FBI kept eye on playwright Miller

NEW YORK – In the summer of 1956, playwright Arthur Miller married screen idol Marilyn Monroe in a Jewish ceremony, an event of high-level gossip for much of the world and of high-level curiosity for the U.S. government.

“An anonymous telephone call” has been placed to the New York Daily News, an FBI report notes at the time. The caller stated that the “religious” wedding – Miller was Jewish and Monroe had converted – was an obvious “cover up” for Miller, who “had been and still was a member of the CP (Communist Party) and was their cultural front man.” Monroe also “had drifted into the Communist Party orbit.”

The memo is one of many included in Miller’s FBI files, obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act. Miller, who died last year at age 89, was a longtime liberal who opposed the Vietnam War, supported civil rights and, in one play, “The Crucible,” linked the Cold War pursuit of communists to the Salem witch trials of the 17th century.

His files only became available after his death, but the government’s interest in Miller was well established in his lifetime. In 1956, the House Un-American Activities Committee asked him to give names of alleged communist writers with whom he had attended some meetings in the 1940s. Miller refused and was convicted of contempt of Congress, a decision eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

For a decade before his congressional testimony, the FBI kept track of the playwright, but ended up making a more convincing case that Miller was a dissenter from the Communist Party rather than a sympathizer.

“Miller became disillusioned with the party because the party did not stimulate in him the ability and inspiration to do creative writing as he had expected when he joined the party,” one informant told the FBI.

According to a 34-page FBI report, compiled in 1951, Miller was identified by an informant as being “under Communist Party discipline” in the 1930s and, as of the mid-1940s, a member.

Miller said he had never been “under Communist discipline,” although “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.”

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