Connecticut. The property was in need of renovation, and according to Architectural Digest, the couple ‘added sliding glass doors to its rear façade and created a one-room studio where the playwright could work.’

Roxb2Varney writes about Marilyn’s personal style in an article for Palm Beach Daily News. Her preference for simplicity is in marked contrast to her glamorous public image.

“I met Marilyn only once in my life, when she was married to Arthur Miller, the playwright. At that time, she divided her time between Connecticut and her New York City apartment on 57th Street.

Marilyn was not, shall we say, energetically enthusiastic about the ways and styles of interior design. Her tastes were simple. She expressed her personal style as more ‘cottage’ than ‘High Hollywood’ — a simple white clapboard house, say, or a California stucco-clad ranch home. A white picket fence was more Marilyn, I believe, than any fancy grill-work iron gate on a Beverly Hills mansion. I think her design preferences reflected her pre-Hollywood roots as Norma Jean Baker.

I have always said that taste develops in one’s earliest days, probably from the very first room one can recall … Like Marilyn, most of us have a comfort zone that makes us happy and content. And if the look of high glamour does not fit you, don’t go that way! Stick to a style of decorating that suits you and reflects the adventures you have enjoyed in life.”

Frank Lloyd Wright and the ‘Marilyn Home’

flw-clubhouse-1Writing for MauiTime.com, Jen Russo visits King Kamehameha Golf Club in Waikapu, which opened in 1993. Designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, it also has a Marilyn connection.

“It’s pretty amazing that in 1988, the original owners of the property–Howard Hamamoto, Pundy Yokouchi and Takeshi Sekiguchi–travelled to Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona. There, at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation headquarters, they reviewed architectural plans for a new golf clubhouse they wanted to build. Wright had passed away almost 30 years prior, but the plans they chose (originally called ‘Crownfield’) were created for a couple’s home in Fort Worth, Texas in 1949. The plans were never built, and were later altered for a Mexican official named Raul Bailleres in 1952 for a home in Acapulco Bay. But he also abandoned those plans to build.

When Marilyn Monroe and her then-husband Arthur Miller approached Wright about a home in 1957, he pulled the plans out again, customized them for land in Connecticut, and renamed it the ‘Marilyn Monroe Home.'”

Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright

Russo goes on to state that the house was never built because the Millers separated a year later. Actually, their marriage lasted until 1960. The real reason that the plans were abandoned was due to escalating costs, as Arthur Miller revealed in his memoir, Timebends.

“We had begun a year or so earlier by merely fixing up the worst faults in the old house, with the idea of building a new one on a crest of woodland within sight of it. [Marilyn] had contacted Frank Lloyd Wright to come up with a plan. Her impulse was royal, in part a kind of gift to me of a unique home. Thus it had to seem like ingratitude to question whether we could ever begin to finance a Wright design, since much like her, he had little interest in costs. I could only give him his day and let her judge whether it was beyond our means or not.

Wright, then near ninety, curled up in the back seat of the car when we picked him up in Manhattan one gray fall morning, sleeping soundly the full two hours it took to get to Roxbury. He was tall and theatrically handsome … we expected to live fairly simply and were not looking for some elaborate house to impress the world. I saw that this news had not the slightest interest for him …

When I went to his office in the Plaza Hotel and saw his design, I said it was far too elaborate for what we had in mind, more news that had no visible effect on him. Indeed, he proceeded to show me immense watercolor sketches for an entire new city he had designed …”

UPDATE: Sculptor Dale Zarrella, who created the bronze statues outside the Frank Lloyd-White designed golf club on Maui, has shared a personal anecdote about the building’s Marilyn connection in an interview with MauiNews.com

“Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller actually went into my grandparents’ ice cream shop in Southington, Conn., when they looked for land to build this home right down the street from where I grew up. It’s an interesting fact.”

Country Girl: Marilyn in Roxbury

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The BBC World website has published an interesting article by Amanda Ruggeri about Marilyn’s time in Connecticut, and especially the farm in Roxbury where she lived with Arthur Miller.

Unfortunately – and in my opinion, rather absurdly – BBC World cannot be accessed within the UK, so I have transcribed part of the article here.

“When Monroe married Miller in June 1956, she’d already captivated audiences in movies like 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and 1955’s The Seven-Year Itch. She was the world’s biggest star. She was also beginning to fray from it. ‘I hate Hollywood,’ she told Miller when they married. ‘I want to live quietly in the country and just be there when you need me.’

Miller, the playwright famous for Death of a Salesman – and among friends, also for his love of rural pleasures such as field clearing and gardening – had moved to Roxbury in 1947. And so, after wrapping the 1957 movie The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier, Monroe returned with Miller to his four-bedroom farmhouse on Old Tophet Road.

‘Go to Stamford and drive down millionaire’s row, and you know you’re on millionaire’s row,’ said Peter Hurlbut, the town clerk and descendant of Roxbury’s founder. ‘Here, you never know you’re on millionaire’s row.’

He was absolutely right. Old Tophet Road was a 10-minute drive from the centre of town, though it felt like longer. Narrow and winding, driving the route on an October day felt like heading through a psychedelically coloured foliage tunnel. Dilapidated barns and colonial houses dotted the land on either side. If I hadn’t known it was where Miller and other literati lived, I never would have made note of the road at all. In this part of Connecticut, streets like these are unremarkably common.

As are houses like Miller’s – so much so that we drove past it before realising. A lovely white clapboard with baby-blue shutters, the abode looked like any of the other quietly graceful colonials in the area. Peeking through the trees up the drive – the home is pretty recognizable when driving by – I tried to imagine what it would have been like in the 1950s, when the home became a paparazzi playground. On 29 June 1956, the same day that Monroe and Miller signed their marriage license (itself given by Hurlbut’s grandfather, then the town clerk), one of the cars following them was driving too fast on the winding country roads and crashed, killing the French reporter inside. In the press conference that the newlyweds gave at the farm, talking about the crash, their nuptials and on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s naming of Arthur Miller as a communist in the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Monroe appeared visibly upset; it was a rare crack in her star façade.

Those who believe in such things could have seen the crash as an omen. The fantasies Monroe must have had about living in Connecticut, and the peace that it, and Miller, would bring her, soon wore thin. Even the house itself showed their clash of priorities: the two had first planned to tear down the old farmhouse and build another one on the property. But when Miller asked for a design from Frank Lloyd Wright, one that turned out to be far too grand for her notoriously frugal new husband, the over-the-top plans were dashed. The 18th-century farmhouse stayed.

Back in Roxbury, I stopped at the little Roxbury Market & Deli, where Monroe did her shopping. With a few aisles of locally made jams and everyday staples, it’s the closest thing the town has to a grocery store. One can imagine her attempting to play the role of housewife here. One can imagine, too, how bored the Hollywood star, so accustomed to cameras and adulation, quickly became.

Roxbury, after all, is a peaceful place. Aside from admiring the town’s colonial houses and steepled churches, its biggest draw may be its forests. The Roxbury Land Trust maintains 2,575 acres of trail-crossed nature preserves, much of its land given by the same icons who lived here: there is the 32-acre Matthau Preserve, the 22-acre Styron Preserve, the 27-acre Widmark Preserve and, yes, the 55-acre Arthur and Inge Morath Miller Preserve.

A peaceful town, yes. But for someone like Monroe, who thrived on public attention as much as she reviled it, it wasn’t the right fit. Nor, it seems, was Miller. The two divorced in 1961. Nineteen months later, Monroe died.

Miller lived out the rest of his days in Roxbury – playing tennis with Frank McCourt and Mia Farrow, who still lives in the next town over, tinkering with his plumbing, clearing fields and, of course, writing. He passed away there in 2005 at the age of 89.

But Miller hadn’t just died in Roxbury. He’d also asked to be buried here. In one of Hurlbut’s last conversations with the writer, Miller had called him up, especially curious about how to get a tombstone in the case of his death. Hurlbut explained that for his father, they’d opted to create a tombstone from an old stone they’d found. The frugal Miller liked that idea. And where do you find one, he wanted to know. In the land of stone walls, Hurlbut said, he was sure Miller could find a stone he liked. A few weeks later, Miller called him back up. ‘I found it! I found the stone!’ he said. It was from one of the walls on his property.

That’s how he was buried: with a stone, likely from a wall assembled decades, if not centuries, earlier, taken from his own property that he’d loved so much…

I just hoped that Monroe, if only for moments at a time, had found a little bit of solace here too.”