‘This Lovely Girl’: Marilyn and Arthur Miller

Marilyn and Arthur photographed by Sam Shaw in 1957

Laura Martin has written a sensitive account of Marilyn’s relationship with Arthur Miller for Esquire. Apart for some minor errors in chronology, it’s well worth reading. (To put it in context, the couple first met in 1951, when Miller’s career was at its zenith, and Marilyn was an up-and-coming actress, but not yet a full-blown star. Secondly, the incident where she read his diary occurred not towards the end of their marriage, but at the beginning – and contrary to rumour, Marilyn was not pregnant at the time. Finally, Arthur entered a relationship with photographer Inge Morath – who became his third wife – not on the Misfits set, but in New York several months after he and Marilyn separated.)

“By 1955, the couple were in the throes of a full-blown affair, which became serious after they split from their spouses. However, in the McCarthy witch hunt for communists in the US, the FBI were investigating Miller and flagged him to the House Un-American Activities Committee, leading him to be subpoenaed. One gossip columnist referred to Monroe as ‘the darling of the left wing intelligentsia, several of whom are listed as Red fronters’. This infuriated the studio bosses, who warned Monroe that she should end the relationship, but she refused. The FBI also opened a file on Monroe.

During this time, Monroe, through a series of letters, revealed her true feelings of love towards Miller and explained why she chose to stand by him. As recorded in Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters she wrote: ‘I am so concerned about protecting Arthur. I love him—and he is the only person—human being I have ever known that I could love not only as a man to which I am attracted to practically out of my senses—but he is the only person—as another human being that I trust as much as myself.’

According to The Mirror, Miller’s biographer, [Christopher] Bigsby, said: ‘wHe was completely bowled over by her. It was certainly a love affair. One of his love letters to her was an almost adolescent outpouring of love.’

On June 29, 1956, the couple snuck off to the Westchester County Court House in White Plains, New York, where they were married in a swift, four-minute civil ceremony by Judge Seymour Rabinowitz.

The full Jewish wedding, for which Monroe converted, was held a few days later on July 1 at Miller’s agent, Kay Brown’s house. Monroe, who never knew who her real father was, was given away by her acting teacher, Lee Strasberg, and the couple gave wedding rings to each other which had ‘now is forever’ inscribed on them. Variety later famously commemorated the event with a story entitled: ‘Egghead Weds Hourglass’.

However, an intense filming schedule and health issues began to take their toll on Monroe … After taking 18 months off to focus on her and Miller’s relationship, she suffered from an ectopic pregnancy in 1957, and a further miscarriage. In Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox, Lois Banner describes how, at this time, Monroe was hospitalised briefly after taking an overdose of barbiturates.

Miller and Monroe did what many considered dangerous, and mixed work with pleasure. Miller ended up writing or rewriting a number of Monroe’s productions, like 1960’s Let’s Make Love and the last film she appeared in, 1961’s The Misfits.

The cracks in their marriage were beginning to show, and on the set of Let’s Make Love, Monroe was reported to have had an affair with her co-star, Yves Montand … The couple officially split after the filming of The Misfits and got a Mexican divorce – a divorce obtained in Mexico rather than the US, as it was easier, quicker and cheaper, and which could be done away from the prying lens of the paparazzi cameras.

Monroe died shortly afterwards, aged 36, of a barbiturate overdose on August 5, 1962. Miller did not attend her funeral. In an essay written by Miller at the time – as per The Independent – he explained why: ‘Instead of jetting to the funeral to get my picture taken I decided to stay home and let the public mourners finish the mockery … She was destroyed by many things and some of those things are you. And some of those things are destroying you. Destroying you now. Now as you stand there weeping and gawking, glad that it is not you going into the earth, glad that it is this lovely girl who you at last killed.’ He died aged 89 in 2005.”