Two long, meandering and disparate paths have converged with a gentle surprise. The inwardly voyaging playwright, Arthur Miller, and the exuberant, globe-trotting photographer, Inge Morath, sit in the cozy kitchen of their Connecticut farmhouse dawdling over bread and cod chowder she has made, surrounded by furniture he has built.
“I feel marvelous,” says Morath, 52, survivor of one failed marriage and years of preoccupied single life. Miller, 61, author of the despairing Death of a Salesman and husband of Marilyn Monroe for five wrenching years, has found serenity: “This marriage makes the past seem worthwhile.”
It is all but idyllic. Miller is in his studio every morning finishing his 14th play, The Archbishop’s Ceiling, opening in Washington April 30th. Long past the struggling preliminaries (“I figure if you keep wandering around a room with your arm out, you’re going to find the door”), he puts in six hours a day at his typewriter. Then he toils in the grove which produces shade trees for sale to landscape architects, or he putters in his carpentry shop.
Inge is usually up by 5, and after the Millers’ 14-year-old daughter, Rebecca, is off to school, she heads for her darkroom in the barn, her studio in a converted silo, or out to shoot the “good, varied landscape. A photographer’s eye is always hungry.”
That hunger produced the Millers’ just-released second collaboration, In the Country, a handsome book of Inge’s Connecticut photographs blended with country stories Arthur has collected for years. Yet despite the book and his new play—not to mention credits that include Salesman, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge and After the Fall—Miller is still dissatisfied. “I waste most of my time,” he laments.
Born in Brooklyn, where his father’s garment factory was wiped out by the Depression, Miller stumbled into literature in high school via The Brothers Karamazov, which he thought was a detective story. Putting himself through the University of Michigan as a dishwasher, he won three playwriting awards. By the time he was 34, Death of a Salesman had brought him prosperity, a Pulitzer Prize and the status to campaign for liberal causes, from human rights in Russia to justice for a murder suspect in a nearby town.
Both of Morath’s Austrian parents were scientists, and during her European education, she became fluent in six languages. Since her father was a wood products researcher in Berlin, she finished her schooling there under Allied bombing. After World War II she joined the refugee trek back to Austria, where her journalism earned an invitation to join the new cooperative, Magnum Photos, in Paris. She became an assistant to Henri Cartier-Bresson, who taught her photographic “ruthlessness”—”It’s the courage to walk up and hold your breath and take your picture.” Soon she was drawing photo assignments all over the world.
In 1960 Magnum sent her to Reno to shoot stills of The Misfits, the movie that Miller had written for Marilyn Monroe, whose psyche was crumbling as fast as their marriage. Miller, who first met Monroe on a movie set in 1951 and married her in 1956, now withdraws when she is mentioned. “It’s too personal,” he says. “I’m reluctant to get into it.” He does not hesitate to characterize Norman Mailer’s speculations in the book Marilyn. “I was astonished that he would invent things about me,” Miller says. “As he told Mike Wallace, he was writing fiction. With that excuse, I suppose you can do anything with a clear conscience.”
Miller has no vivid recollection of Inge from that first encounter. “On the set of The Misfits we were in one crisis after another,” he recalls. “Inge and I barely said hello at that time.” Unimpressed, she returned to Paris. Some months later Miller, after a bitter and painfully public separation from Monroe, ran into the photographer in New York and asked her to dinner. “I thought he’d be terribly stern and serious,” says Inge, who divorced her first husband, an English journalist, in 1954. “He’s really very funny.” Miller, at a rare and touching loss for words, says of Inge: “We just got along pretty well. I just kind of liked her.”
Miller and Marilyn were divorced in late January, 1961—he married Inge less than a month later. Their cherished (but unspoiled) daughter, Rebecca, was born in September, 1962. Miller has two grown children from his first marriage of 16 years to Mary Slattery whom he met on the Michigan campus. Rebecca injects a healthy irreverence into the family. When her father is asked if he’s difficult to live with while writing and begins to reply, “I guess so…,” Rebecca blurts “Aarrgghh! Days when he can’t think of a scene he walks around the house staring at the floor saying, ‘Too bad, too bad.’ He’s best when he’s eating.”
Miller alternately broods and surges with inspiration. “There are ideals of art,” he complains, “which commercial theater steps on always. It is a dead weight to me. I write despite it.” Morath is planning another trip and out of it possibly a book. (She has published 11, including one on Russia with Miller.) In preparation, Inge has been learning Mandarin with a private tutor at Yale.
“I want to go to China!” she says enthusiastically. Miller, resigned to his profession’s lack of excitement, sighs, “A writer’s life is very dull.” Somewhere in that contrast between them lies the reason they get along so well.