One of the most gripping docs I’ve ever seen on TV or anywhere is the new documentary on J.D.Salinger now airing on PBS stations across the country. Check your local listings and don’t miss it!
Filmmaker Shane Salerno has dug deep and spent 10 years and $2 million to bring the shadowy reclusive figure front and center revealing mountains of info we never knew, until now.
Surprisingly, Salinger came from a Park Avenue Jewish family, and was thrown out of many prep schools. Early on he wanted to be an actor! Ending up in a military school, he fell in love with the teenage deb of the year Oona O’Neill, who eventually broke his heart by marrying Charlie Chaplin.
Salinger found this out by reading about it in the news reports that were available to Allied troops in Europe. By that time he had enlisted in the army, and landed during D-Day! He took six chapters of his uncompleted masterpiece “Catcher in the Rye” with him when he went ashore and survived D-Day with nary a wound physically, but psychologically the damage would last a lifetime. He had a nervous breakdown after the war.
And he never wrote about this experience. Or did he?
He was also part of the first troops to “liberate” the Germans concentration camps which the doc narrates was like “walking into a graveyard.”
He, a Jew, must’ve been profoundly affected by this but he never wrote about it. Or did he?
After the war he married a German woman who was a member of the Nazi party. The marriage lasted a month.
And he never wrote about this. Or did he?
He was also recruited as a kind of spy a “counter-intelligence agent”. He also never wrote about this. Or did he? This documentary claims that he did. Or that he might have.
Secluding himself in Cornish, New Hampshire after the explosive success of his first and only novel “Catcher in the Rye”made him world-famous, he seemingly withdrew from the world, but claimed that he continued to write every day.
And the doc ends with the claims that he had squirreled away four or maybe even five completed manuscripts about all of these tumultuous topics that we never knew he participated in, much less wrote about, to be published at regular intervals posthumously starting next year in 2015. Well, we’ll see about that.
In the meantime, “Salinger” stands as an incredible, revelatory, towering documentary achievement that haunts and disturbs as it grips and provokes. It’s like watching a mystery-thriller.
PBS American Masters is to be congratulated. They’ve attached a Charlie Rose interview with the documentarian Shane Salerno, who got EVERYone to talk to him. Charming, intelligent and voluble, he, too, holds the viewer’s interest as he tries to unravel the mystery of why one of the most popular American novelists of all time withdrew from the world, after his greatest success, but still held the world’s attention Garbo-like as he continued to write, but not publish.
We hope all these unpublished, much-speculated-upon books finally see the light of day. His concentration,his focus, his isolation, his dedication are awe-inspiring in this Internet Age when everyone’s attention span has been whittled down to the length of an info-mercial. This, “Salinger” is saying, is what it takes to be a writer.
But in the meantime, we have this superb documentary “Salinger.”Don’t miss it! You won’t be able to forget it!