Philip Dunne (writer)

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Philip Ives Dunne (February 11, 1908 – June 2, 1992) was a Hollywood screenwriter, film director and producer, who worked prolifically from 1932 until 1965. He spent the majority of his career at 20th Century Fox crafting well regarded romantic and historical dramas, usually adapted from another medium. Dunne was a leading Screen Writers Guild organizer and was politically active during the "Hollywood Blacklist" episode of the 1940s-1950s. He is best known for the films How Green Was My Valley (1941), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), The Robe (1953) and The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965).

Biography[edit]

Philip Dunne's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Dunne was born in New York City, the son of Chicago syndicated columnist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne and Margaret Ives (Abbott) Dunne, a champion golfer and the daughter of the Chicago Tribune's book reviewer and novelist, Mary Ives Abbott.

Although a Roman Catholic, he attended Middlesex School (1920–1925) and Harvard University (1925–1929). Immediately after graduation, he boarded a train for Hollywood. His first screenplay (uncredited) was Me and My Gal, released in 1932. His first credited screenplay was The Count of Monte Cristo, released in 1934. After working for various studios, he moved to 20th Century Fox in 1937, where he would remain for 25 years (excepting 4 years civilian war service during World War II), scripting 36 films in total and directing 10. He also produced several of his later films.

Dunne was a co-founder of the Screen Writers Guild and served as vice-president of its successor, the Writers Guild of America, from 1938 to 1940. He later served on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) from 1946 to 1948.

Before World War II, he was a member of the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies, a group founded in May 1940 that advocated military materiel aid to Britain as the best way to keep the United States out of the war.

From 1942 to 1945, Dunne was the Chief of Production for the Motion Picture Bureau, U.S. Office of War Information, Overseas Branch. Notably, he produced the non-fiction short The Town (1944), directed by Josef von Sternberg, which has received some critical acclaim.

In 1947, he co-founded the Committee for the First Amendment to protest the House Un-American Activities Committee's (HUAC) investigation of Communist influence in Hollywood. He appeared before HUAC with other Hollywood figures in a well publicized meeting in October 1947.

Dunne married the former Amanda Duff (1914-2006) on July 13, 1939. They had three children, Miranda, Philippa, and Jessica.

In 1980, he published his memoirs, Take Two: A Life in Movies and Politics.

Dunne died of cancer on June 2, 1992, in Malibu, California, aged 84.

Career highlights[edit]

Dunne received two Academy Award nominations for screenwriting: How Green Was My Valley (1941) and David and Bathsheba (1951). He also received a Golden Globe nomination for his 1965 screen adaptation of Irving Stone's novel The Agony and the Ecstasy, as well as several peer awards from the Writers Guild of America (WGA), including the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement.

Many notable directors worked with Dunne's screenplays, including Carol Reed, John Ford, Jacques Tourneur, Elia Kazan, Otto Preminger, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and Michael Curtiz, among others.

In 1961, he directed Wild in the Country, starring Elvis Presley, from a screenplay by Clifford Odets. In 1962, he directed Lisa, based on the novel The Inspector by Jan de Hartog and featuring Stephen Boyd and Dolores Hart, which was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Picture - Drama.

The 1992 film The Last of the Mohicans, directed by Michael Mann and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, was based on Dunne's 1936 screenplay of the Fenimore Cooper novel.

In addition to screenwriting, Dunne wrote syndicated newspaper articles and was a contributor to The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly magazines. He also wrote a stage play, Mr. Dooley's America (1976), based on his father's humor, and another, Politics (1980). His books include Mr Dooley Remembers (1963) and Take Two: A Life in Movies and Politics (1980). His short stories appeared in the New Yorker and his essays were regular features of Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and the Harvard Review. He was a winner of the Laurel Award (1962) and the Valentine Davies Award (1974).

Dunne has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in front of 6725 Hollywood Boulevard, just west of Las Palmas Ave.

Philip Dunne and the Hollywood Blacklist[edit]

Dunne was a key participant in the Hollywood Blacklist episode of the 1940s and 1950s. In 1947 he co-founded the Committee for the First Amendment with John Huston and William Wyler in response to hearings held by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Dunne, Huston, and Wyler, along with fellow members Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Danny Kaye, and Gene Kelly, appeared before HUAC in Washington, D.C. in October 1947, protesting HUAC's activities and methods. Dunne was never subpoenaed or blacklisted himself, nor was he accused of any Communist Party affiliations.

As a writer and director, Dunne frequently worked with others who either were, had been, or would become blacklisted, including Ring Lardner Jr., Clifford Odets, Albert Maltz, and Marsha Hunt. Additionally, Dunne was a character witness for Dalton Trumbo at the latter's trial for contempt of Congress.

The original credits for The Robe (1953) gave Dunne the sole screenplay credit, when in fact Hollywood Ten member Albert Maltz had made significant contributions. In 1997, the WGA restored full writing credits to blacklisted writers whose names were left out of films they worked on. The following is from the WGA's "Blacklisted Writers Receive Credit" press release of April 2, 1997:

"In the case of The Robe there was an extraordinary amount of information gathered to indicate that Maltz was entitled to shared screenplay credit. In addition, Philip Dunne did not believe he deserved sole screenplay credit but it was not until many years later that he learned that a blacklisted writer had worked on the project. Amanda Dunne, Philip's widow, confirms that Philip would have been happy to share screenplay credit with Maltz."

Dunne's political stance was decidedly liberal and reformist, but he was also determinedly anti-Communist. His involvement in the Committee for the First Amendment can arguably be read as just that—support for Constitutional free speech against a government entity (HUAC) that, to Dunne, seemed determined to usurp those rights. At various times dating to before the Second World War, he clashed with fellow members of the Screen Writers Guild whom he felt were "pro-Stalin" Communists. Dunne's anti-Communist leanings would seem to be verified by his uninterrupted employment as a screenwriter on major Hollywood productions throughout the blacklist period, despite his quite vocal denunciation of HUAC.

Quotes[edit]

  • "Never in all my years in this chancy and unstable profession did I ever realize that I was sleepwalking along a precipice. I ignored the fact that the rate of professional mortality among screen writers is extremely high...It wasn't courage or arrogance or insensitivity; I suspect it was the irascible Horatio Alger in my blood. If I had it to do all over again I would perish of sheer fright."
  • "All over town the industrious communist tail wagged the lazy liberal dog."
  • "Had I known it was the Golden Age of Hollywood, I would have enjoyed it more."

Selected filmography[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]