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A Look Back at the Life of a Legendary Playwright

One of America's best-known playwrights has passed away. Arthur Miller penned plays that are considered modern classics of the American stage.

Arthur Miller was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright whose most famous fictional character was Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman." The play, first produced in February 1949, is considered to be both the playwright's masterpiece and a cornerstone of contemporary American drama. The play examined the myth of the American Dream and the universal hopes and fears of middle-class America.

"Death of a Salesman" won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1949; Mr. Miller was just 33-years-old at the time. The play has had two Broadway revivals. Fifty years after it was first performed, it received the Tony Award for best Broadway revival in 1999. The play is scheduled to open again in London in May of this year.

In 1956, Arthur Miller married American actress Marilyn Monroe, but the marriage only lasted five years. Reflecting on the marriage decades later, Mr. Miller said he spent all his energy and attention during the marriage, trying to help Ms. Monroe solve her problems. She committed suicide the year they divorced.

Throughout his career, Mr. Miller's plays carried a strong emphasis on family, morality and personal responsibility.

At the 1996 premier of the movie "Crucible," a play that won Broadway's Tony Award in 1953, Mr. Miller said the hysteria of the 17th century Salem, Massachusetts witch trials was similar to the hysteria generated by U.S. Senator Joe McCarthy's hunt for Communists during the middle of the 20th century. He said that was one reason why he encountered resistance to produce a play about the witch trials.

"I guess it's partly political, people feared it, and partly the expense of doing it, it's a big production. And partly the language, they felt that the language was not something that everybody would understand. But of course they do understand it, quite easily," said Mr. Miller.

In 1984 Arthur Miller was awarded the Kennedy Center Honor, an award for lifetime achievement in the arts, the American equivalent of being knighted in Britain or receiving the French Legion of Honor. Arthur Miller had been hailed as America's greatest living playwright. He died of heart failure at the age of 89 with his family at his bedside.