J.D. Salinger Strangely Still Ignoring Hollywood

The days of producer and rookie Oscar ringleader Laurence Mark not getting his way are largely over, except for one unresolved bit of correspondence from nearly 30 years ago.

Apparently back in the early '80s, when Mark was cutting his teeth and God knows what else under Don Simpson at Paramount, the junior exec was charged with developing a "a teen film set at a prep school" for the studio. With his youthful ambition taking over any rational sense of reality, Mark's idealism snagged on the Holy Grail of preps-gone-awry properties: The Catcher in the Rye. Never mind that Salinger had turned down everyone from Samuel Goldwyn to Elia Kazan (insisting he himself play Holden Caulfield in the latter's proposed stage play) before vanishing into New Hampshire reclusion. What infamous literary hermit wouldn't come around to an appeal like this, exhumed by Patrick Goldstein and cited today at his blog:

Mark explains to Salinger that the studio has been trying to develop, without success, a prep school project. He adds: "We have managed to come up with several scripts—all of them awful. You see, there's no way to do such a project—unless it happens to be Catcher in the Rye. Isn't there some way in the world we might convince you to reconsider permitting and becoming involved in a film version of this novel?"

Already a shrewd salesman at a young age, Mark anticipates Salinger's biggest fear, saying, "I realize your concerns about Hollywood and its inhabitants—and I share many of those feelings. But there must be some way to have J.D. Salinger oversee each step of the way from novel to film." Then, in what Mark now laughingly describes as the letter's 42nd Street moment, he concludes the letter by writing: "Please give a kid a break—and advise me how to go about changing your mind in this regard," signing the note, "very sincerely, Laurence Mark."

Right. And look what happened: Mark had to settle for My Stepmother is an Alien and a future scaring celebrities into thinking they'll have to enter the Oscars through the service entrance. Way to break a guy's heart, J.D.