And I totally respect that.” Only maybe the Didion-Dunnes weren’t just tricking after all.
Wrote Dunne, “The other night, after a screening, we went out to a party with Mike Nichols and Candice Bergen and Warren Beatty and Barbra Streisand.
Joan Didion arrived in Los Angeles in 1964 on the way to becoming one of the most important writers of her generation, a cultural icon who changed L. Lili Anolik mines the author’s early years to examine Didion before all her first for the magazine, Joan Didion let drop that she and husband, John Gregory Dunne, were at the Royal Hawaiian hotel in Honolulu “in lieu of filing for divorce,” surely the most famous subordinate clause in the history of New Journalism, an insubordinate clause if ever there was one.
The poise of it, the violence, the cool-bitch chic—a writer who could be the heroine of a Godard movie!
Scott Fitzgerald’s “We don’t go for strangers in Hollywood.” How lucky for them then that they were the brother and sister-in-law of Nick, and thus part of the Hollywood family, if poor relations.
And, as poor relations, they were given castoffs: clothes, Natalie Wood’s (for Didion); houses, too.
And not just wrong, egregiously wrong, wrong to the point of blasphemy. A month before the Didion-Dunnes showed, they’d thrown their most lavish and stylish, a black-and-white ball inspired by the Ascot scene in (That the ball—a ball!
There are, I should note, two places in the book where the tone changes, becomes tender.
The first is in “John Wayne: A Love Song.” (Didion admirers like, I suspect, to believe that that “Love” is ironic—it’s not; she’s sweet on the Duke, who in his simplicity and stoicism represents to her a masculine ideal.) The second is in “Goodbye to All That,” her profile of her young self.
They rented Sara Mankiewicz’s, fully furnished, though Mankiewicz did pack up the Oscar won by her late husband, Herman, for writing So Didion and Dunne wanted in and got in, but they wanted in deeper.
Hollywood’s appeal for writers isn’t hard to figure: it’s about the only place they can strike it rich.