Novelist, screenwriter John Gregory Dunne dies

— John Gregory Dunne, the best-selling author of "True Confessions" known for his biting critiques of Hollywood and frequent collaborations with his wife, Joan Didion, has died. He was 71.

Dunne died Tuesday night at his Manhattan apartment after sitting down to dinner with Didion, said his older brother, acclaimed writer Dominick Dunne. The couple had just returned from visiting their seriously ill daughter at a hospital, he said.

"My belief is it was all such a strain on his heart," said Dominick Dunne. "He had a pacemaker already. He just sat down, had a heart attack, and died."

Dunne began his career as a journalist. He turned his piercing literary eye to the worlds of television and film, beginning with "The Studio" (1969), the result of a year spent observing in the studios of 20th Century Fox.

In the 1970s, he and Didion worked together on screenplays including "A Star is Born" (1976), the remake of the Hollywood classic starring Barbara Streisand.

Dunne's breakout novel came the next year with "True Confessions," a tough, bleak account of a woman's brutal murder and its connection to two brothers, a policeman and a priest.

The novel sold more than 1 million copies, and he and Didion collaborated on the 1981 film adaptation starring Robert Duvall and Robert De Niro.

In the 1990s, Dunne published another Hollywood-themed novel, "Playland" (1996), and worked with Didion on a screenplay dramatizing the life of troubled television reporter Jessica Savitch.

The script became the 1996 "Up Close and Personal," a romance starring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer that bore little resemblance to Savitch's story. Dunne then rehashed the process in "Monster."

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