John Gregory Dunne

John Gregory Dunne
Born (1932-05-25)May 25, 1932
Hartford, Connecticut
Died December 30, 2003(2003-12-30) (aged 71)
Manhattan, New York
Occupation Novelist, screenwriter, literary critic, journalist, essayist
Nationality American
Alma mater Princeton University
Spouse Joan Didion
(m.1964-2003; his death)
Children Quintana Roo Dunne (1966-2005)
Relatives Dominick Dunne (brother)

John Gregory Dunne (May 25, 1932 – December 30, 2003) was an American novelist, screenwriter and literary critic.[1][2]

Life and career

Dunne was born in Hartford, Connecticut, and was a younger brother of author Dominick Dunne. He was the son of Dorothy Frances (née Burns) and Richard Edwin Dunne, a hospital chief of staff and prominent heart surgeon.[3][4] With several siblings, he grew up in a large, wealthy Irish Catholic family. Their maternal grandfather Dominick Francis Burns had founded the Park Street Trust Company.[5]

The young Dunne suffered from a severe stutter and took up writing to express himself. Eventually he learned to speak normally by observing others. He attended the Portsmouth Priory School and graduated from Princeton University in 1954,[2] where he was member of the Tiger Inn.

He started working as a journalist in New York City for Time magazine. He credited the political essayist Noel Parmentel with being his mentor in many ways.

In the late 1950s he met Joan Didion in New York City, where she was an editor at Vogue. In a 2005 interview Didion recalled, "We amused each other and I thought he was smart. He knew a lot of stuff that I didn't know, like politics and history - I had managed to go through school without learning much except a lot of poems."[6] He invited her to travel to Connecticut one weekend in 1963 to visit his family: New England Irish Catholic, with six children. Didion said she "liked the set-up, liked being there, and liked him."[6]

They married on January 30, 1964, at Mission San Juan Bautista in California. He was 31 and she 29. They moved to a remote house on the California coast; Didion worked on a novel to follow her debut Run, River, and Dunne worked on a book about the California grape pickers' strike. They wrote a joint by-lined column for the Saturday Evening Post magazine for years. Unable to have children, in 1966 they adopted a baby at birth and named her Quintana Roo, after the Mexican state.[6]

Dunne and Didion gradually picked up writing work from book publishers and magazines, travelled together on journalism assignments, and established a working pattern that served for the next 40 years. They had a constant advising, consulting and editing collaboration. Critically acclaimed bestselling books followed for each - including for Dunne, The Studio, his non-fiction account of 20th Century Fox.

They also collaborated on a series of screenplays, including The Panic in Needle Park (1971), A Star Is Born (1976), and True Confessions (1981), an adaptation of Dunne's novel of the same name. He wrote a non-fiction book about Hollywood, Monster: Living Off the Big Screen.

As a literary critic and essayist, Dunne was a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books. His essays were collected in two books, Quintana & Friends (1980) and Crooning (1990).

He wrote several novels, among them True Confessions, based loosely on the Black Dahlia murder, and Dutch Shea, Jr.. He was the writer and narrator of the 1990 PBS documentary L.A. is It with John Gregory Dunne, in which he guided viewers through the cultural landscape of Los Angeles.

Dunne and Didion moved to Manhattan. He died there of a heart attack in December 2003. His final novel, Nothing Lost, which was in galleys at the time of his death, was published in 2004.

He was father to Quintana Roo Dunne, who died in 2005 after a series of illnesses. He was uncle to actors Griffin Dunne (who co-starred in An American Werewolf in London) and Dominique Dunne (who co-starred in Poltergeist).

His wife, Joan Didion, published The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), a memoir of the year following his death, during which their daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne, was seriously ill. It won critical acclaim and the National Book Award.[7]




  1. Eric Homberger (2 January 2004). "John Gregory Dunne". The Guardian. London.
  2. 1 2 RICHARD SEVERO (1 January 2004). "John Gregory Dunne, Novelist, Screenwriter and Observer of Hollywood, Is Dead at 71". The New York Times.
  3. McNally, Owen (2009-08-26). "Celebrity Author And Hartford Native Dominick Dunne Dies At Age 83". The Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
  4. Sudyk, Bob (1998-05-24). "Dunne's Trials from Hartford to Hollywood to Hadlyme with a Writer Who's Known the Peak of Fame and Despair's Deepest Trough". The Hartford Courant. Retrieved 2009-08-26.
  5. 1 2 3 "East Side Elegy", Richard Benson interview with Joan Didion, Telegraph Magazine, 2005
  6. Yardley, Jonathan (22 January 2006). "Jonathan Yardley". The Washington Post.

External links

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