Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” opened on Broadway at the Coronet Theater in New York on January 29, 1947. Directed by controversial director Elia Kazan, it won the ’47 Tony and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award. Hollywood snapped up the rights and cast Edward G. Robinson, Burt Lancaster, and Mady Christians in starring roles. [source] No play, no movie, is going to garner awards merely because of an outstanding director and a star studded cast; there has to be a message with which the audience can connect. “All My Sons” connected in no small part because of the kernel of truth inside the dramatic presentation.
Miller’s then mother-in-law showed the playwright an Ohio newspaper story about a woman who informed on her father for selling faulty parts to the U.S. military during World War II. The characters Miller wrapped around this plot could as easily exemplify some of the modern profiteers, and those who enable them.
There’s the unscrupulous businessman “Joe Keller” who escaped charges initially, spends three years trying to shift the blame to his partner, and when the truth emerges tries to rationalize his behavior by claiming “he did it for his family.” Does Joe bear any resemblance to those who attended the Fairfax County VA Chamber of Commerce seminar on “Congressional Investigations: The Challenge of Responding Effectively?” [WaPo] Does the spokesman for Dyncorp, Inc. really need a brush up session on “How they (Congressional investigators) think? How do they view the process?”
“Kate Keller” lives in denial. She denies that her son may be dead, she denies that her husband is profiteering. Is there sufficient denial going on that corporate representatives really needed to hear from a panel of lawyers, Congressional investigators, and an ABC news reporter about how to respond to Congressional oversight? [WaPo]
“Chris Keller” returns from combat angry that the world is continuing as if nothing has happened and thwarted by his mother’s denials. Hasn’t Paul Riechkoff of the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America been trying to tell us that returning veterans have some difficulty adjusting to “normal” at home when no one understands the essential nature of their experiences?
“Ann Deever,” Chris’s girlfriend, carries the burden of guilty knowledge throughout the play; knowledge of Joe’s deceit and culpability, and knowledge that the longed for son, Larry, committed suicide upon hearing of his father’s racket. Do the corporate consciences need to be spurred by a “significant spike in breadth, depth and scope of investigations.” [WaPo] Why would corporate spokespersons sign up for a Chamber of Commerce program in which the Republican general counsel for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee advised that if a contract looks too good to be true — it probably is — advice generally offered by centuries of parents and grandparents. Or, why would they need to be reminded by a deputy chief investigative counsel, “Don’t promise you’re going to cooperate if you’re not going to deliver.” Or, as a cynic might question: When they signed up for the seminar were they looking for a way to put the “blame on their partners?”
Perhaps this drama is a candidate for a revival?