All My Sons
|All My Sons|
|Written by||Arthur Miller|
Joe Keller |
|Setting||The Kellers' yard in late August, 1946|
The play opened on Broadway at the Coronet Theatre in New York City on January 29, 1947, closed on November 8, 1947 and ran for 328 performances. It was directed by Elia Kazan (to whom it is dedicated), produced by Elia Kazan and Harold Clurman, and won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, beating Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. It starred Ed Begley, Beth Miller, Arthur Kennedy, and Karl Malden and won both the Tony Award for Best Author and the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play.
Miller wrote All My Sons after his first play The Man Who Had All the Luck failed on Broadway, lasting only four performances. Miller wrote All My Sons as a final attempt at writing a commercially successful play; he vowed to "find some other line of work" if the play did not find an audience.
All My Sons is based upon a true story, which Arthur Miller's then mother-in-law pointed out in an Ohio newspaper. The news story described how in 1941–43 the Wright Aeronautical Corporation based in Ohio had conspired with army inspection officers to approve defective aircraft engines destined for military use. The story of defective engines had reached investigators working for Sen. Harry Truman's congressional investigative board after several Wright aircraft assembly workers informed on the company; they would later testify under oath before Congress. In 1944, three Army Air Force officers, Lt. Col. Frank C. Greulich, Major Walter A. Ryan, and Major William Bruckmann were relieved of duty and later convicted of neglect of duty.
Henrik Ibsen's influence on Miller is evidenced from the Ibsen play The Wild Duck, where Miller took the idea of two partners in a business where one is forced to take moral and legal responsibility for the other. This is mirrored in All My Sons. He also borrowed the idea of a character’s idealism being the source of a problem.
The criticism of the American Dream, which lies at the heart of All My Sons, was one reason why Arthur Miller was called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee during the 1950s, when America was gripped by anti-communist hysteria. Miller sent a copy of the play to Elia Kazan who directed the original stage version of All My Sons. Kazan was a former member of the Communist Party who shared Miller's left-wing views. However, their relationship was destroyed when Kazan gave names of suspected Communists to the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare.
Joe Keller — Joe, 60, was exonerated after being charged with knowingly shipping damaged aircraft engine cylinder heads (for Curtiss P-40 Warhawks) from his factory to the military during World War II, causing the deaths of twenty-one pilots. For three and a half years he has placed the blame on his partner and former neighbor, Steve Deever. When the truth comes out, Joe justifies his actions by claiming that he did it for his family. At the end of the play he committed suicide in a sad attempt to rid his family of the problems he has caused them and perhaps also to stop Kate from hating him.
Kate Keller (Mother) — Kate knows that Joe is guilty but lives in denial while mourning for her older son Larry, who has been MIA for three years. She refuses to believe that Larry is dead and maintains that Ann Deever — who returns for a visit at the request of Larry's brother Chris — is still "Larry's girl" and also believes that he is coming back.
Chris Keller — Chris, 32, returned home from World War II two years before the play begins, disturbed by the realization that the world was continuing as if nothing had happened. He has summoned Ann Deever to the Keller house in order to ask her hand in marriage, but they're faced with the obstacle of Kate's unreasonable conviction that Larry will someday return. Chris's idolization of his father results in his devastation when he finds out the truth about what Joe did.
Ann Deever — Ann, 26, arrives at the Keller home having shunned her "guilty" father since his imprisonment. Throughout the play, Ann is often referred to as pretty, beautiful, and intelligent-looking and as "Annie". She had a relationship with Larry Keller before his disappearance, and has since moved on because she knows the truth of his fate. She hopes that the Kellers will consent to her marriage to Larry's brother, Chris, with whom she has corresponded by mail for two years. Ann soon finds out that the neighbors all believe that Joe is guilty, and eventually finds out the truth after a visit from her older brother George. Ann is the knowledge-bearer in the play: finally, unable to convince Kate that Larry is gone forever, Ann reveals a letter from Larry stating his intention to commit suicide having learned of his father’s implied guilt.
George Deever — George, 31, is Ann’s older brother: a successful New York lawyer and WWII veteran, and a childhood friend of Chris'. He initially believed in his father’s guilt, but upon visiting Steve in jail, realizes his innocence and becomes enraged at the Kellers for deceiving him. He returns to save his sister from her marriage to Chris, creating the catalyst that destroys the Keller family.
Jim Bayliss — Jim is a successful doctor, but is frustrated with the stifling domesticity of his life. He wants to become a medical researcher, but continues in his job as it pays the bills. He is a close friend to the Keller family and spends a lot of time in their backyard.
Sue Bayliss — Sue is Jim's wife: needling and dangerous but affectionate, she too is a friend of the Keller family, but is secretly resentful of what she sees as Chris's bad idealistic influence on Jim. Sue confronts Ann about her resentment of Chris in a particularly volatile scene, revealing to Ann that the neighbors all think Joe is guilty.
Frank Lubey — Frank, 33, was always one year ahead of the draft, so he never served in World War II, instead staying home to marry George's former sweetheart, Lydia. He draws up Larry's horoscope and tells Kate that Larry must still be alive, because the day he died was meant to be his "favorable day". This strengthens Kate's faith and makes it much harder for Ann to reveal the letter to her.
Lydia Lubey — Lydia, 27, was George's love interest before the war; after he went away, she married Frank and they quickly had three children. She is a model of peaceful domesticity and lends a much-needed cheerful air to several moments of the play.
Bert — Bert is a little boy who lives in the neighborhood; he is friends with the Bayliss' son Tommy and frequently visits the Kellers' yard to play "jail" with Joe. He only appears twice in the play. The first time he appears, his part seems relatively unimportant, but the second time he appears his character gets more important as he sparks a verbal attack from mother when mentioning "jail," which highlights Joe's secret.
Larry Keller — Larry has been MIA for some years at the start of the play. However he has a significant effect in the play through his mother's insistence that he is still alive and his brother's love for Larry's childhood sweetheart, Ann. Comparisons are also made in the story between Larry and Chris; in particular, their father describes Larry as the more sensible one with a "head for business". At the end of the play, Ann reveals a letter written by Larry saying that, out of shame for his father's actions, he intends to commit suicide.
Steve Deever — George and Ann's father. Steve is sent to prison for the shipping of faulty aircraft parts—a crime which not only he but also the exonerated Keller committed.
In August 1946, Joe Keller, a self-made businessman, and his wife Kate are visited by a neighbor, Frank. At Kate's request, Frank is trying to figure out the horoscope of the Kellers' missing son Larry, who disappeared three years earlier. While Kate still believes Larry is coming back, the Kellers' other son, Chris, believes differently. Furthermore, Chris wishes to propose to Ann Deever, who was Larry's girlfriend at the time he went missing and who has been corresponding with Chris for two years. Joe and Kate react to this news with shock but are interrupted by Bert, the boy next door. In a game, Bert brings up the word "jail", making Kate react sharply. When Ann arrives, it is revealed that her father, Steve Deever, is in prison for selling cracked cylinder heads to the Air Force, causing the deaths of twenty one pilots in plane crashes. Joe was his partner but was exonerated of the crime. Ann admits that neither she nor her brother keep in touch with their father any more and wonders aloud whether a faulty engine was responsible for Larry's death. After a heated argument, Chris breaks in and later proposes to Ann, who accepts. Chris also reveals that, while leading a company, he lost all his men and is experiencing survivor's guilt. Meanwhile, Joe receives a phone call from George, Ann's brother, who is coming there to settle something.
Although Chris and Ann have become engaged, Chris avoids telling his mother. Their next door neighbor Sue emerges, revealing that everyone on the block thinks Joe is equally guilty of the crime of supplying faulty aircraft engines. Shortly afterwards, George Deever arrives and reveals that he has just visited the prison to see his father Steve. The latter has confirmed that Joe told him to cover up the cracked cylinders and to send them out. George insists his sister Ann will not marry Chris Keller, son of the man who destroyed the Deevers. Joe Keller and the rest of his family deny this. However, although Joe's story is that, on the fateful day of dispatch, the flu laid him up, Kate reveals that Joe hasn't been sick in fifteen years. George then redoubles his attacks. Joe also seeks to defend himself by explaining that he was building a business for his sons. Chris has never accepted this and remains furious with his father. Meanwhile, Frank announces his horoscope, implying that Larry is alive, which is just what Kate wants to hear.
Chris has gone missing. Reluctantly accepting the ubiquitous accusations, Kate says that, should Chris return, Joe must express willingness to go to prison in hopes that Chris will relent. As he only sought to make money at the insistence of his family, Joe is adamant that their relationship is above the law. Soon after, Ann emerges and expresses intent to leave with Chris regardless of Kate's disdain. When Kate angrily refuses again, Ann reveals to Kate a letter from Larry. She hadn't wanted to share it, but knows that Kate must face reality. Chris returns, and is torn about whether to bring Joe in himself, knowing it doesn't erase the death of his fellow soldiers or absolve the world of its natural merciless state. When Joe returns and refutes his guilt on account of his life's accomplishments, his son wearily responds, "I know you're no worse than other men, but I thought you were better. I never saw you as a man...I saw you as my father." Finally, the letter, read by Chris, reveals that because of his father's guilt, Larry planned to commit suicide. With this final blow, Joe finally agrees to turn himself in, goes inside to get his coat but then kills himself with a gunshot. At the end, when Chris expresses remorse in spite of his resolve, Kate tells him to not blame himself and to live onward.
Timeline of events in the play
The precise date of events in the play are unclear. However it is possible to construct a timeline of All My Sons using the dialogue. The action takes place in August 1946, in Midwestern United States with the main story taking place on a Sunday morning over the following 24 hours.
- Autumn 1943: Joe encourages Steve to supply the USAAF with faulty cylinder heads for aircraft engines
- Autumn 1943: After twenty øne piløts crash, Joe and Steve are arrested
- November 25, 1943: Having read about his father's arrest, Larry crashes his plane off the coast of China
- 1944: Joe is released
- August 1946, a Sunday morning at 4am: Larry's memorial blows down
- August 1946, the same Sunday morning: Ann arrives at the Keller home
- August 1946, the same Sunday morning: George visits Steve in prison (opening)
Links to Greek tragedy
Arthur Miller’s writing in All My Sons often shows great respect for the great Grecian tragedies of the likes of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. In these plays the tragic hero or protagonist will commit an offence, often unknowingly, which will return to haunt him, sometimes many years later. The play encapsulates all the fallout from the offense into a 24-hour time span. During that day, the protagonist must learn his fault and suffer as a result, and perhaps even die. In this way the gods are shown to be just and moral order is restored. In All My Sons, these elements are all present; it takes place within a 24-hour period, has a protagonist suffering from a previous offense, and punishment for that offense. Additionally, it explores the father-son relationship, also a common theme in Grecian tragedies. Ann Deever could also be seen to parallel a messenger as her letter is proof of Larry's death.
In Joe Keller, Arthur Miller creates just a representative type. Joe is a very ordinary man, decent, hard-working and charitable, a man no one could dislike. But, like the protagonist of the ancient drama, he has a flaw or weakness. This, in turn, causes him to act wrongly. He is forced to accept responsibility – his suicide is necessary to restore the moral order of the universe, and allows his son, Chris, to live free from guilt and persecution. Arthur Miller later uses the everyman in a criticism of the American Dream in Death of a Salesman, which is in many ways similar to All My Sons.
Arthur Miller quotation on All My Sons
In his Collected Plays, Miller commented on his feelings on watching an audience's reaction to a performance of his first successful play:
The success of a play, especially one's first success, is somewhat like pushing against a door which is suddenly opened from the other side. One may fall on one's face or not, but certainly a new room is opened that was always securely shut until then. For myself, the experience was invigorating. It made it possible to dream of daring more and risking more. The audience sat in silence before the unwinding of All My Sons and gasped when they should have, and I tasted that power which is reserved, I imagine, for playwrights, which is to know that by one's invention a mass of strangers has been publicly transfixed.
In 1987, the Broadway Revival of All My Sons won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play starring Richard Kiley (Tony Award Nominee Best Actor in a Play), Joyce Ebert, Jamey Sheridan (Tony Award Nominee Best Featured Actor in a Play) and Jayne Atkinson. It was produced by Jay H. Fuchs and Steven Warnick in association with Charles Patsos. It was originally produced by The Long Wharf Theatre (M. Edgar Rosenblum, Executive Director, Arvin Brown, Artistic Director). The production was directed by Arvin Brown, scenic design by Hugh Landwehr, costume design by Bill Walker, lighting design by Ronald Wallace. It opened on April 22, 1987 at the John Golden Theatre and closed May 17, 1987.
A Broadway revival began previews at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on September 18, 2008 and officially opened on October 16, 2008. The limited engagement ran through until January 4, 2009. Official site
The production starred Tony Award winner John Lithgow, Academy Award winner Dianne Wiest, Tony Award nominee Patrick Wilson, and Katie Holmes, in her Broadway debut. The other featured actors were Becky Ann Baker, Christian Camargo, Jordan Gelber, Danielle Ferland, Damian Young, and Michael D'Addario. It was directed by Simon McBurney. According to his biography, McBurney's "work on the production of All My Sons grew out of a meeting with Arthur Miller in 2001, shortly after the playwright saw the New York premiere of Mnemonic."
The creative team consisted of scenic and costume design by Tony Award nominee Tom Pye, lighting design by Paul Anderson, sound design by Christopher Shutt and Carolyn Downing, projection design by Finn Ross, and wig and hair design by Paul Huntley.
Some controversy surrounded the production, as the internet group Anonymous staged an anti-Scientology protest at the first night of preview performances in New York City (due to cast member Katie Holmes).
The cast dedicated their performance on September 27 to the legendary actor Paul Newman, who died the day before.
2010 London (West End)
David Suchet and Zoë Wanamaker (both stars of the British TV series Agatha Christie's Poirot) starred in a revival production at the Apollo Theatre in London's West End. Suchet played Joe Keller and Wanamaker played his wife Kate. The production also featured Jemima Rooper as Ann Deever and Stephen Campbell Moore as Chris Keller. The show ran from May until September 11, 2010; one performance was captured live and can be viewed online.
2013 Manchester, Royal Exchange
Michael Buffong, the artistic director of Talawa Theatre Company, directed the play at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. It starred Don Warrington as Joe Keller, Doña Croll as Kate Keller, Chike Okonkwo as Chris Keller, Kemi-Bo Jacobs as Ann Deever and Simon Coombs as George Dever.
2015 UK Tour
Ray Shell and Doña Croll led this revival by Talawa Theatre Company for a national tour of the UK. Shell played Joe Keller and Croll played his wife Kate. The production also featured Kemi-Bo Jacobs as Ann Deever and Leemore Marrett Jr as Chris Keller. The tour started in February and ran until April 25, 2015;
All My Sons was first adapted into a film in 1948. Edward G. Robinson played Joe Keller. It was directed by Irving Reis and gained two award nominations, Best Written American Drama and The Robert Meltzer Award for the film's co-writer Chester Erskine. In the film, Steve Deever is renamed Herbert Deever, and makes an onscreen appearance, played by actor Frank Conroy.
In 1950, Lux Radio Theater broadcast a radio play of All My Sons with Burt Lancaster as Joe. The play was adapted by S. H. Barnett and, in an interesting twist, featured the character of Steve Deever in a speaking role.
In 1958, the play was adapted for television by Stanley Mann and directed by Cliff Owen. This production starred Albert Dekker as Joe Keller, Megs Jenkins as Kate Keller, Patrick McGoohan as Chris Keller and Betta St. John as Ann Deever.
In 1987, All My Sons was made into a made-for-TV film. This version is more faithful to Arthur Miller's original play than the 1948 film version. The main roles are James Whitmore who plays Joe Keller, Aidan Quinn is Chris Keller, Michael Learned as Kate Keller and Joan Allen who plays Ann Deever. This version was directed by Jack O'Brien. Unlike the 1948 version, this version refers to George's father as Steve as in the play rather than Herb or Herbert.
In popular culture
- "Study Guide: All My Sons – About". GradeSaver. 2008. Archived from the original on 12 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- "All My Sons Details". The Internet Broadway Database. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Meyers, Jeffrey, The Genius and the Goddess: Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe, University of Illinois Press, ISBN 9780252035449 (2009), pp. 92–93
- Clausen, Henry C., and Lee, Bruce, Pearl Harbor: Final Judgment, Da Capo Press, ISBN 0306810352 (2001), pp. 56–58
- Hinton, Harold B., Air Victory: the men and the machines, New York: Harper & Bros. (1948), pp. 249–251
- Corning, New York Leader (5 April 1944), p. 9
- Three Air Officers 'Guilty of Neglect', Ordered Dismissed, The Milwaukee Journal, 26 April 1944, p. 33
- "Study Guide: All My Sons – Section 6". GradeSaver. 2008. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- "Elia Kazan Biography". The Internet Movie Database. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Andrew Moore (2008). "Studying Arthur Miller's All My Sons". Universal Teacher. Archived from the original on 10 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Michael Billington, "All My Sons", The Guardian, 28 May 2010
- "Digital Theatre :: the best of British theatre - watch online or download to your desktop".
- "All My Sons tour marks Arthur Miller centenary". BBC News.
- "All My Sons (Tour) - 'Michael Buffong ratchets up the tension'".
- "All My Sons - Review - Theatre - The Stage".
- "All My Sons (1948) - Overview - TCM.com".
- Lux Radio Theater – All My Sons (05-01-50)
- "All My Sons". 19 January 1987 – via IMDb.
- "All My Sons (1987) - Overview - TCM.com".
- "Audiobook is not available - Audible.com".
- Miller, Arthur (30 January 2001). Harris, Julie; Farentino, James; Gross, Arye, eds. "All My Sons". L.A. Theatre Works – via Amazon.
- Greene, Andy (14 January 2016). "Twenty One Pilots: Inside 2015's Biggest Breakout Band". Retrieved 14 August 2016.
- 1947 play
- All My Sons at the Internet Broadway Database
- All My Sons at the Internet Broadway Database
- All My Sons Study guide for GCSE exams
- American All My Sons guide exploring themes
- Information on Arthur Miller's influences
- All My Sons – All My Sons plot summary and character descriptions from StageAgent.com
- The social and historical context of the play
- Essay on All My Sons
- 1948 film
- All My Sons (1948 film) at the Internet Movie Database
- All My Sons (1948 film) at the TCM Movie Database
Trivia: In 1950, the stock units from the "Kellar home" sound stage sets were reconstructed on the new Colonial Street. In 1964, Universal studios tour guides called the sets the "house used in the movie Desperate Hours (1955)" (Kellar home). The home was used in the TV Series "Delta House" (1979). Today the sets are located on Wisteria Lane – 4347 Wisteria Lane.
- 1986 film
- All My Sons (1986 film) at the Internet Movie Database
- All My Sons (1986 film) at the TCM Movie Database
- 2008 play
- All My Sons (2008 play) at the Internet Broadway Database
- All My Sons on Broadway Official Website
- Essay contrasting the play with the 2008 US elections, from James Moran, the Dublin Review of Books