Who was Dominick Dunne?
Dominick John Dunne was an author, investigative reporter, and producer from America. A native of Connecticut, Dunne grew up in an affluent family. He was a student at the Kingswood School and Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut. Later, he studied at Williams College. During World War II, he enlisted in the United States Army and fought at the Battle of Metz, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star. After the end of the war, Dunne relocated to New York where he started his career in the entertainment industry. He served as a producer on several notable films and TV projects, including the 1970 pioneering gay film ‘The Boys in the Band’ and the 1971 award-winning drug film ‘Panic in Needle Park’. In the early 1970s, he began writing. Following the 1982 murder of his daughter Dominique, he became the subject of media and public attention, especially because of his interactions, as a member of high society, with the judicial system. Dunne often wrote for the ‘Vanity Fair’ magazine and made regular appearances on television to speak about crime from the 1980s until his death in 2009.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on October 29, 1925, in Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Dominick John Dunne was the second of six children of Dorothy Frances (née Burns) and Richard Edwin Dunne. His father was a renowned heart surgeon and a hospital chief of staff.
Their Irish Catholic family had money, and there were several authors among Dunne’s immediate relatives. One of his younger brothers was writer John Gregory Dunne, who later married journalist and author Joan Didion. Dunne had two other brothers, Richard Jr. and Stephen, and two sisters, Harriet and Virginia. As a child, he had a nickname, Nicky.
Dunne was educated at the Kingswood School and Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut. He served in the US Army during World War II and was granted a Bronze Star for his heroic actions at the Battle of Metz in 1944. After returning to America at the end of the war, Dunne obtained a degree from Williams College.
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After relocating to New York, Dominick John Dunne worked as a stage manager for television for a while. Between 1957 and 1958, he assistant-produced two episodes of the CBS anthology series ‘Playhouse 90’.
In 1958, he produced an episode of ‘Studio One in Hollywood’. He also served as an executive producer on 20 episodes of the ABC series ‘Adventures in Paradise’. Furthermore, Dunne produced films like ‘The Panic in Needle Park’ (1971), ‘Play It as It Lays’ (1972), and ‘Ash Wednesday’ (1973).
In 1982, he put out ‘The Winners’, his first published book. ‘The Two Mrs. Grenvilles’ came out in 1985. Before its publication, Dunne had moved from Hollywood to rural Oregon in order to deal with his addiction issues.
In the ensuing years, he also published works like ‘An Inconvenient Woman’ (1990), ‘A Season in Purgatory’ (1993), and ‘Too Much Money’ (2009). Most of his novels were inspired by real-life events.
Dunne eventually came back to Hollywood as a screenwriter. He wrote television projects like the adaptation of ‘The Two Mrs. Grenvilles’ (1987) and ‘An Inconvenient Woman’ (1991). He also served as the host of ‘Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege, and Justice’ (2002-09).
In 2005, former California Congressman Gary Condit successfully sued Dunne after Dunne implied in a ‘Vanity Fair’ piece that Condit was involved in the disappearance of intern Chandra Levy. He obtained an undisclosed financial settlement and an apology from the other man.
In November 2006, after Dunne made some comments on Condit on ‘Larry King Live’ on CNN, the former politician filed another lawsuit against the writer. However, that one was eventually dismissed.
Not long after the relaunch of ‘Vanity Fair,’ Dunne began writing for the magazine in 1983. His early contributions were about the trial of his daughter’s killer. He developed intimate friendships with the rich and famous and had free access to the world of glamour. As a result, he became a chronicler of the great scandals of that time. From the O.J. Simpson trial to the Phil Spector trial, he wrote about several controversies.
Family & Personal Life
In 1954, Dunne exchanged wedding vows with actress and activist Ellen Beatriz Griffin. The couple had five children, of who two daughters passed away in infancy. They also had two sons, Alexander and Griffin, and a daughter, Dominique. Dominick and Ellen divorced in 1965.
His daughter, Dominique, was an actress. On November 4, 1982, her former boyfriend, John Sweeney, strangled her to death. Dunne wrote about the subsequent trial on ‘Vanity Fair.’ When Sweeney was acquitted of the second-degree murder charge in favour of voluntary manslaughter, he, like the rest of the family, was vocal about his disappointment.
Death & Legacy
In 1999, Dunne published his memoir, ‘The Way We Lived Then’, through Crown Publishing Group. A documentary was made on his interactions with Hollywood, titled ‘Dominick Dunne: After the Party’ (2008).
Dunne passed away on August 26, 2009, at his home in Manhattan, after a fight with bladder cancer. He was 83 years old at the time. He is interred at Cove Cemetery in Hadlyme, Connecticut. Following his death, his son Griffin spoke about his father to the media, confirming Dominick’s bisexuality and that he was celibate for two decades.