Films Inspired By The Work Of J.D. Salinger

Today marks the release of Salinger, a documentary (which A.O. Scott says doesn’t qualify as such) about the author I am contractually obligated to describe as “famously reclusive.” It, and the massive new biography of the same name, represent  just the sort of invasion of privacy he’d deplore—but Salinger equally hated the idea of any adaptation of his fiction to the screen. Even without the rights to those beloved stories, however, filmmakers have found ways to inject his signature blend of sentimentality, idle wealth and acid wit into their movies.


Metropolitan (1990) 

Salinger had a way of making his stakes seem simultaneously sky-high and intimately scaled-down. In “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor,” he presents a tale of one girl’s loneliness alongside a critique of American postwar optimism. Likewise, Whit Stillman’s tale of Manhattan at the turn of a prosperous decade, featuring the bluebloods descended from Salinger’s, straddles the subjects of class, morality and tradition, lampooning the rich but not without pity, and managing a believable story of young courtship besides.  



Igby Goes Down (2002)

Easily wins the award for “most reviewers name-checking The Catcher in the Rye” of any film in the last twenty years, and rightly so. Just check out the IMDb description and see if this doesn’t sound familiar: “A young man’s peculiar upbringing renders him unable to competently cope with the struggle of growing up.” As the troubled Igby, Kieran Culkin must contend with an icy mother in Susan Sarandon as well as ridicule and ostracizing from his peers and the specter of an insane father figure whose footsteps he fears to follow in. The reality, of course, is much worse.  


Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) 

Miranda July’s directorial debut earns a spot on this list for two crucial reasons: there’s the nervous breakdown that sets the plot in motion (Salinger peppered such mental episodes throughout his fiction, often at the beginning or end of the action), and there are the supposedly naïve children whose innocence turns out to be a potent antidote for adult neurosis. That one character finds out she’s been carrying on an online affair with a child who seems to understand her more deeply than any man her own age makes us think old J.D. could have written a hell of a story about the Internet.  


Interiors (1978)

When Woody Allen set out to make a decidedly non-comedic film about a disintegrating WASP family, dimly lit with what appears to be only natural light, it had a lot of Ingmar Bergman to it. But with Allen a New Yorker, he couldn’t help but in some ways conjure Salinger’s iconic Glass family, with their suicide attempts and uneasy shifting of alliances. The author’s touch is especially evident in how the squabbling siblings can set their differences aside to savage an outsider brought into their midst. Allen even began to appear somewhat Salingereqsque himself during filming, increasingly unpredictable, testy and afraid that his movie would bomb (it was nominated for four Oscars).  


The Squid and the Whale (2005) 

Another bad New York family to be in, Noah Baumbach’s Berkmans are literary, smart, and utterly failing. Jeff Daniels, as the patriarch, is a novelist of squandered gifts, in a bitter rivalry with Laura Linney, his estranged wife, who is now publishing in the New Yorker (which ran most of Salinger’s short work after rejecting dozens of early manuscripts). But again, it’s the children who strike the most familiar chord, experiencing a pain so acute that grown-ups have forgotten what it’s like, lashing out in nonsensical, self-destructive ways, never quite sure what motivates their hopeless rage at the world.


Rushmore (1998) 

This feature wouldn’t be complete without a nod to boarding school culture, or Wes Anderson, for that matter, any of whose films might have qualified. Anderson clearly feels a resonance in Salinger’s work, and his prim sense of mise-en-scène often harks back to some classical postwar setting—just try to imagine the hotel room in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” without using Anderson-brand pale yellow. Anyway, Max Fischer is an intelligent loser who is flunking out of his prep academy and pines after a woman twice his age. It was likely only the addition of Bill Murray that staved off an intellectual property lawsuit.    



Salinger Stats – The Catcher in the Rye

Copies of sold per year: 250,000
Sales to date: 65 million
Number of reprints: 8
Week on the New York Times Best Seller List: 30
Translations: The novel has been translated into almost all the word’s major languages

J.D. Salinger’s Posthumous Manuscripts Revealed

As both a new biography and new documentary, both called Salinger, indicate, America’s favorite literary recluse was hard at work writing for the half-century or so he was in hiding. Before his death in 2010, J.D. Salinger left instructions for the publication of five more manuscripts—and his family, normally a reticent bunch, has come to clean about their contents. Read on to find out what titles and tales are in store.

The Bourne Melancholy: Salinger’s long-rumored World War II novel is also a prequel to the popular Robert Ludlum spy thriller series. A young counterintelligence agent wakes up in Berlin, 1944, but can’t remember his name or mission, so he strolls around town looking at stuff and getting bummed out.
Harry Potter and the Spell of the Bluebloods: Set between Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, this manuscript concerns a side adventure over summer vacation where the plucky young wizard stumbles upon the meeting of an ancient yacht club whose members have a nefarious plan for getting people to start wearing ascots again.
The Girl with the Crummy Tattoo: A love story that follows the disintegrating Salamander family and particularly Elizabeth Salamander, a raven-haired young woman the narrator finds dangerously irresistible except for a botched Chinese-symbol tramp stamp.
The Hunger Shames: Salinger’s portrait of anorexia is even more compelling when set against an allegorical backdrop of a dystopian society where it’s already forbidden to take any pleasure from food and all communication is accomplished via slamming doors.
The Slipping Point: Apparently the late author’s only foray into pop-science nonfiction, this slim volume examines exactly how—and why—we stop caring about the things that seemed so very important in childhood and become real bastards in the process.

Explore the Life & Work of J.D. Salinger With the First Trailer for ‘Salinger’

Caught amidst a slew of big-budget studio films to come out this September, The Weinstein Company will be releasing a literary gem of a film Salinger, writer and director Shane Salerno. Diving into the mystery of the beloved and reclusive author’s life, the documentary picks up after the publication of his last novel featuring interviews with over 150 subjects from Salinger’s friends and cohorts to Tom Wolfe and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

In speaking with the LA Times Salerno, who put $2 million of his own money into the film said: 
Salinger is a massive figure in our culture and yet remains an extraordinary enigma.  The critical and popular game over the last half-century has been to read the man through his work because the man would not speak, but the untold story of his life is more dramatic than anything he ever wrote. And that’s the story I wanted to tell: his life. Not the myth that has burned so brightly for nearly 50 years. I had three questions when I began this project nine years ago: 1. Why did J.D. Salinger stop publishing?  2. Why did he disappear? 3. And what has he been writing for 45 years?
And now, you can see a full trailer for the sure to be incredible doc debuting September 6th. Check out the trailer below.


Links: Fourth ‘Twilight’ Book Will Be Two Movies; Mad Lib Your New York Dating Life

Breaking Dawn, the final book in the Twilight series, will be made into two movies despite worries about Kristen Stewart’s fading teen angst and Taylor Lautner’s sagging pecs. [Deadline Hollywood] ● Newly public J.D. Salinger letters contain references to Nancy Reagan and Eddie Murphy. Hopefully as more correspondence surfaces we’ll know the great reclusive author’s thoughts on 3-D Doritos and Ke$ha. [NYT] ● An 18-year-old Swedish girl is being charged with harassment after posting pictures of her boyfriend’s tiny penis on lampposts in his neighborhood. Has she never heard of the internet? [UPI]

● Joshua David Stein’s mad lib for a New York love story is the perfect internet foreplay to use before you ask a similarly jaded boy or girl to go see Valentine’s Day with you — ironically, of course. [NYP] ● Remember when audio surfaced of Christian Bale chewing that guy out on the set of Terminator: Salvation? Well, we’re not accusing anyone of anything, but there was a body buried in the front yard of the home Bale was renting at the time. [TMZ] ● What happens when you combine two of the year’s most overused jokes? A surprisingly funny Jersey Shore parody of the iPad! [Mashable]

J.D. Salinger’s Cruise Inspiration

The passing of J.D. Salinger at the age of 91 on Wednesday has led us to look back on the reclusive author’s life and work. Amidst the lengthier obits and appraisals, there are also small little nuggets emerging, like this one about Salinger’s early life: The reclusive writer may have worked as an activities director for Caribbean cruises in his early 20s. Not quite what you’d envision from the author of A Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey, but then again, one can imagine how such a job might have inspired and influenced him (See: “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” (A cruise ship later “inspired” the late, great David Foster Wallace)

(‘DiggThis’)Various sources claim that in 1941, the author worked aboard a cruise ship called the MS Kungsholm. It was a key year in Salinger’s life; he sold two stories to the New Yorker and dated Oona O’Neil, daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill. One of the stories, “Slight Rebellion Off Madison,” later became a scene in The Catcher in the Rye. The following year he was drafted into the army, while the MS Kungsholm was taken over by the U.S. government and used for the war effort.

Salinger mentioned his cruise ship days in a 1953 interview, but it’s unsure if he was fibbing about the experience. Salinger biographer Paul Alexander writes that the author’s experience aboard the ship “left such a lasting impression on him that years afterward he would still remember fondly his one real venture into live show business.” His short story “Teddy” from Nine Stories takes place on a cruise, while “A Young Girl in 1941 with No Waist at All” also mentions a cruise ship.

Links: All of ‘Lost’ Is on Hulu; Michael Lohan Won’t Stop Being Horrible

● You can watch all 101 episodes of Lost on Hulu (approximately 73 hours), leaving your entire weekend accounted for. No peeing, either. [Hulu] ● Rush Limbaugh doesn’t know why he had chest pains, but let’s guess prescription pills. In all seriousness, he’s judging Saturday’s 2010 Miss America Pageant. [People] ● Thirteen J.D. Salinger stories from 1946 to 1965 are available through the The New Yorker‘s digital edition, if you’re into paying for what you read. [New Yorker]

● Lindsay’s deplorable father Michael Lohan was arrested again after calling an ex-girlfriend who has a restraining order against him. Literally no one likes this man. [TMZ] ● The next season of Mad Men will feature less Bye Bye Birdie, if you know what we mean. Plus, the fates of a few other supporting characters. [E! Online] ● “Sexy” New York hip kids into public service: helpsters! Even blipsters are cringing. [NY Press]

Links: RIP JD Salinger; Chris Matthews Forgets He’s on TV for One Minute

Catcher in The Rye author JD Salinger died. [NY Times] ● South Park creators at work on a new musical. I humbly suggest “What Would Brian Boitano Do,” from the original South Park musical, be re-imagined as “What Would Johnny Weir Do.” [NY Times] ● Tom Selleck+ sandwiches+ waterfalls. It’s as good as you would expect. [Selleckwaterfallssandwich]

● Oh vomit: Bachelor Jason Mesnick and his lady will have their wedding taped for reality TV. Vows just don’t count if they aren’t nationally televised. [Hollywood Reporter] ● Dinosaurs were redheads. Now you know. [BBC] ● Chris Matthews “forgot Obama was black for an hour” during the State of The Union, which is about how long we forgot Chris Matthews was an idiot. [EW]