A Country Girl: Revisiting Marilyn’s Connecticut Years

In the Connecticut Post, Mark Reiss – one of 11 writers for TV’s The Simpsons who live in the state – asks, what attracts literary types to his homeground? (The photo above shows Marilyn with Arthur at his Roxbury home days before their wedding. Miller later sold the property and bought another with Marilyn nearby.)

“When I ask people why they think that is, they all have the same answer: ‘Who cares?’ Well, I care deeply. I’m proud that my tiny home state has produced so many amazing writers … But for sheer writers per capita, no place can touch Roxbury, population 2,262. Playwright Arthur Miller brought his new bride Marilyn Monroe to live there. More recently, it’s been home to best-selling authors Candace Bushnell (Sex and the City), William Styron (Sophie’s Choice), Gay Talese (Frank Sinatra Has a Cold) and Frank McCourt (Angela’s Ashes). One can imagine them all fighting to get a good table at Roxbury Pizza Station.

But let’s get back to the original question: Why? Why has the third smallest state in America produced great authors in every genre? My theory is that most writers spend their day sitting in their offices, staring out the window. And Connecticut is a great place to stare out the window. It’s green, it’s pretty, it’s not too dramatic. There’s no mountain to climb or desert to cross — nothing worth getting out of your chair for. It looks nice, but it’s cold in the winter and buggy in the summer. You might as well stay indoors and write your book. Plus, it’s a quick hop to New York if you need a decent bagel.”

The Millers in 1957

Marilyn’s ‘Connecticut connections’ actually pre-date her relationship with Arthur, as she had stayed at the Westport home of Milton Greene after fleeing Hollywood in December 1954. Local girl Amanda Ruggieri wrote an article about Marilyn’s spell of country living for the BBC back in 2015.

“Few people outside of Litchfield County know that Monroe lived in the tiny Connecticut town from 1956 to 1961 – or have heard of Roxbury at all … The centre of town is little more than the clerk’s office, a small market and gas station where Monroe used to shop, and a cemetery where Miller and McCourt, among others, lie buried. I only know of Roxbury because I attended high school in the next town over, where my family still lives.

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.

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.

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 [Walter] Matthau Preserve, the 22-acre Styron Preserve, the 27-acre [Richard] 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.”