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Friday, February 11, 2005

Arthur Miller; Jack Chalker

An interesting piece on NPR about Arthur Miller being a lasting American playwright--the only other two being Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams.

I hadn't ever thought of it that way, not quite anyway, but I suppose it's true. From that hallowed A list of three the drop to the B list is a fur piece to travel. Not that there aren't many many lesser playwrights of wide and great talent on that list. In fact some of them are at least as interesting as the three gods. But when you think of last century worldwide with playwrights such as Piranadello and Ionesco and Pinter, I think our own hallowed trinity are the only ones we can safely put up.

Caught an interview from 1999 with Miller and he told a great Harry Cohn story. Harry's Columbia studio paid a lot of money for film righst to "Death of A Salesman" but then Joe McCarthy came along and denounced the play as an attack on the American way (I guess because it depicted a man whipped and humiliated by capitalism as a whiner and coward).

Harry decided the only thing to do was to create an 8 minute docu-drama called "Life of A Salesman" in which a jubilant American family of Ozzie & Harriet stripe celebrate Dad's joyous news that he just sold a steamship (or some other big ticket item) and let the comies put THAT up where the sun don't shine. This ran before "Death of A Salesman."

Only Harry Cohn.


I was always grateful to the science fiction writer Jack Chalker for publishing my first three short stories back in 1958-1959 in his fanzine "Mirage." I long ago lost my copies but about a year ago I had occasion to speak to Jack and congratulate him on being a best-selling science fiction writer, which, back in the ffties, was the holiest of my dreams.

Jack passed today at age 58.


Blogger Bill said...

We shared the same dream in the '50s, Ed. I was sorry to hear about Jack Chalker's death. I liked his Nathan Brazil books.

But speaking of death, and of Harry Cohn, I'm reminded of Red Skelton's remark as he looked out over the crowd at Cohn's funeral: "Give the people what they want, and they'll turn out."

February 12, 2005 at 6:44 AM  

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