As a magazine subscriber, it’s always nice when one article makes an otherwise worthless issue (the “Fashion Issue”) remind you why you still bother. On a recent flight, I was pretty captivated by Suzanna Andrew’s piece in this month’s Vanity Fair, which digs into the mystery of deceased playwright Arthur Miller’s “forgotten” son. Miller apparently kept his son, Daniel (filmmaker Rebecca Miller’s brother), hidden from more than just the spotlight:
In a moving speech at the Majestic, the playwright Tony Kushner said Miller had possessed the “curse of empathy.” Edward Albee said that Miller had held up a mirror and told society, “Here is how you behave.” Among the many other speakers were Miller’s sister, the actress Joan Copeland, his son the producer Robert Miller, his daughter the writer and film director Rebecca Miller, and her husband, the actor Daniel Day-Lewis. Miller’s oldest child, Jane Doyle, was in the audience but did not speak.
Only a handful of people in the theater knew that Miller had a fourth child. Those who did said nothing, out of respect for his wishes, because, for nearly four decades, Miller had never publicly acknowledged the existence of Daniel.
He did not mention him once in the scores of speeches and press interviews he gave over the years. He also never referred to him in his 1987 memoir, Timebends. In 2002, Daniel was left out of the New York Times obituary for Miller’s wife, the photographer Inge Morath, who was Daniel’s mother. A brief account of his birth appeared in a 2003 biography of Miller by the theater critic Martin Gottfried. But even then Miller maintained his silence. At his death, the only major American newspaper to mention Daniel in its obituary was the Los Angeles Times, which said, “Miller had another son, Daniel, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after his birth in 1962. It is not known whether he survives his father.” Citing the Gottfried biography, the paper reported that Daniel had been put in an institution, where Miller “apparently never visited him.”
UPDATE: I totally missed a few weeks ago when Janet Pierson blogged about this article, adding her own thoughts on it.