Is ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ really unfilmable?

On hearing of JD Salinger's recent death, most fans probably experienced a single emotion: sadness. Over in Hollywood, however, the hills shook with the cackling of a hundred avaricious studio execs. Finally, someone will get to make The Catcher in the Rye film.

Salinger never wanted one when he was alive. A letter to a Hollywood producer in 1957 makes it plain. Noting it's a "very novelistic novel", with the bulk of the book taking place inside Holden Caulfield's head, Salinger admitted what was left could, theoretically, be transferred to the big screen, but that the idea was "odious enough to keep me from selling the rights". He'd already been burnt by 1949's My Foolish Heart – a critical flop based on his 1948 short story Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut.

Yet now that might change. In the same letter, Salinger talks of "leaving the unsold rights to my wife and daughter as a kind of insurance policy". And last weekend, the Sunday Times suggested it could happen sooner rather than later, due to a tax loophole caused by the failure of Congress to renew death tax legislation. If his family sell the rights now, they keep all the cash.

But who should make it? And who should play Holden? The list of those who've already tried would make a great dinner party: Sam Goldwyn, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Lewis, Marlon Brando, Billy Wilder, Jack Nicholson, even Harvey Weinstein.


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