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Arts and Entertainment

New Letter Debunks Widely Held Belief That J.D. Salinger Hated Hollywood

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J.D. Salinger documentarian Shane Salerno has provided another new look into the mind of late, great, reclusive author. Variety has published a letter penned by Salinger in 1967, stating that he doesn't hate ALL film, he just doesn't love all of it. Who can blame him? He wrote the following to Mr. Henning Carlson, a filmmaker from Copenhagen, who had presumably been trying to buy the rights to Catcher In The Rye.


Letter at Variety (PDF)

Here's the full text of the letter:

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"It isn't true, at all, that I 'hate' or dislike all films, and it's always more than a little offputting, not to say irritating, to hear that I do. The fact is, I like certain kinds of films inordinately, and even own a 16mm sound projector and a few old prints. What would be, I think, perfectly accurate to say is that I have no professional interest whatever in films or stage plays. No doubt I'd feel very differently if I were an actor or a director or a producer, but I'm not. The only theater I want to write for is the little marvelous one inside the individual reader's mind. It may seem an offensively self-conscious thought, but I do my damndest to give the reader everything he needs to know and to feel exactly and fully what my fictional characters are up to. Anyway, that's the way it is with me, and I must respecfully assure you that it's quite final. Thank you, though, for your letter."

Carlson kept pleading, asking that Salinger watch his 1966 film Hunger first, but Salinger's final response was: “I’m afraid I can only tell you that my decision not to have any of my fiction staged or filmed is quite final.” Later, Sam Goldwyn, Steven Speilberg, and Billy Wilder would also get nowhere trying to secure the rights from Salinger... who believed the only person who could play Holden Caulfield was himself.

Variety notes, however, that Salinger didn't totally sour on the scene, and actually "communicated cordially with several Hollywood producers during the peak of his career. Contrary to industry lore, the writer was also open to translating a few of his short stories to the big screen well after he published his magnum opus, The Catcher in the Rye."

As for his own favorite movie? It may have been Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon, though "his living room in Cornish, NH, was a film aficionado’s den, with a projector and fresh popcorn."