Documentary Review : Salinger



JD Salinger, thanks to his novel The Catcher in the Rye, is one of the most renowned authors of the 20th century. The Catcher in the Rye makes ‘must read’ lists the world over…. year after year. It has sold over 65 million copies and continues to sell over 250 000 each year. It is also a novel synonymous with scandal, having been the novel Mark Chapman was reading after he murdered The Beatles’ John Lennon. Chapman stated the novel was his statement.

But this documentary isn’t about The Catcher in The Rye…it is about Jerome ‘Jerry’ Salinger. I went into this movie knowing only a few facts about the man……that he wrote his masterpiece novel and then disappeared from sight. I have a sneaking suspicion that is all many people know of this great writer.

Salinger started writing in his teens and his one and only goal was to be published by The New Yorker. Nothing else mattered to him. Everything else was superfluous. Writing would be the one true love of his life. He married 3 times and had 2 children but nothing……and no-one….. came between Salinger and his writing.

This documentary covers his entire adult life, with particular focus on those events and people who were pivotal in shaping the man. He came from a very well off family but shunned the easy life this wealth and privilege would have afforded him. He enlisted and was sent to war, his first day of service being on D Day. He then served for something like 300 straight days. It was noted that to serve this long continuously would send you insane. Salinger did, in fact, suffer a nervous breakdown. What he witnessed during the WWII was to haunt him forever.


His first marriage was controversial to say the least. His second more traditional and saw the birth of his children….daughter Margaret (Peggy) and son Matthew. He was not a good father. His third marriage was mired in secrecy.

Salinger also had many loversa nd they all had one thing in common. They were very young women. Naturally, the older he got, the more pronounced the age differences between Salinger and his young lovers. The women interviewed for this movie have different stories and reactions to having been involved with Salinger.

This documentary is fascinating, a wonderful mixture of interviews with friends and lovers, other writers…..contemporaries and fans alike …. real and at times disturbing footage from WWII and the concentration camps. And of course, the stories of  those who have hunted Salinger for almost half a century……with varying degrees of success. It was just damn interesting.

Then it goes a little bit weird for a moment or two ….

One of Salinger’s young lovers saw what she assumes were 2 large manuscripts in a safe. Are there more unpublished Salinger works? Apparently yes. This information is presented with drama and drums and heart stopping fanfare. But there is no proof….. nothing.


But apart from the grand finale being a bit of a fizzer, I loved Salinger. It was very well presented and covered the good, the bad and the very bad. Salinger was idolised and romanticised as much as he was vilified and demonised. And all with very good reason. If you are a Salinger fan….. a literary fan…. a documentary fan….. or just a fan of fantastic true stories, this is for you.


Love Flick xx


Director :  Shane Salerno

Starring : Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, Judd Apatow, Martin Sheen, John Cusack, Gore Vidal, Tom Wolfe

Running Time : 120 minutes

Release Date : In cinemas now

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