Isabelle Canelli Isabelle Canelli | July 22, 2020 |
When Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller sought the quiet life, they found it in Amagansett.
Many houses out East boast rich histories and an impressive list of bold names who made them their homes. But very few can claim to be the spectacular backdrop to one of Hollywood’s most legendary romances. Amagansett’s 64 Deep Lane has not only hosted the likes of Ralph Lauren, Kurt Vonnegut and Terrence Stamp; during the summer of 1957 it was also the refuge of newlywedded Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, who would sneak off to the cottage to fool the paparazzi camped out at their primary “Hill House” on Stony Hill Farm, a 100-acre oceanfront estate nestled between riding stables and potato fields.
The actress was already a fan of the area thanks to Lee and Paula Strasberg, her Actors Studio mentors who hosted Monroe on Fire Island in 1955. According to award-winning journalist Spencer Rumsey, smitten Monroe was taken by the local beauty. “What a lovely place this is—it’s got water all around it,” she famously remarked.
The windmill in Amagansett was another part of the local charm that delighted the actress. Set on a 5-acre property, the 1800s edifice was converted into a home in the 1950s by Fabergé perfume founder Samuel Rubin. Quaint and humble, the 1,100-square-foot, three-story structure featured just two bedrooms, one bathroom and the third floor with some remnants of the machinery from when the windmill was in operation. The location of the farm was equally remarkable. “Our rented house in eastern Long Island faced broad green fields that made it hard to believe we were so near the ocean,” Miller described in his autobiography Timebends. “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.”
Their time in Amagansett alternated between bursts of creativity, domestic bliss and life-altering events. Miller worked on several projects, most notably a short story, The Misfits, published in Esquire magazine. He converted it into a screenplay that would become his wife’s final and arguably most critically acclaimed role. “I would not have written it except for Marilyn. I wrote it for her,” Miller was quoted saying in Christopher Bigsby’s Arthur Miller: 1915-1962. “It was the only time I did write anything for an actor and, had I not known her, I would not have begun such a thing. She had lost a child in early pregnancy, which really upset her a lot, so it was a kind of a gift. It was also the expression of a kind of belief in her as an actress.”
During that summer Monroe’s star power had definitely surpassed her husband’s. Despite the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s early success, his clout was fading. Miller’s forays into film writing had not been successful, and adding to his wounded ego was the fact that Monroe was paying his alimony to his former wife, Mary Slattery. Professionally, Monroe’s future looked promising with her role in 1959’s Some Like It Hot, which she allegedly prepared for while living at the windmill.
Still, domestic bliss in the Hamptons was on her mind. “Marilyn had decided to learn how to cook and started with homemade noodles, hanging them over a chair back and drying them with a hairdryer,” Miller wrote. “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.” Marilyn, who called herself MMM for Marilyn Monroe Miller, was often seen driving her black 1956 Thunderbird convertible around town with Hugo, a pet basset hound. One of her preferred scenic drives would usually end with a stop at the Springs General Store.
Sadly Monroe’s well documented health struggles continued to play a role. In the beginning of August that year, she was rushed to the city hospital for complications from an ectopic pregnancy that ended in termination. On another occasion, an East Hampton EMS team had to revive Monroe at home when she overdosed on sleeping pills.
Though the couple would divorce and Monroe would succumb to a suspected overdose, never to return out East again, Miller often visited his sister Joan Copeland at her Amagansett home. According to Bigsby, Miller kept a special memento from that summer. The bike Monroe used in the Hamptons would hang discreetly on the wall of his garage.
Photography by: Harold Clements/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images