As moviegoers around the world anxiously await the highly anticipated adaptation of the bestselling ‘Salinger’, interest in the critically-acclaimed yet commercially underwhelming film will undoubtedly wane.
While film adaptations of best-selling books are nothing new, it’s always exciting to see a movie bring a much-loved book to life. But where does ‘Salinger’ rank among the greatest screen adaptations of all time?
The Most Influential Book Characterized In A Film
If you’ve read J.D. Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, you’ll immediately recognize the character of Holden Caulfield. The rebellious teenager’s diaries, which are the basis of Salinger’s best-selling novel, provide an insight into the character’s mindset and the rebellious nature of the early 20th century.
While some films have attempted to portray Salinger’s literary character, few have done it justice. Audiences have eagerly anticipated the 2019 film adaptation of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ for years. But aside from a brief appearance in the trailer, it has remained relatively unknown, despite the fact that it has been out for sale for more than sixty years.
The most recent installment in the hugely successful ‘Harry Potter’ franchise, ‘The Deathly Hallows – Part 2′, which was released in July 2019, will almost certainly further establish Alfie (Robert Pattinson) as one of the most iconic literary characters of the last century. For decades, moviegoers have associated him with the eponymous author of ‘The Deathly Hallows’ and ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ – one of the most successful series of all time. But it was J.K. Rowling’s literary creation, Harry Potter, who became the stuff of legend, as the franchise earned a staggering £13.7 billion at the box office, making it the highest-grossing series ever. And it wasn’t just the big-ticket items that made the difference. The first film in the series, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, was initially released in 2001 and was only available to watch on DVD for a limited time, after which it went out of print. Today, older generations may still have heard of Harry Potter, but it is the millennials and generation Z who grew up with the characters who now dominate the stage.
A Timeless Classic That Deserves To Be Remade
Adaptations of literary classics are nothing new, but ‘Salinger’, which was adapted from J.D. Salinger’s award-winning novel, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, stands out among recent remakes for multiple reasons.
To begin with, neither protagonist, Holden Caulfield, nor main antagonist, Salinger, appear in the original story by J. D. Salinger. Aloysius ‘J.D.’ Salinger (1888-1950) was an American author and literary critic, best known for his novella, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. In the book, we meet Holden Caulfield, a 16-year-old misfit, who gets his nickname “The Catcher in the Rye” because of his uncanny ability to catch birds with his bare hands. In reality, Salinger wrote about a 6-year-old deaf-mute boy named Jerry, who he encountered while playing on a baseball team with his brothers. The experience inspired him to write about the awkwardness of adolescence. Yet, because of his troubled childhood and addiction to masturbation, he was reluctant to have his work published while he was still alive.
But it was Salinger’s life that was turned into a movie in 2011, when Warner Brothers released the drama, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. Directed by Julian Jarrold and starring Michael Sheen as Salinger and Brendan Gleeson as Young J.D., the film was a critical and commercial failure, despite being largely well-received.
Even more impressively, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ has been successfully adapted for the big screen twice – in 1986, with James Woods taking upon the role of Salinger, and in 2019, with Taylor Lautner as the rebellious teenager. The first adaptation was a critical as well as commercial hit, winning a number of awards, including the Adapted Screenplay Oscar, and introducing the world to the iconic character of Holden Caulfield. Yet, perhaps the greatest testament to the power of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is that it has spawned multiple cinematic adaptations, including a short film, ‘The Kid’, a 1991 TV movie, and the aforementioned two films. The fact that ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ was originally published in 1951 is also worth noting, as it was one of the first literary classics to be made into a movie. And what’s more, it’s one of the few literary classics to have been adapted for film more than once.
It is clear that ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ has stood the test of time, as it continues to influence popular culture across the globe. And it continues to do so, more than sixty years after it was first published.
Why Is ‘Salinger’ Distinct From Other Literary Classics?
Even before the Harry Potter series took the world by storm, Robert Pattinson was widely recognized for his portrayal of the antihero, Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter movies. Like Diggory, Robert Pattinson is a fictional character from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, who served as a mentor to Harry Potter in the series’ fourth installment, ‘The Deathly Hallows – Part 2′ (2019). And like Cedric Diggory, Pattinson’s character had a lasting impact on the culture at large.
Part of the reason ‘Salinger’ is such a distinctive literary character is that he is a product of his time. Born in 1888, J.D. Salinger lived through one of the most tumultuous periods in American history, the First World War. It was a period of great social change, which led to the creation of many of the literary and cultural movements that defined the modern era. It was also a time of great political mobilization. The United States emerged from the war with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism, which was quickly manifested in changed social and political landscapes across the U.S. And it was during this time that Salinger began to develop into the remarkable literary figure we know today.
As well as being a reflection of its time, ‘Salinger’ is a work that continues to engage readers even today. One of the reasons behind the film’s underwhelming performance at the box office is that it is a difficult book to put down. Even now, over sixty years after its initial publication, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is such a powerful and influential novel that it continues to enthrall and appall readers, in the same way that it did when it was first written.