Dominique Dunne Film Competition

About Dominique Dunne

DOMINIQUE DUNNE '77 (1959-1982)

Dominique Dunne, FVS Class of 1977, was just beginning a promising acting career when her life was cut short at the hands of her former boyfriend. 

Born in Santa Monica, Calif., in 1959, she was the daughter of Ellen Griffiths and journalist/novelist Dominick Dunne (who passed away in 2010). Her brother, actor/producer/writer Griffin Dunne, is also an FVS alumnus, as is brother Alex. At FVS, Dunne flourished in the theater department, acting in plays or musicals year-round. 

Longtime FVS Theater Director Hunter Frost, who died in 2010, wrote, "Dominique was a very special beauty. She was modest and deeply caring about art and especially theatre. She was loved by all who knew her, and her participation in a play always helped the cast to do their best work and to love doing it. She had leading roles in 'Mousetrap' and 'A Man For All Seasons.' She was a contributor in many ways, and served as a student council member and as president of the theatre group.

After graduation from FVS, it wasn't long before she began landing television roles. Her first role was in the 1979 made-for-TV movie Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker. She then got small roles in episodes of Family, Hart to Hart and Fame. She also appeared in four episodes of the short lived TV series Breaking Away and several more made-for-TV movies. She was then cast in a major role in Steven Spielberg's Poltergeist (1982), for which she is most remembered as eldest daughter Dana. After Poltergeist, she appeared in the final season premiere of CHiPs and the 1982 TV movie The Shadow Riders. Dunne had been cast as Robin Maxwell in the 1983 miniseries V and had already begun filming a short time before her death. 

On Oct. 30, 1982, she was assaulted by a former boyfriend and died after lingering in a coma for five days. At the time, Spielberg said, "The loss of Dominique is tragic and incomprehensible. She was a treasure of natural ability." At a memorial service held at the FVS Lewis Perry Jr. Chapel in May 1983, Sam Goldwyn, Frost and Dunne's parents all attended and spoke about her life.

A memorial fund was also established by friends and family at FVS, and the Dominique Dunne Memorial Fund was created to support the School's annual film competition. The competition had been ongoing at FVS since 1967, and after its rechristening, it was held every year until 1990. After a three-year hiatus, the film competition tradition began again until its last year in 2003. It returned in 2011.
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