The Catcher in the Rye-Will we ever see the movie adaptation of Salinger’s Masterpiece?

‘I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible.’-Holden Caulfield

This is the quote I would pick out of the hundreds of excerpts you could chose to give a glimpse into the enigma that is Holden Caulfield. There has been so much written about The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger that a review of the book would be rendered redundant. Instead, I want to comment on the possible reasons why Salinger refused to make his book into a full length movie, despite the offer of tens of millions of dollars.The Catcher in the Rye is J.D. Salinger’s only published full-length novel. Around 250,000 copies are sold each year, with 65 million copies sold total. According to Modern Language Review Journal, the novel was the most censored book in high schools and libraries between 1961 and 1982. The novel has influenced notorious criminals like Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley Jr. as well as former presidents. George H.W. Bush said it was one of the books that inspired him. If it is so influential surely it would be possible to make a film out of it? A plethora of Hollywood stars including Rober Di Nero, Leonardo Di Caprio, Marlon Brando and Tobey Maguire have tried to buy the rights to the film, most recently Steven Spielberg and Harvey Weinstein made last ditch attempts to buy the rights before Salinger’s death.

It is my favourite book of all time and I don’t think it will be ever replaced. The main reason it appeals to me is based on the main protagonist,Holden Caulfield. He is the most intriguing character ever depicted in my opinion. I read the book recently and began to think how would a film on this book ever do Caulfield justice? Salinger refused to sell the rights to any film right up until his death despite a huge desire to see the manic novel depicted on the silver screen. Upon further contemplation I agreed with Salinger, he maintained that unless he could play Caulfield himself, he would never allow a film. No one could do it justice besides the author himself. He loved his character too much to let him be portrayed in another form and in a letter in 1957 maintained that ‘Holden Caulfield, in my super biased opinion, is essentially unactable. A sensitive, intelligent, talented actor in a reversible coat wouldn’t be nearly enough.

Salinger wrote Caulfield in such a way that making the transition to film would be exceedingly difficult. A lot of the beauty in the book lies in Caulfields non stop dialogue which ebbs and flows and is erratic and off the point ,randomly going from one thought to the next without reason. This aspect of the book is another reason why it is hard to see how that beauty would transcend onto a film. His peculiarities and his quick wit to point out the flaws in every other character in the book whilst not recognizing any of his own make Holden one of the most infuriating characters of all time. He changes his opinion and judgement on characters he meets in the story flippantly depending on their actions and conversation .Some people after reading the book complain about his constant moaning and cursing, others embrace his peculiarities and revel in his open rebellion and impulsiveness to do anything he wants in New York according to how he feels at that very moment. It is one of those books which create a love/hate reaction among readers.

I don’t think I will ever see a Catcher in the Rye film in my lifetime. The only possibility of a film is if Salinger’s estate come into financial trouble and are forced to sell the rights for a film. The only likely outcome is a film will be shot once the copyright runs out on the novel in many years time. I would prefer not to see a film being made as I have such an estimation of  what Holden Caulfield would do and say and how he would react in some of those legendary confrontations he has with characters that any film could ruin this book for me. I think, like Salinger, that no actor could do Caulfields complexity and peculiarity any justice. That said I also felt the same about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby but I have to admit Baz Luhrmann certainly did a fine job of remastering that particular literary classic.

Would you like a film to be made of The Catcher in the Rye? Is there any other literary classics you would like to see made into a film? Please comment, I would love your thoughts.

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8 thoughts on “The Catcher in the Rye-Will we ever see the movie adaptation of Salinger’s Masterpiece?

  1. I actually had no idea that there wasn’t a movie of this novel, having never gone looking for one, but now that I think about it, it seems obvious. Although I am never normally one to admit that the cinema isn’t capable of everything that literature is, I actually agree that Holden would be unactable,and the movie in general undoable, at least in any form that would do justice to the source material. I hope as well that the movie is never made!

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  2. Hhhhmm I read ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ and dislike it. Sorry, the book just has too much angst and whining. However if I had read the book 10 years ago when I was 17, I would probably love it.

    Needless to say, I think a film adaptation wouldn’t do the book a justice. There are only a few good book-to-film adaptations (I love Ben Whishaw-starring ‘Perfume: The Story of Murderer’). Instead we should promote reading books not watching film adaptations.

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    • Oh yes that’s perfectly fine to dislike it, I think the whining really grates on people. I’m 27 and I still love it even after all these years!
      There are so many horrendous book to film adaptations. I recently watched ‘1984’ and it was abysmal in comparison to Orwell’s classic.

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      • Really, I thought of watching ‘1984’ but was never in the mood when I had access to the DVD.

        Next on my list of movies to watch is…’To Kill a Mockingbird’. Bought for my dad, he loved it. I read the book last year & loved it very much. I love social psychology so the themes are so relateable.

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  3. Catcher is the Rye is also my favourite book. I agree that the book might be ruined for me if there was a movie created. Like you said, “I have such an estimation of what Holden Caulfield would do and say and how he would react in some of those legendary confrontations he has with characters”, I feel the exact same. I have this impression of him formed in my mind every time I read the book and I don’t want that image tainted by an actor failing to fully portray Holden to his full potential as a character.
    I enjoyed this post!!

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