Guest Post: Salinger Documentary Goes Against Everything Holden Caulfield Stood For
In high school many students dread reading long-winded classics like Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Most students skipped the reading and used sparknotes instead, but then when high school students reached their American Literature class things changed. Huck Finn, Jay Gatsby, and Holden Caulfield changed the game, but one of these tales stands out from the rest.
J.D. Salinger published The Catcher in the Rye in 1951. He continued to publish short stories and books, but in 1965 Salinger published his final release in The New Yorker. The already elusive and mysterious writer disappeared even farther into the shadows. Rumors quickly surfaced that the author continued to write until his death in early 2010, but what was he writing, and would it ever be published? Some answers may be coming to the public very soon in the new documentary about Salinger to be released September 6th in select theaters.
On January 29, 2010, the website Deadline Hollywood broke an exclusive story about a feature length documentary about the reclusive Salinger. Shane Salerno, co-writer of Armageddon (1998) and Savages (2012), directed, produced, and financed the documentary himself. The documentary was successfully kept a secret for five years, despite the fact that the feature film includes interviews with 150 subjects including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Danny DeVito, and Martin Sheen. In addition to all the crew that worked on the film, that is a lot of high profile mouths to keep shut!
Entertainment Weekly released an article about the documentary on February 4, 2010, which detailed the elaborate and immense security protocol that was set in place to keep the film a secret for five years. Newsweek followed suit later that same year in August and published a profile of the documentary, and with Salerno’s permission they published a never-before-seen photograph of Salinger from the film. The following year on January 26, 2011, Salerno spoke with Associated Press, telling them that he expected the film to be released in the fall of 2012. Salerno said, “We take the viewer and reader inside J. D. Salinger’s private world and shine light on a man named Jerry who lived in the shadow of the myth of J. D. Salinger.”
It was finally announced on February 27, 2013, that Harvey Weinstein had acquired the documentary for $2 million and planned set up theatrical distribution through his studio. The Weinstein Company chose the release date purposefully so that the film could be a candidate for the 86th Annual Academy Awards. As planning forged ahead for the release of the documentary, articles began popping up about the rumored unpublished works of J.D. Salinger, particularly as it became clear that the film would claim that more works by Salinger will be published in the coming years.
As exciting as the documentary sounds, it is surely not something Salinger would have approved of. The documentary was kept secret possibly because of the successful lawsuits Salinger filed over the years against authors attempting to publish a biography on him or an unauthorized sequel to Catcher in the Rye. In addition to Salinger’s distaste for the limelight, Holden Caulfield would not have been pleased either. A title card in the film tells the audience that The Catcher in the Rye was narrated by a young man named Holden Caulfield, as if the audience didn’t know that, but that is just it! Many “phonies” unfamiliar with the book, or the kids that just couldn’t make it through the book probably love the documentary: and Holden would be very pissed about this.
Despite the bombastic approach the documentary takes, there are some redeeming moments in the film, including never-before-seen photos and exclusive interviews with people from Salinger’s inner circle. If you can’t catch the film in theaters, it will also be released as the 200th episode of PBS’s American Masters in January 2014.
Do you think Salinger and his beloved Holden Caulfield would approve of this documentary?
Has Hollywood gone too far, prying into the private life of someone who clearly wanted to be left alone?
Author Bio: Blake Meredith is an arts and entertainment blogger for GetDirectTV.org where she covers recent releases in film and television. Blake read The Catcher in the Rye in her AP Language class in high school. She had mixed feelings about Holden Caulfield, but was intrigued about the life of Salinger after hearing he no longer published. Blake currently lives in Chicago, IL.
Twitter: @bmeredithw & @talkrealdebate