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1958: Arthur Miller cleared of contempt
Washington's Court of Appeals has quashed playwright Arthur Miller's conviction for contempt of Congress after a two-year legal battle.

In May last year, a judge convicted Mr Miller for refusing to tell the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) the names of alleged Communist writers with whom he attended five or six meetings in New York in 1947.

He had been questioned by the HUAC in 1956 over a supposed Communist conspiracy to misuse American passports and willingly answered all questions about himself.

But the playwright, married to actress Marilyn Monroe, refused to name names on a point of principle saying: "I could not use the name of another person and bring trouble on him."


Today his lawyer, Joseph Rauh, argued that the committee simply wanted to expose the playwright and that "exposure for exposure's sake" was illegal.

Mr Rauh added that the timing of the hearing - just before his marriage to Marilyn Monroe - would ensure maximum publicity and humiliation for the writer.

He also said the questions he would not answer were not relevant to the passports issue.

However the appeal court ignored this argument finding instead that the way the questions were put to Mr Miller by the HUAC made contempt charges untenable.

Mr Miller had asked the committee not to ask him to name names and the chairman had agreed to defer the question.

The court today ruled that at the time Mr Miller was led to believe this line of questioning had been suspended or even abandoned altogether.

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Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe
Good news for Arthur Miller and his wife, actress Marilyn Monroe

In Context
The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was set up in 1938 to investigate fascists as well as communists within federal government.

In 1947 it turned its attention to the arts. A group of writers, directors and actors known as the Hollywood Ten were subsequently convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about their political beliefs.

They were blacklisted by Hollywood and over the course of the next 10 years some 320 people were barred from work in the film studios over their alleged membership of the Communist party.

As more convictions of contempt were quashed by the courts of appeal, the committee's influence declined and it was abolished in 1975.

Arthur Miller later said his trial only went ahead because he had refused one of the members of the HUAC permission to be photographed with Marilyn Monroe. The couple divorced in 1961.

Arthur Miller died in 2005, aged 89.

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