Arthur Miller Hid The Existence Of His Son For Four Decades

With landmark plays like "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible," Arthur Miller was (and is) considered one of the most important American playwrights to have ever lived. Born in 1915, his disillusionment with the "American Dream" heavily inspired his body of work (via PBS). There seems to be a direct link between this and a life-changing incident Miller experienced relatively early on when his family lost their wealth during the Great Depression. According to Britannica, Miller eventually scraped up enough money to attend the University of Michigan in 1934, and it was there that Miller discovered he had a talent for playwriting. Eventually, he returned to New York where he debuted his first play, "The Man Who Had All the Luck',' on Broadway in 1944. Although the drama was a critical failure, he followed up with "All My Sons" and "Death of a Salesman," and the latter won him a Pulitzer, per Biography.

Beyond his professional work, Miller is also remembered for his complex personal life. An essay posted on the National Endowment for the Humanities website in 2001 summarized that Miller was married three times. His first marriage was to Mary Slattery, whom he met in college. The pair had two children, Jane Ellen and Robert. Most famously, Miller was married to actor Marilyn Monroe. After they parted ways in 1961, his third and final marriage was to Inge Morath. Although it's widely reported that the couple had one child, a daughter named Rebecca, Miller and Morath also had a son named Daniel, per The Guardian.

Arthur Miller met his third wife while he was married to Marilyn Monroe

According to Biography, Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe tied the knot in 1956. Although it was Monroe's final and longest marriage, the union was doomed from the start. By all accounts, the couple was madly in love — and Monroe, who yearned to be taken seriously as an actor, thought Miller could boost her reputation among the intelligentsia. Nonetheless, The Ringer wrote in 2018 that the media was taken aback by the relationship. Their marriage came to a head when they began to work on "The Misfits," a film written by Miller with Monroe in mind. The relationship continued to deteriorate during the film's production, and by the time "The Misfits" was complete, their marriage was over.

Despite this, there was a silver lining to "The Misfits" for Miller. W Magazine noted in 2018 that while filming "The Misfits," he met Inge Morath, the woman who became his third wife. At the time, Morath was a photographer for Magnum Photos and was hired to document the set. (Ultimately, her photos of Monroe capture the star's fragility towards the end of her life, as "The Misfits" was Monroe's final film before she died in 1962.) Miller was moved by Morath's work; as Morath biographer Linda Gordon put it in a 1987 interview with NPR, "Miller had struck her as intensely interesting — and he was quite impressed." Miller and Morath had an affair and married in 1962, shortly after his divorce from Monroe was finalized.

This is why no one knew of Daniel Miller's existence

Inge Morath (pictured above with Arthur Miller) gave birth to the couple's first child, Rebecca Miller, in September 1962 (via IMDb). As The Guardian explained in 2007, Rebecca was an easy and beloved new addition to their family. Per Magnum Photos, Miller and Morath raised their daughter in Roxbury, Connecticut, a tranquil and picturesque town, and Morath gave birth to her second child (and Miller's fourth) around 1966. To their surprise, their new baby had Down syndrome. According to NPR, they brought the infant home for a week before deciding to institutionalize him at a nursery in New York City, and Morath was reportedly devastated.

To put it in context, it was common to institutionalize children like Daniel in the mid-20th century, as Down syndrome, an intellectual disability, was not widely understood (via The Guardian). Most likely due to the stigma attached to Down syndrome at the time, Miller generally disregarded his son's existence. According to The Guardian, Morath visited her son weekly while Miller did not — and per Vanity Fair, Morath attempted to bring her son home when he was a toddler, but Miller refused.

As The Guardian noted, Daniel was later placed at the Southbury Training School in Connecticut — an institution that was reportedly understaffed and chaotic — where he spent the majority of his young life. He was then eventually enrolled in an assisted living program, which allowed him to live in an apartment with a roommate.

Arthur Miller had a family history of Down syndrome

Per USA Today, Arthur Miller hid the existence of Daniel so well that even his close friends were unaware that he had a son with Down syndrome. Those who did know, however, called the situation "absolutely appalling," according to Vanity Fair. Ironically, Miller was acclaimed for writing plays about father and son relationships, despite abandoning his own. The question remains: Why would he choose to institutionalize and ignore his son? 

According to USA Today, it's possible Miller's marriage to Marilyn Monroe — who was known to experience severe mental health issues — influenced his reasoning, as Miller essentially took on the role of Monroe's care provider during their short-lived union. In that sense, he might have feared the same would happen with this son. It's also plausible that Miller wanted to focus on his writing career and raising a special needs child would interfere with this plan (via NPR). 

There's also another possibility. As Vanity Fair noted, Miller had a cousin with Down syndrome who was raised at home instead of in an institution. Miller, who witnessed firsthand the pressure and stress it put on their family, might not have wanted his own to go through the same. Additionally, many speculated that he simply was unaware of how to deal with his emotions. As his sister Jane Copeland explained it (via Vanity Fair), "Arthur was detached, that's how he protected himself."

Daniel Day-Lewis inspired Arthur Miller to reunite with Daniel

Despite his earlier circumstances, Daniel Miller thrived with age, according to Vanity Fair. Steadily employed with a rich social life, he became a disability advocate s a member of two activist groups, respectively named Starlight and People First. In 1995, Daniel encountered Arthur Miller at a conference about false confessions in Hartford, Connecticut. Per NPR, Daniel ran up to his father and hugged him, an experienced that shocked Arthur. Nonetheless, both took a photo together before Arthur left. As disability advocate and friend Jean Bowen told Vanity Fair in 2007, she recalled that "Danny was thrilled" about the interaction. 

Shortly after this, Rebecca Miller married actor Daniel Day-Lewis after meeting on the set of the film adaptation of "The Crucible," another one of her father's best-known plays. Per The Guardian, Day-Lewis had previously starred as a man with cerebral palsy in the film "My Left Foot," and was purportedly horrified when he learned about the relationship between his father- and brother-in-law. It's believed that this prompted Day-Lewis to encourage Miller to form a relationship with his estranged son. 

It seemingly took. Arthur later attended one of Daniel's annual provided care reviews at his apartment, per Vanity Fair. Speaking to the magazine, the supported living facility's director, Rich Godbout, remembered the playwright "was absolutely amazed at Danny being able to live out on his own. He [kept saying]: 'I would never have dreamed this for my son ... I would never have believed it.'"

Daniel Miller's story became the focus of a new play

Even though Arthur Miller reportedly expressed astonishment over the rich life his son had built for himself, he never returned to his apartment or attended another one of Daniel's review meetings, per Vanity Fair. Daniel, however, did occasionally visit his parents at their home. Despite this, Daniel's existence remained unknown to the public for over a decade after the reunion. 

After Inge Morath died in 2002, Daniel was omitted from her obituary. Three years later, Arthur died from heart failure in 2005, and USA Today noted that Daniel was also excluded from any of Miller's obituaries, though Miller mentioned Daniel in his will and left him, along with his other children, an equal amount of his fortune (via The Guardian). The world did not become aware of Daniel's existence until Vanity Fair published an in-depth piece on the subject in 2007. 

According to NPR, a play titled "Fall" was later written about Miller and Daniel. Premiering in 2018, "Fall" starred actor Nolan James Tierce — who also has Down syndrome — as Daniel. In an interview with the outlet, Tierce expressed disappointment with Arthur, before adding, "It is their loss — and a tragedy."