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Hamptons Life

May 27, 2016 9:55 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Arthur Miller And Marilyn Monroe In Gansett

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller spent time at this home on Deep Lane in Amagansett.
May 30, 2016 10:02 AM

Wednesday, June 1, would have been Marilyn Monroe’s 90th birthday. Perhaps someone will help celebrate it by purchasing the home in Amagansett where she once lived, which has just gone on the market for $8.5 million.

The structure on Deep Lane was at one time a working windmill. Then, in the 1950s, Samuel Rubin, who created the Faberge cosmetics company, converted the structure into a private home. Among those who have enjoyed quiet time in the “windmill house” were Ralph Lauren, Kurt Vonnegut and the actor Terence Stamp. No tenant, however, was more famous than Monroe, who rented there during a summer with her husband at the time, the playwright Arthur Miller.

Exactly when is open to interpretation, but there is no doubt that Monroe and Miller, who had married in 1956, lived in Amagansett in the summers of 1957 and ’58, one abode being a cottage.

“The place belonged to a former stage manager named Jeffrey Potter and his wife, Penny, both friends of Miller,” according to Martin Gottfried in his biography of the playwright. “It was set on a one hundred-acre site that, like so much of the Hamptons, was once used for potato farming. To one side was a riding stable and on the other was the home of the artist Willem de Kooning. The farmhouse itself faced on winding, arboreal Town Lane, minutes from the painterly bay beaches at Louse Point and Barnes Landing, a few miles from the ocean dunes. Arthur and Marilyn would drive down to that Atlantic shore, rolling onto the beach at Napeague Lane in their new Jeep.”

After a string of Hollywood hits that included “The Seven-Year Itch” and “How to Marry a Millionaire” and a marriage to Joe DiMaggio that had lasted all of nine months in 1954, Monroe left California for New York, where she studied acting. She was just coming off the film “Bus Stop” and she wanted to trade in the blond bombshell image for being viewed as a real actress. Such transformations don’t often work. One notable exception is Kim Basinger. When she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “L.A. Confidential,” she and her then-husband, Alec Baldwin, were living on the same Amagansett property that Monroe and Miller had lived on more than 40 years earlier.

Several accounts contend that the summers in Amagansett that included the “windmill house” were a happy period for the troubled actress. Photographs taken during that time by Sam Shaw, reportedly her favorite photographer, support the contentions. It had to help that some of her artistic ambitions had been realized by co-starring with Laurence Olivier in “The Prince and the Showgirl,” released in June 1957. A sad event for the Millers was that while in Amagansett that July, Monroe announced she was pregnant; however, following complications the ectopic pregnancy was ended. Also that summer, an EMS team from East Hampton had to rush to their rental to revive Monroe, who had overdosed on sleeping pills.

Otherwise, these were relatively peaceful times in both their lives. The Millers spent much of their time relaxing. He tried to work on several projects, while Marilyn walked along the beach, read poetry, visited friends in Springs and made only rare appearances in New York City. Arthur Miller had already written “Death of a Salesman,” “All My Sons,” “The Crucible” and “A View from the Bridge.” However, in some ways things weren’t going too well for him. He hadn’t had a true stage hit in years, forays into film writing had not gone well, and his wife was paying his alimony to his former wife. On the other hand, a short story, “The Misfits,” had recently been published in Esquire magazine, and friends were urging him to turn it into a screenplay.

During the summer of 1958, Monroe traveled from Amagansett to Hollywood to make what many consider her best movie: “Some Like It Hot,” alongside Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, directed by Billy Wilder. Miller was on to other, different projects, especially “The Misfits.” He worked on the script while in Amagansett and Marilyn was shooting in California. Soon after Labor Day, he had a completed script, which he presented to John Huston to direct. The movie released in 1961 and would be the last one for both Monroe and Clark Gable. (Also in the film was a longtime East Hampton resident, Eli Wallach.)

Despite career and personal concerns, Miller apparently enjoyed the time spent in Amagansett. In his autobiography, “Timebends,” he has idyllic recollections: “Our rented house in eastern Long Island faced broad green fields that made it hard to believe we were so near the ocean. Next door lived a painter and her husband who cherished their own privacy and thus defended ours. Now we could take easy breaths in a more normal rhythm of life.

“Marilyn had decided to learn how to cook and started with homemade noodles, hanging them over a chair back and drying them with a hair dryer, and she gave me hair trims out in the sunshine, and we walked the empty Amagansett beach in peace, chatting with the occasional commercial fishermen who worked their nets from winches on their rusting trucks.”

Several years ago, this reporter interviewed Joan Copeland, Arthur Miller’s sister, for the Press. She first came to Amagansett in 1957 when she made summertime visits to her brother and Marilyn. “That was my introduction to the East Hampton area,” Ms. Copeland recalled. “The house I bought there 30 years ago is very close to where Arthur and Marilyn lived.”

Special visits with her brother’s wife were on June 1, the birthday Ms. Copeland and Marilyn share. “My father had the same birthday too, so we would celebrate it together,” said Ms. Copeland. “My mother did the cooking and my father, Marilyn and me did the eating. She was very alluring. She had a delicacy to her, a vulnerability unlike anyone I’d ever met. If you knew her well, it would not be too hard to get to her. The problem was if you didn’t like her, it was easy to hurt and damage her.”

One has to do some damage to the old pocketbook to buy the “windmill house,” which is represented by Bobby Rosenbaum of Douglas Elliman. But look what a buyer would be acquiring: a three-story residence in a windmill which has three bedrooms, and outside are a century-old apple orchard, a forest-rimmed lawn often visited by wild turkeys, and views of the Quail Hill Farm and its fields. One can feel the breezes coming from the Atlantic Ocean … and maybe the spiritual presence of Marilyn Monroe.

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There is no question as to the exact location Miller and Monroe spent their summers in Amagansett. At the time, their house was accessed from Town Lane and yes, was part of the Potter property, and there is proof of their occupancy, thanks to photographer Sam Shaw, at what today is known as the Hill House. Whether or not Miller and Monroe ever rented the Windmill House is an open question. No doubt about Vonnegut however. I remember hanging out with him with my journalist sister and some of her ...more
By JosephKazickas (1), on Jun 3, 16 2:46 PM
Lovely story - Thank you Southampton Press.
By Vikki K (487), Southampton on Jun 3, 16 4:21 PM
As a teen in the 80s, a classmate told me about her dad who was a SH village officer, who came across Marilyn Monroe sitting on the curb outside the Saks which was then on Main Street. Late 50s, early 60s? They wouldn't let her try on dresses and stuff because she wasn't wearing underwear, she told him. According to gossipy lore passed down, maybe not true! But interesting.
By Hampton Bays (9), hampton bays on Jun 5, 16 11:41 AM
There are anecdotes about Monroe's time in Amagansett in her biography by Michelle Morgan that I know to be true. Prior to Amagansett, on e summer in the '50's she rented the former Jones house on Flying Point Road in Water Mill.
By June Bug (2165), SOUTHAMPTON on Jun 5, 16 3:03 PM
halloween, party, sag harbor,