If the distinctive name of Kermit Bloomgarden doesn’t ring a bell today, that’s to be expected. Even when he was at the height of his powers in the 1950s, he wasn’t particularly known to the general public—even if his works were.

Bloomgarden was a theatrical producer and a force behind of such enduring classics as Death of a Salesman and The Music Man, along with many other prominent titles, including The Diary of Anne Frank, Look Homeward, Angel, and Equus.

His success explains why LIFE, for a story its December 22, 1958 issue titled “People at the Top of the Entertainment World,” shone its spotlight on Bloomgarden. Wrote LIFE, “Little known to the public, Bloomgarden is unsurpassed at the complex job of choosing plays, directors, actors, and meshing them all together smoothly,”

Bloomgarden’s influence also explains the many stars that appear alongside him in the pictures taken by LIFE photographer Robert W. Kelley. Luminaries shown with Bloomgarden include actor Anthony Perkins, who starred in Look Homeward Angel before moving on to his career-defining role in Psycho. The man who Bloomgarden chose to direct Perkins in that play was George Roy Hill, seen here lunching with Bloomgarden, would go on to direct such movies as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

But the most glamorous figures in Bloomgarden’s orbit were undoubtedly Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe. Bloomgarden had not only produced Miller’s classic Death of a Salesman but also another play of his, A View from the Bridge, in 1955.

And Bloomgarden was connected to Monroe not only through Miller but also through her close friend Susan Strasberg, who was photographed separately by Kelley and had starred in Bloomgarden’s production of The DIary of Anne Frank. In addition to being an actress, Strasberg was the daughter of Lee Strasberg, the legendary acting coach who taught Monroe. In 1992 Susan Strasberg wrote the memoir Marilyn & Me: Sisters, Rivals and Friends.

Kelley’s photos Monroe and Miller hosting Bloomgarden in their Manhattan apartment, sitting in the living room and gathering around the piano for a light-hearted shoot. When these photos were taken, Miller and Monroe were in the middle of what would be a five-year marriage, and they look very much the happy couple. It’s telling of Bloomgarden’s position in his world that he looked very much at home with the most glamorous couple in America—even if the former accountant stayed in his coat and tie.

Broadway producer Kermit Bloomgarden with Arthur Miller (left) and Marilyn Monroe in their Manhattan apartment, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Broadway producer Kermit Bloomgarden with Marilyn Monroe in her Manhattan apartment, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Marilyn Monroe poured a drink in her Manhattan apartment with theatrical producer Kermit Bloomgarden and her husband Arthur Miller in the background, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

In her Manhattan apartment Marilyn Monroe poured a drink with her husband, playwright Arthur Miller (mostly obscured, at extreme left) and theatrical producer Kermit Bloomgardensit in the background, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Theatrical producer Kermit Bloomgarden (right) visiting with playwright Arthur Miller his wife, actress Marilyn Monroe, in their Manhattan apartment, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Marilyn Monroe hugging her husband, Arthur Miller in their apartment in New York, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Kermit Bloomgarden visited Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller at their apartment in New York, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Theatrical producer Kermit Bloomgarden visited Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller at their apartment in New York, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Theatrical producer Kermit Bloomgarden with Marilyn Monroe at her New York apartment, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Theatrical producer Kermit Bloomgarden posed in his New York office, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Kermit Bloomgarden visited with Anthony Perkins, who starred in Bloomgarden’s stage production of Look Homeward, Angel.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

New York producer Kermit Bloomgarden (right) hugged actress Susan Strasberg in 1958; she played the title role in his production of The Diary of Anne Frank.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Producter Kermit Bloomgarden and Susan Strasberg, who had starred in his production of The Diary of Anne Frank, walked in New York City, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

New York producer Kermit Bloomgarden (center) had lunch in 1958 with director George Roy Hill (left) and playwright Ketti Frings (right), who both worked on Bloomgarden’s production of Look Homeward, Angel. The play would earn Frings the Pulitzer Prize.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

New York producer Kermit Bloomgarden (R) having dinner with actor Robert Preston (left, and star of Bloomgarden’s The Music Man) and his wife, actor Peter Ustinov (third from left) and actress Celeste Holm (center) at George M. Cohan Corner, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

New York producer Kermit Bloomgarden (center) auditioned dancers, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

New York producer Kermit Bloomgarden (center) auditioned dancers, 1958.

Robert W. Kelley/LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

More Like This

arts & entertainment

Her Perfect Refuge: Mae West in Vegas

arts & entertainment

Def Leppard: Their Rousing, Rocking, Remarkable Journey

Julie Christie arts & entertainment

An ‘Air of Abandonment’: Photos of Julie Christie, 1966

arts & entertainment

Anatomy of a Murder: On the Set of a Cinema Classic

arts & entertainment

Election Night Coverage When TV Was Young

arts & entertainment

Motown: The Music That Changed America