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May 31: Arthur Miller and HUAC

Lawrence Bush
May 31, 2010

s7WA1037563cArthur Miller, author of Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, among other enduring plays, was found guilty of contempt of Congress on this date in 1957 for refusing to name the names of Communist writers during hearings held by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. Miller denied being a communist but testified that “there were two short periods — one in 1940 and one in 1947 — when I was sufficiently close to Communist Party activities so that someone might honestly have thought that I had become a member.” His contempt conviction was overturned on appeal a year later. That his marriage to Marilyn Monroe had “some connection with . . . being subpoenaed was confirmed,” Miller wrote years later, “when Chairman Walters of the HUAC sent word to Joseph Rauh, my lawyer, that he would be inclined to cancel my hearing if Miss Monroe would consent to have a picture taken with him.”

“My heart was with the left, if only because the right hated me enough to want to kill me, as the Germans amply proved. And now, the most blatant and most foul anti-semitism is in Russia, leaving people like me filled not so much with surprise as a kind of wonder at the incredible amount of hope there once was, and how it disappeared and whether in time it will ever come again, attached, no doubt, to some new illusion.” —Arthur Miller, 2000

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.