08/17/05 - monroe rescues miller

In today's excerpt - the era of blacklisting and McCarthy. Few individuals that were targeted in this process avoided having their lives permanently damaged, unless they named names and thus damaged the lives of others. Playwright Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, the Crucible, etc.) was such a target and would likely have been victimized, except for the personal courage of Marilyn Monroe, who subsequently became his wife:

"The McCarthy committee had called Arthur Miller to testify. If he didn't name names, he'd be in contempt and risk a jail sentence. If he named names, like Kazan or Sterling Hayden or Clifford Odets, his career could go on. But Arthur's plays were a voice for freedom of expression. He'd never name names. ...

"Marilyn raged: 'The bastards, I won't let them do it to him. He's got to tell them to go f**k themselves, only he can do it in better language.' Arthur had anger, she had passion. Whether he intended to tell them to go f**k themselves or not, she was like Saint Joan urging the dauphin to fight. She was a warrior goddess, awakened, and full of piss and vinegar. She was thinking of him, not herself, of the principles involved ...

"When Marilyn's studio heard that she was considering backing Miller publicly, they called her to threaten or cajole her not to do it.  'Professional suicide,' they warned her. 'Your fans, the public, will reject you, your career will be seriously jeopardized. Maybe over.' She'd heard this before: the nude calendar, her leaving for New York.

"That was all she needed. 'Those sons of bitches can't tell me what to do anymore.' The more they threatened, the more determined she became to go ahead. 'What's my career against his if the people turn against me?'

"[Paula Strasberg], after being blacklisted herself, was ambivalent. 'Marilyn, these people are serious. They've ruined lives for less than this. Look at my career as an actress ruined, Julie Garfield dead at thirty-six, Larry Parks will never make another movie. If you're a writer or director you can change your name, they don't need to see your face. But an actress—these are the best years of your career you're coming into, nothing should jeopardize that. Even though I think you're right, is it worth it to take the risk? Arthur's problem is from before he met you, it doesn't really concern you; let him resolve it' ...

"I was amazed at how she could be so subservient and helpless and yet wind up dominating everyone ... She was at her best here, like a soldier who rises to the occasion of war ... In the end she did what she wanted to, as usual. Simply dressed, hair windswept, arm in his, Marilyn and Arthur appeared on the steps of his lawyer's house. The attendant publicity generated sympathy for Arthur. Arthur didn't name names, and eventually the committee decided not to jail the future husband of the quintessential American dream girl. Together they'd weathered the crisis. Marilyn had shown herself to be a woman of principle."


Susan Strasberg


Marilyn and Me: Sisters, Rivals, Friends


Warner Books


Copyright 1992 by Susan Strasberg


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