experience in trying to get to a screening for this documentary about J.
D. (Jerry) Salinger, hermetic author of The Catcher in the Rye
(1951), his elusiveness is alive and well. This is one I really
wanted to see. When I didnít receive an invite from The Weinstein
Company, I asked one of my papers to get me one. After a few days I got
a call back saying that they had tried with the production company, but
they, the production company, didnít know who the PR firm was (thatís so
ridiculous I canít even think of a comment), so she called the Producers
Guild and they struck out, too. I finally had to see this the day
it opened with real people in the audience. I saw it at a 1:30 screening
at The Landmark in Los Angeles and even at that time the theater was
always been fascinated by the story of Oona OíNeill, the daughter of
abusive playwright, Eugene, who married 53-year-old Charlie Chaplin on
her 18th birthday. I had never seen a picture of her or
understood how someone that young, a debutante from a famous family
(although her mother divorced her father when she was 2) could do such a
film opens the book on Oona. She was gorgeous, a Gene Tierney lookalike,
as shown by the pictures in this film, and led a sophisticated life,
coming home from high school when she was 16 to do her homework and then
change clothes and go to the Stork Club and other New York playgrounds
for the rich and famous. Salinger met her and was madly in love with
her. When he went in the army during WWII, she suddenly moved to
Hollywood, met and married Charlie, and J.D. was a dim memory.
Apparently Salinger took it extremely hard.
Produced and directed by Shane Salerno, who put up the $2 million
production budget himself and spent nine years on it, this is Salingerís
story, told by people who knew him, like E. L. Doctorow and Gore Vidal,
including his daughter and his girlfriends. He comes across as a
controlling egoist who exploited very young women, writing them letters
and meeting them and then establishing relationships with them. Married
three times, he was so psychologically abusive to his second wife and
the mother of his two children that she finally divorced him.
to the interest are archival pictures of Salinger while serving in
Europe during World War II, including one short film clip, the only one
extant, of this period of Salingerís life.
some reason there are lots of interviews and comments from A-list
Hollywood types, like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Judd Apatow, Martin Sheen,
Edward Norton, and John Cusack, who did not know Salinger and had no
relationship to his life or story. Why they are in the film is a mystery
unless they are there to attract an audience. Their comments add nothing
to solving the mystery surrounding Salinger and the way he led his life.
the interviewees paints Salinger as a master manipulator, saying of his
alleged allusiveness, ďBeing out of the picture is being in the
picture.Ē Also pointed out is that Salinger never had to meet with
people with whom he met and who he knew would spread stories about him
if he really didnít want to. Since he met with them, he obviously wanted
to, so his ostensible desire for secrecy appears to be at least somewhat
Particularly interesting is the story of Joyce Maynard, who became his
live-in girlfriend when she was 18 and he was 53 after he contacted her
about her article An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life in 1972
in The New York Times Magazine. It took Salerno seven years to
get her to appear and tell her story, which is fascinating.
going to tell any more, but this movie is like a detective story as it
tries to find out who J.D. Salinger really was and why. Even if you
never read The Catcher in the Rye, this is a fascinating
tale of the guy who finally wrote what many think is The Great American
Novel, and which, according to convincing interviews, inspired several
September 6, 2013