Saturday, August 30, 2014

Six Degrees of Salinger

Over the past year, above pretty much any other channel on television, I have been watching PBS. PBS was for many, was a regular place to tune into when we were kids. From Sesame Street through Zoom, it was the only place for quality children's television. As we got older, most of us abandoned PBS for the more high brow, intellectual television found on ABC's TGIF.... Many of us though, eventually returned.

I returned to PBS sporadically for special and airings of Broadway shows. But permanent return however, occurred many years ago as it was one of the only places to find British comedies and dramas. Many others returned when word of mouth spread how amazing Downton Abby was. (Thanks again to the person who turned me on to it!). This past year however, I have been captivated by more PBS's programming, especially it's Wednesday one two punch of My Wild Affair and Sex In The Wild. My Wild Affair is a show if you have not yet caught, I fully recommend you give it a try! The piece de resistance of PBS programming however has got to be it's Documentaries, especially American Masters. This past season drew me into the lives of many diverse individuals from Marvin Hamlisch through Alice Walker. One of the most fascinating was the exclusive director’s cut of Shane Salerno’s documentary, Salinger.

'Featuring never-before-seen photographs, personal stories and moments from J.D. Salinger’s (Jan. 1, 1919 – Jan. 27, 2010) life and harrowing service in World War II, Salerno’s new director’s cut expands his intimate portrait of the enigmatic author of The Catcher in the Rye. American Masters was the first to close a deal with Salerno for Salinger, securing the exclusive domestic television rights to the documentary in January 2013. An official selection of the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and Telluride Film Festival, the film made front page news all over the world with its revelations. Associated Press called the research yielded during Salerno’s 10-year investigation “unprecedented” and “thoroughly documented.”
PBS Salinger Press Release

I like many, read Catcher In The Rye in High School (and am making my way through it again presently). I knew bits and pieces about J.D Salinger, especially the novels connection in three high profile shootings, including two celebrity deaths. The book was connected to the murderers of both John Lennon and actress Rebecca Schaeffer, as well as the shooting of President Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, those acts of violence have defined both author and book. The documentary however, looks at so much more and I was riveted from start to finish.

It was fascinating to see Salinger's struggle with fame, and his attempts to avoid it all. His refusal to sell the movie to rights to Catcher is something I am sure many writers today struggle to understand. Money was not the endgame, although he made quite a bit of it. Salinger loved old movies and young women, and although he didn't seem to want to be in the lime light, seemed to feed off the attention and adoration of young, good looking women. What also really intrigued me about the documentary, was the nexus between some of the stories I have done on FH, stories I wrote, not realizing there was a connection to the famous an allusive author. Here are three...

Trying to find make a decent cap of actor Ted McGinely, for my 2012 Blast From The Past post, I had no idea, one of the actors whose butt I was so trying make sure was clear in the image was Salinger's son Matt. Matt, on the right in the images below, made his film debut in 1984' Revenge Of The Nerds, and has been active in the entertainment business since. Matt's mother was psychologist Claire Douglas who was married to Salinger from 1955 through 1967. Matt is one of just a few in Salinger's live who has not attempted to profit off his fathers fame or legacy. In fact, in 1999 after his sister Margaret wrote Dream Catcher, a memoir of her childhood, Matt wrote a letter to The New York Observer, disparaging his sister's 'gothic tales of our supposed childhood.'

This past January, I wrote about my love of the novel Labor Day, and its writer Joyce Maynard. The book really drew me in hard, especially the beautifully drawn three central characters. Sadly, but movie didn't to the same, but the book, I devoured. When writing that piece, I was clueless to Maynard's history with J.D Salinger. Their relationship is detailed in the documentary, but yet there are still mysteries surrounding her motives in writing about the relationship. In some ways I understand it, but at the same time, given Salinger's fierce fight to protect his privacy, it is also a betrayal.

Joyce Maynard is quoted as saying that the only person who could have played Holden in a movie version of Catcher In The Rye was Salinger himself. I think there is another actor, who may have fit the role very well, at least when he was a bit younger, and that is Maynard's own son. In 2010 I wrote a piece about actor Wilson Bethel. I didn't know anything about his family when I wrote the piece, only that the actor who was making a splash at the time on the daytime soap The Young And The Restless. The soap didn't realize what star in the making they had and wrote him out quickly. Wilson landed on Heart Of Dixie, but I think his best work is still to come. Wilson has star power written all over him and I am sure is going to light the big screen on fire with the right role.

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