Joan Didion

Novelist, Journalist, Screenwriter
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 ... Read more »
Born: 12/05/1934 in Sacramento, California, USA


Writer (7)

Up Close and Personal 1996 (Movie)


True Confessions 1981 (Movie)


A Star Is Born 1976 (Movie)


Play It As It Lays 1972 (Movie)

("Play It as It Lays") (Source Material (from novel))

Play It As It Lays 1972 (Movie)


The Panic in Needle Park 1971 (Movie)


Broken Trust (TV Show)

Actor (5)

Dominick Dunne: After the Party 2007 (Movie)


New York in the Fifties 2001 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

Brian Wilson: A Beach Boy's Tale 1998 - 1999 (TV Show)


Shotgun Freeway: Drives Thru Lost L.A. 1996 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

Storytellers: The PEN Celebration 1987 - 1988 (TV Show)



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.


Frank Didion

family originally came from Alsace-Lorraine

Eduene Didion

descended from English settlers who came to America during the Revolutionary War

James Didion

born in December 1939 worked at Coldwell Banker, a large Western real estate firm

John Dunne

Born in 1932

Dominick Dunne Actor


Quintana Dunne

born on March 3, 1966 adopted named for a province in the Yucatan


attended public schools in her native Sacramento

C K McClatchy High School

Sacramento , California 1952

University of California at Berkeley

Berkeley , California 1956
took Mark Schorer's writing workshop; edited the school paper



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


Published "The Last Thing He Wanted", her first novel in 12 years


With Dunne, co-wrote teleplay adaptation of "Broken Trust", a TNT legal drama starring Tom Selleck


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"


Moved back to NYC with Dunne and adopted daughter


With Dunne, adapted his novel "True Confessions" for the film version starring Robert Duvall and Robert De Niro


Named a visiting regents lecturer in English literature at the University of California at Berkeley


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


Wrote a controversial article for THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE in which she criticized modern feminism


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 rol


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


Began a bi-weekly column for LIFE magazine in December (column ended after a few months)


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


During the last two years of publication of the old SATURDAY EVENING POST, the couple alternated writing the column "Points West"


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


Married Dunne


Had first novel published, "Run River"


Moved into a NYC apartment with Dunne


Began writing film reviews for VOGUE


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)


Moved to NYC in the summer


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 th


By age 13, was typing pages from the fiction of Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Conrad so as to see "how sentences worked" (date approximate)


Born in the Sacramento Valley where her family had lived for five generations

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

By the early 1960s, was also freelancing for MADAMOISELLE and the NATIONAL REVIEW

During WWII, left Sacramento with her family as her father, an Army Air Corps finance writer, moved from base to base

With Dunne, contracted to write eight long nonfiction stories a year

Earned a combined total of $7,000 in their first year in California

Began at VOGUE writing merchandising and promotional copy; promoted to associate feature editor

Took a leave of absence from her staff position to finish her first novel, "Run River"

Returned to Sacramento after the war

Attended public schools during the week and Sunday religious classes at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

Bonus Trivia


Didion once suffered traumatic blindness after a miscarriage.