In scorching dramas like Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, playwright Arthur Miller examined the dark side of the American dream. He turned that gaze inward too. "He was willing to look at the darkest part of himself and display it in front of an audience," says Peter Krause, who starred in last year's Broadway revival of Miller's After the Fall, inspired by his stormy four-year marriage to Marilyn Monroe. Miller, who died Feb. 10 of congestive heart failure, "was not afraid to risk it all," says friend Eli Wallach—from standing up to Sen. Joseph McCarthy's Communist-hunting House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956 to marrying America's reigning sex symbol. After their 1961 divorce, "he didn't want to talk about Marilyn," says Wallach, "except that it was a deep, emotional feeling for him."

His dramas had the same devastating impact on audiences. Miller, who died at 89 surrounded by family (including writer-director Rebecca, the youngest of his four children, and her husband, Daniel Day-Lewis) at his Roxbury, Conn., farmhouse, "was the last of the great titans of the American stage," says Nicholas Hytner, who directed the 1996 film version of The Crucible. Miller, whose third wife, photographer Inge Morath, died in 2002, wrote until the end: His final play, Finishing the Picture, about Monroe's work on the 1961 Miller-scripted film The Misfits, premiered last fall in Chicago. "As a playwright," says Wallach, "he always wanted to say more."