The Catcher in the Rye
Per. 7, 8
To the Producer:
The Catcher in the Rye, a contemporary novel by J.D. Salinger, is a thought-provoking, fascinating look at society’s values and issues in the 1950’s. This book would make an excellent transition to film because it is full of both action and implication. It focuses on a four-day period of time in the life of a sixteen-year-old cynic with emotional problems. The book follows Holden Caulfield as he struggles with others and himself to find his way through the “phoniness” and disillusionment involved in his adolescent life. These struggles essentially make up the novel, occurring during a long “flashback” of the four days as he relates them to a psychoanalyst. It would make a brilliant movie because it is written with so much detail, so many pictures that would be beautifully expressed through visual representation. Not only that, but the novel possesses substance, providing a subjective view of the superficiality of modern life, which is represented by the world Salinger creates around Holden.
The movie would be named after the novel it is based on, and would attempt to follow the exact storyline. Pencey Prep, the private school that Holden attended would not have to be in Pennsylvania, but somewhere resembling the area. Most of the city incidents would actually be filmed in New York City. Of course, certain streets would have to be singled out, and the costuming and cars, etc., would have to resemble1950’s New York in order to fit the time period.
The movie would be narrated by Holden, who would stop talking at times to allow focus on the flashbacks taking place in what would then seem like present tense. Much of the narration does not need to be put into dialogue because Holden spends a great deal of time in his descriptions of what is going on around him. This aspect of the book would have to be carried out carefully and precisely by actors with the right kind of talent (see Characters/Acting) in order to make the movie successful in capturing Salinger’s exact tones and concepts.
Note: the main objective of the movie is to present The Catcher in the Rye in visual format. This means to follow as closely as possible to the original plot, dialogue, settings, etc. as written in the book unless truly impossible. The movie should reflect the intentions of J.D. Salinger and also incorporate the themes expressed in the novel (i.e., hypocrisies and phonies in everyday life, the search for a place to belong, isolation and wearing masks). If possible, the author should be contacted for opinions and criticism throughout the filming of the movie.
The beginning of the movie could or could not be modified from the beginning of the book; either way would still appropriately capture the atmosphere of the psychoanalyst and Holden. One way to begin is by actually showing Holden lying in a psychoanalyst’s office, where he begins his narration. The camera would then fade into Pencey Prep, with Holden standing atop Thomsen Hill. Another approach could just be to begin directly with the scene on the hill, with Holden voicing over the picture.
Of course, not every scene could have narration. Otherwise the movie would be unrealistic. Some of the thoughts that run through Holden’s head would have to become dialogue, for example, Holden would mumble “Phony” under his breath while talking to certain characters.
All of the scenes occurring at Pencey would be filmed at another prep school resembling the descriptions given by Holden throughout the book. (“…Way the hell up on top of Thomsen Hill, right next to this crazy cannon that was in the Revolutionary War…You could see the whole football field from there…”-The Catcher in the Rye, p.2) One of the more grotesque scenes would be the suicide of James Castle. This is a critical scene because Holden tells the reader about it after the incident in Mr.Antolini’s apartment, depicting Holden’s sudden unwillingness to judge him. It can be filmed well using stuntmen and technology to recreate the jump from the window and the death. The moment Mr.Antolini approaches the body afterwards should be caught on camera to