Who was Jack Dunphy?
John Paul “Jack” Dunphy was an author and dramatist from America. He was the domestic partner of writer Truman Capote. Originally from New Jersey, Dunphy grew up in a working-class neighbourhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although he had always been artistically inclined, he initially developed an interest in dancing. After receiving ballet training under Catherine Littlefield, he performed at the 1939 New York World's Fair and accompanied the George Balanchine Company during its South America tour in 1941. Between 1939 and 1951, he was married to fellow Philadelphia-native dancer, Joan McCracken. In 1948, Dunphy first became acquainted with Capote. At the time, he was undergoing a painful split from McCracken. In 1950, the two writers began residing together in Taormina, Sicily. While the couple remained together until Capote’s passing in 1984, their relationship became strenuous in the last few years. As a writer, Dunphy published a number of short stories, plays, and novels throughout his career. In the 2005 biographical film ‘Capote’, Dunphy was played by Bruce Greenwood opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Oscar-winning performance in the titular role. In 2006, he was portrayed by John Benjamin Hickey in another biopic on Capote, titled ‘Infamous’.
Born on August 22, 1914, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA, Jack Dunphy was brought up in a working-class neighbourhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He had a sister named Gloria. When he was quite young, he demonstrated a deep passion for dancing and subsequently joined Catherine Littlefield’s ballet school.
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At the 1939 New York World's Fair, Jack Dunphy was one of the ballet performers. In 1941, he joined the South America tour of the George Balanchine Company. He appeared in a number of Broadway productions, including ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘The Prodigal Son’. The latter was a ballet that was staged on Broadway together with 'The Pirates of Penzance' in 1942.
At the advent of World War II, Dunphy joined the US Army in January 1944. It was during this period that he put out his first work, ‘The Life of a Carrot’, in ‘Short Story’ magazine.
In 1946, Jack Dunphy published ‘John Fury’ (Harper & Brothers), a novel about an Irish working-class man, who, after exiting from a happy marriage, gets into a miserable one in a life brimming with poverty, hard work, and frustration, where his sole outlet is impotent anger. Some of his other works are ‘Friends and Vague Lovers’ (Farrar, Straus and Young, 1952), ‘Nightmovers’ (William Morrow, 1967), ‘An Honest Woman’ (Random House, 1971), ‘First Wine’ (Louisiana State University Press, 1982) and its sequel, ‘The Murderous McLaughlins’ (McGraw-Hill, 1988).
Jack Dunphy also authored ‘Dear Genius: A Memoir of My Life with Truman Capote’, which was released through McGraw-Hill in 1987. In truth, this is a novel, and the subtitle was chosen by the publisher. Dunphy’s own subtitle, ‘A Tribute to Truman Capote,’ which appears on the manuscript, is much more specific.
Dunphy was an accomplished dramatist. He had written plays like ‘Light a Penny Candle’, ‘Saturday Night Kid’, ‘The Gay Apprentice’, ‘Café Moon’, ‘Too Close for Comfort’, and ‘Squirrel’. ‘Saturday Night Kid’ revolves around two men and one woman and premiered at the Provincetown Playhouse on May 15, 1958, running for ten days. ‘Café Moon’ is a one-act fantasy play that tells the story of an ageing and disillusioned clerk with a drinking problem. ‘Too Close for Comfort’ is a full-length comedy-drama that centres on a suicidal youth. ‘Squirrel’, a one-act sketch, depicts the tale of a shy office clerk who thinks that he is a squirrel.
In 1939, Jack Dunphy exchanged wedding vows with Joan McCracken, who was also a Philadelphia-native dancer. The couple was featured together in the original Broadway production of ‘Oklahoma!’ in 1943, in which McCracken was cast as Sylvie, and Dunphy played one of the dancing cowboys. Considered a pioneer in musical comedy dance, McCracken emerged as an “instant sensation” following her performance in ‘Oklahoma!’ She also appeared in the Broadway shows ‘Bloomer Girl’ (1944), ‘Billion Dollar Baby’ (1945), and ‘Dance Me a Song’ (1950), and the films ‘Hollywood Canteen’ (1945) and ‘Good News’ (1947).
Relationship with Truman Capote
By 1948, Jack Dunphy had split from McCracken. Their divorce was finalised in 1951. It was in 1948 that he encountered Capote for the first time. In 1950, the two writers found a house in Taormina, Sicily, where the author D.H. Lawrence used to reside and began living there together. They also owned separate houses in Sagaponack, New York.
Dunphy was older than Capote by ten years and had a completely different personality. While Capote was energetically extrovert and was regularly spotted in social gatherings of the rich and famous, Dunphy was a solitary introvert. In later years, the relationship between them became strenuous, though they still lived together until Capote’s passing.
In his will, Capote left most of his assets to Jack Dunphy. On April 26, 1992, Dunphy passed away in New York after a fight with cancer. He was 77 years old at the time. He was cremated. Some of the money from his and Capote’s estates was given to The Nature Conservancy as a donation. The Conservancy subsequently bought Crooked Pond on the Long Island Greenbelt between Sag Harbor, New York, and Bridgehampton, New York, with the money, and Dunphy’s and Capote’s mingled ashes were dispersed by the pond where a marker has been erected to honour them.