FBI shadowed playwright Arthur Miller

Washington Post:

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’s first Broadway play, “The Man Who Had All the Luck,” came out in 1944, around the same time that the earliest FBI files are dated. His professional and personal life were closely watched, usually through newspaper clippings, but also from informants (whose names have been blacked out in the records) and public documents.

The FBI not only kept records of Miller’s political statements, from his opposition to nuclear weapons to his attacks against the anti-communist blacklist, but of his affiliation with such organizations as the American Labor Party (“a communist front”) and the “communist infiltrated” American Civil Liberties Union.

In vain, the FBI probed for communist influence in the content and in the productions of his plays. One memo cites an “informant” who reported that “several communists” have been turned down for roles in various “Arthur Miller playlets.”

Aren’t you glad we’ve learned so much from eras past? There’s no way the government would engage in this sort of stuff anymore, after all.

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