First published nearly sixty years ago The Cater in The Rye remains un-filmed. J. D. Salinger’s story of rebellion and alienation has always stuck a chord with teenagers and with its first person narration and snappy dialogue could have made a brilliant film back in the 1950’s. Everyone from Brando to DiCaprio via Kazan, Speilberg and Malick has looked into adapting it into a movie but the author has always blocked it. Possibly put off by the critical disaster of My Foolish Heart the 1949 film based on his story Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, Salinger remained apposed adaptations of his work right up to his death last week (aged 91). Many newspapers have reported that Salinger’s literary agent Phyllis Westberg has stated the authors passing will not affect the veto on adaptations of his work.
Interestingly, in The Cater in The Rye the character Holden Caulfield actually says “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me”.* Even if the people controlling Salinger’s estate have a change of heart the wishes of the author has made the book virtually un-filmable. I don’t believe anyone could do the story justice without having total respect for the story and its author, and it would be impossible for anyone with that respect to go against his wishes making any adaptation flawed if not doomed from the start. We have to take into account a film adaptation would probably be a disaster, the filmmakers would want to update the story to the present day and cast a twenty-five year old star as the teenage Caulfield.
As a book I have loved for a long time The Catcher in the Rye is difficult to recommend to other readers, if you come to it too late, you will probably hate it. What is too late though, I would suggest anything beyond late teens or early twenties is too late. If you have already read the novel going back to it several years later will leave a very different impression on you.
Finally I have to make the confession the title of this article “My favourite movie that was never made” is a lie that would be Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, but as there may be a film of this in production at the moment it may become true in future.
* Thanks to Kim Morgan whose use of this same quote inspired me to write this article. I intended to write something about J. D. Salinger last week when I heard of his death but it seemed to have all been said. Take a look at Kim’s article. She certainly pointed me in the right direction.