BREAKING: WNET’s American Masters will open its 28th season by showing a director’s cut of Shane Salerno’s feature documentary Salinger that will be 15 minutes longer than the theatrical version. The prestige program has promised that the longer cut will bare more previously unseen photos, testimony and secrets about reclusive author J.D. Salinger, including his harrowing days fighting the Nazis in WWII.
American Masters was the first to close a deal for the movie, followed by a book deal with Simon & Schuster and then a theatrical pact with The Weinstein Company. The latter later announced it would work with Salerno to develop a narrative movie about the life of the author of such literary classics as The Catcher In The Rye.
American Masters: Salinger airs January 21. I’ve watched this documentary come together over the past five years (back when I saw an early cut) and I didn’t really understand some critical resentment over baring the life of an author who was phobic about his privacy, because, after all, isn’t every worthy biographical documentary invasive? Salinger made its theatrical debut at the Toronto Film Festival last fall, with the book and movie fueled by Salerno’s unearthing of numerous bombshell revelations culled from years of research. These ranged from previously unseen photographs to, most significantly, the reveal that Salinger was in fact writing books from his bunker while he was in seclusion, and that those will eventually see the light of day.
“Adding J.D. Salinger to the American Masters library as the 200th episode is a perfect reflection of the series’ mission: to illuminate the lives and creative journeys of America’s most enduring artistic and cultural giants for the public — no matter how elusive,” said Stephen Segaller, VP Programming for WNET. “The film is almost overpowering: highly cinematic, highly dramatic, and packed with research discoveries worthy of the best painstaking investigative journalism. We get to know Salinger, his life and his work to an unparalleled degree.”