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Joan Didion

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: December 5, 1934 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Sacramento, California, USA Profession: journalist, novelist, screenwriter, copywriter, magazine editor, lecturer, film reviewer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One of the most highly regarded chroniclers of postwar American history, as well as a celebrated novelist and screenwriter, Joan Didion examined the country's cultural upheavals through precise, unflinching reportage of life in Southern California in such acclaimed works as Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), The White Album (1979) and After Henry (1992), as well as the novels Play It As It Lays (1970) and Where I Was From (2003). Didion's observations on California and America as a whole contrasted the golden ideal of the Golden State's past with its convoluted, often fractured present while also detailing her own personal issues, which were intertwined within the narrative. Her approach made her a key figure in the "New Journalism" movement, which filtered the author's feelings and experiences through the context of their subjects. Didion's potent voice also spawned a successful screenwriting career with her husband, author John Gregory Dunne, for such films as "The Panic in Needle Park" (1971), "A Star is Born" (1976) and "Up Close & Personal" (1996). Dunne's death and their daughter's illness in 2003 later inspired her most personal work, The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), which became a...

One of the most highly regarded chroniclers of postwar American history, as well as a celebrated novelist and screenwriter, Joan Didion examined the country's cultural upheavals through precise, unflinching reportage of life in Southern California in such acclaimed works as Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), The White Album (1979) and After Henry (1992), as well as the novels Play It As It Lays (1970) and Where I Was From (2003). Didion's observations on California and America as a whole contrasted the golden ideal of the Golden State's past with its convoluted, often fractured present while also detailing her own personal issues, which were intertwined within the narrative. Her approach made her a key figure in the "New Journalism" movement, which filtered the author's feelings and experiences through the context of their subjects. Didion's potent voice also spawned a successful screenwriting career with her husband, author John Gregory Dunne, for such films as "The Panic in Needle Park" (1971), "A Star is Born" (1976) and "Up Close & Personal" (1996). Dunne's death and their daughter's illness in 2003 later inspired her most personal work, The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), which became a Broadway play in 2007. Didion's extraordinary body of work, detailed over a five-decade career, made her one of the most acclaimed American writers of the late 20th century and beyond.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 New York in the Fifties (2000) Herself
4.
 Brian Wilson: A Beach Boy's Tale (1999) Interviewee
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1934:
Born in the Sacramento Valley where her family had lived for five generations
:
During WWII, left Sacramento with her family as her father, an Army Air Corps finance writer, moved from base to base
:
Returned to Sacramento after the war
:
Attended public schools during the week and Sunday religious classes at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
1947:
By age 13, was typing pages from the fiction of Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Conrad so as to see "how sentences worked" (date approximate)
1956:
Shortly before graduating college, submitted a long article on architect William Wilson Wurster to VOGUE magazine's "Prix de Paris" contest for young writers; won first prize; entitled to either a trip to Paris or a cash prize and a job at VOGUE, chose the latter
1956:
Moved to NYC in the summer
:
Began at VOGUE writing merchandising and promotional copy; promoted to associate feature editor
1958:
Met journalist John Gregory Dunne, who was then working at TIME magazine, at a dinner party hosted by her mentor Noel Parmental (a NYC literary figure)
:
By the early 1960s, was also freelancing for MADAMOISELLE and the NATIONAL REVIEW
1963:
Moved into a NYC apartment with Dunne
1963:
Began writing film reviews for VOGUE
:
Took a leave of absence from her staff position to finish her first novel, "Run River"
1963:
Had first novel published, "Run River"
1964:
Married Dunne
1964:
Three months into marriage, Dunne and Didion took a leave of absence from their jobs to visit Southern California; decided to stay and work as freelancers
:
Earned a combined total of $7,000 in their first year in California
1967:
During the last two years of publication of the old SATURDAY EVENING POST, the couple alternated writing the column "Points West"
:
With Dunne, contracted to write eight long nonfiction stories a year
1968:
Gained acclaim as an essayist with the publication of "Slouching Towards Bethlehem", a celebrated collection of her essays from the SATURDAY EVENING POST and other publications
1969:
Began a bi-weekly column for LIFE magazine in December (column ended after a few months)
1970:
Completed her second novel, the critically acclaimed bestseller "Play It As It Lays" which garnered a six-figure income and a National Book Award nomination
1971:
First screenwriting collaboration with Dunne, scripted the acclaimed feature "The Panic in Needle Park"; produced by Dunne's brother Dominick, helmed by fashion photogrpher-turned-director Jerry Schatzberg and featuring Al Pacino in his first starring role
1972:
Collaborated with Dunne to adapt "Play It As It Lays" for film; co-produced by brother-in-law Dominick (with Frank Perry); starred Tuesday Weld; directed by Perry
1972:
Wrote a controversial article for THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE in which she criticized modern feminism
:
With Dunne, created concept and worked on early drafts of the 1976 remake of "A Star Is Born"; shared points in the profits of the film and soundtrack; the deal proved extremely profitable
1976:
Named a visiting regents lecturer in English literature at the University of California at Berkeley
1981:
With Dunne, adapted his novel "True Confessions" for the film version starring Robert Duvall and Robert De Niro
1988:
Moved back to NYC with Dunne and adopted daughter
1990:
TV writing debut (with Dunne), adapted Hemingway's short story, "The Hills Like White Elephants" for "Women & Men: Stories of Seduction", as part of a dramatic anthology presentation on "HBO Showcase"
1995:
With Dunne, co-wrote teleplay adaptation of "Broken Trust", a TNT legal drama starring Tom Selleck
1996:
Returned to features after 15 years to co-script (with Dunne) "Up Close and Personal", a romantic drama loosely adapted from Alanna Nash's "Golden Girl", a nonfiction account of the life of ill-fated newsanchor Jessica Savitch; starred Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer; directed by Jon Avnet
1996:
Published "The Last Thing He Wanted", her first novel in 12 years
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

C K McClatchy High School: Sacramento , California - 1952
University of California at Berkeley: Berkeley , California - 1956

Notes

Didion once suffered traumatic blindness after a miscarriage.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
John Gregory Dunne. Screenwriter, author. Born in 1932.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Frank Reese Didion. Former Army Air Corps finance officer; realtor. Family originally came from Alsace-Lorraine.
mother:
Eduene Didion. Descended from English settlers who came to America during the Revolutionary War.
brother:
James J Didion. Executive. Born in December 1939; worked at Coldwell Banker, a large Western real estate firm.
daughter:
Quintana M Dunne. Born on March 3, 1966; adopted; named for a province in the Yucatan.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Run River" Obelensky
"Slouching Towards Bethlehem"
"Play It As It Lays" Farrar, Straus & Giroux
"A Book of Common Prayer" Simon & Schuster
"The White Album" Simon & Schuster
"Salvador" Lester & Orpen Dennys
"Democracy" Simon & Schuster
"Miami" Simon & Schuster
"After Henry"
"The Last Thing He Wanted" Alfred A. Knopf
"Political Fictions" Alfred A. Knopf
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