Sunday 31 January 2010

If Only Da Hadn't Worn That Shirt

Salinger remembered in The New Yorker

Lillian Ross:
John Seabrook:
Adam Gopnik:

Some photos of Salinger from Ross' private collection:

The illustration above is by Mike Allred and can be found at

Salinger - The view from Cornish

J.D. Salinger, Recluse of Cornish, Dies
By Susan J. Boutwell and Alex Hanson
Valley News Staff Writers

J.D. Salinger was grateful for the “protective envelope” he was given by neighbors here, his wife, Colleen Salinger, said yesterday.

“Cornish is a truly remarkable place. This beautiful spot afforded my husband a place of awayness from the world. The people of this town protected him and his right to his privacy for many years. I hope, and believe, they will do the same for me,” Colleen Salinger, also known locally as Colleen O'Neill, wrote in an e-mail yesterday to the Valley News.

For more than five decades, the author's neighbors and friends hid his whereabouts from what Cornish resident Peter Burling called “the annual parade of English majors.”

It was, “one of the most enjoyable municipal conspiracies ever, how to keep everyone guessing where Jerry Salinger lived,” said Burling, who for 44 years has lived several doors from Salinger's Lang Road home.

“You very quickly got kind of wrapped up in the joke of it all. They were all so desperate to see if they could talk to the great man,” he said.

Few of them -- from away -- actually did.

A favorite pastime at Cornish General Store, in Cornish Flat, was sending people searching for Salinger out into the weeds.

“I never told where he lived,” Mike Ackerman, a 42-year-old Cornish native who's run the store for two years, said yesterday. The directions given to Salinger-seekers varied, he said.

“It really depended on the attitude of the person coming in how much fun we would have with that person,” said Ackerman, who met Salinger when he was working for UPS and delivered packages to the author's house.

The first time he delivered there, he saw Salinger coming to the door, left the package and waved as he walked away. The next time and subsequently, they would chat for a few minutes, Ackerman said.

“He was the type of individual where, if you treated him like he was everyone else, he would tend to open up a bit,” Ackerman said. “A very nice guy.”

None of his local friends know why Salinger picked Cornish as his refuge. But they do know he made a life just like theirs, filled with the same routines.

Over the years, people saw him at the movies at Dartmouth College, reading at Hanover's Howe Library, coming out of a voting booth at Cornish elections and swimming in Lake Runnemede in Windsor, where he used to attend Christmas parties thrown by Fannie Cox, mother of Archibald Cox who went on to become the special Watergate prosecutor fired in 1973 on orders from Richard Nixon.

The Cox family and their cousins, the Evarts, lived in the grand houses that line Windsor's North Main Street.

“This was exactly the type of party that Holden Caulfield would hate,” said Windsor resident Joyce Burrington Pierce, who, with her girlfriends, struck up a friendship with Salinger in the early 1950s, shortly after Salinger had made Caulfield famous in The Catcher in the Rye.

Salinger shopped for food in Windsor, where as a young man he would do his banking, pick up his mail, then cross the street to buy The New York Times and stop in at the old Knapp's Lunch for coffee.

Pierce was a 19-year-old Windsor High graduate back in the days when Salinger would drive into town in his little Hillman sports car, his pet schnauzer in back.

Salinger would visit with the Windsor teens, watching their high school football games, attending movies with them and inviting them to his house to listen to Billie Holliday records or play with his Ouija board, recalled Pierce.

“My father was a bit leery of us spending so much time with him. He'd say ‘You girls are going to end up in a book,' ” Pierce said. “I read all of his stories looking for me.”

Until last year, Salinger was a regular at the Hartland Congregational Church's roast beef suppers, arriving more than two hours early for the first seating.

He would bring along back issues of the Times and sit with other, mostly older, early birds waiting for the doors to open so he could claim the same seat at the head of the table nearest the pie rack.

“No one ever bothered him at the suppers,” said former pastor Bob Moyer of Hartland. “I think many, many people knew exactly who he was. Had he been bothered, I don't think he would have returned.”

Salinger's health had declined after the new year, according to a statement yesterday from his New York City agent, Harold Ober Associates, Inc.

Yet he was still able to enjoy the Hartland church fare as his wife stopped by the last two Saturdays to purchase roast beef, mashed potatoes and cole slaw to bring home to Cornish, said Larry Frazer, one of the meal's organizers.

“I just said to my wife, ‘We've lost a regular,' ” Frazer said yesterday.

The Ober press release said Salinger had been in excellent health, even after suffering a broken hip last May, until a “rather sudden decline” this month.

“He was not in any pain before or at the time of his death,” said the release, adding that there would be no funeral service for Salinger. He died at home, of natural causes, the release said.

As word of Salinger's death spread yesterday, residents were still closing ranks around him.

“I think I don't have anything to contribute,” said a genial older man who came to the door at the home nearest Salinger's. The man smiled and pressed his hands together as he refused to talk about his neighbor, as if he was carrying out a cherished responsibility.

Most of the homes on Salinger's rural road, about a mile off Route 12A, were dark yesterday afternoon, their owners either at work or away.

Just around the corner, on Dodge Road, Benjamin Ober and Erika Argersinger were walking with their dog. The couple moved to Cornish from Washington, D.C., last summer, and had never encountered Salinger.

“I spent summers here,” Ober said, “but I never met him.”

Ober's mother, Marion MacKye Ober, has spent nearly every summer at the house on Dodge Road and met Salinger only once, when she was walking across his land. He was brusque at first, protective of his privacy.

“Once he knew that we had lived there and I had grown up there, we had no problem at all,” Marion Ober said in a phone interview from her home in Arlington, Mass. “I'm really sad to hear” of Salinger's death.

Cornish Police Chief Doug Hackett said he and the three officers in his department are prepared to deal with anyone trespassing on Salinger's property, or to direct traffic in the days ahead if journalists and curiosity-seekers descend on the town of 1,600 residents.

As of yesterday afternoon, Hackett said no problems had arisen.

“Obviously, we're prepared for whatever happens, but we're hoping people allow the family to grieve in peace, and honor him the way he lived, which is quietly,” the chief said.

Selectboard Chairwoman Merilyn Bourne said residents treated Salinger “the way we'd behave with anyone who lived in town and wanted privacy.”

“He was a citizen in our town and so you look out for one another,” she said.

To Emily Robbins, Jerry and Colleen Salinger's house next door was a regular stop when she and brother Nick were raising money for Cornish Elementary School projects or out trick-or-treating.

One year, the couple forgot to buy Halloween treats and instead handed out pencils.

“Well, this is lame,” Robbins said she and Nick decided, once out of earshot.

Their mother told them, “Save those pencils.”

Now an aspiring writer in a graduate program at UNH, Robbins kicks herself every time she thinks about the pencil she misplaced years ago.

But not everyone in the Upper Valley recognized the famous person in their midst, even when his name was shouted out.

Former CVS pharmacist Tony Furnari loved to tell of filling a prescription at the West Lebanon store some years back for Salinger, while Salinger waited. At the cash register, a teenage employee called out the names of customers when their prescriptions were ready.

“Sal-ling-grrr,” the girl called, mispronouncing the famous name as the white-haired man paid for his drugs, then quietly shuffled off.

“Do you know who that was?” Furnari asked the teenager.

“No,” she said.

“That was J.D. Salinger,” the pharmacist said.

Valley News Staff Writer Mark Davis contributed to this report.

J. D. Salinger January 1, 1919 – January 27, 2010

JD Salinger: from boy of war, to modern man of lettersHis experiences at Utah Beach on D-Day lived with him forever as he and his contemporaries transformed postwar American literature

Robert McCrum
The Observer
Sunday 31 January 2010

Several years ago, here at the Observer, we described JD Salinger as a writer who "seems to understand children as no English-speaking writer has done since Lewis Carroll", which sounds odd until you consider his career as a man, a writer, a literary icon and finally a celebrated, rather dotty recluse, breakfasting on frozen peas and drinking his own urine.

The first surprise about his passing must be his great age. Ninety-one! Here's someone, born on New Year's Day, 1919, who takes us back to the year Woodrow Wilson negotiated the postwar treaty that has, arguably, tormented the peace of the world ever since. Salinger's departure means that his nearest surviving contemporaries, the last of the Mohicans, are the youthful figures of Philip Roth (76) and Gore Vidal (84).

Much has been made of Salinger's New York childhood and the stories he wrote (and later disowned) before the outbreak of the second world war, especially "Slight Rebellion off Madison", a Manhattan story about a bolshy teenager named Holden Caulfield with "prewar" jitters, published just after Pearl Harbor in 1941. But it was Salinger's own war that seems to have perpetuated his adolescence, trapping him in the mind and spirit of a disaffected teen and subsequently sponsoring a deep yearning for solitude.

He was drafted into the army in 1942, along with millions of young American boys, saw combat at Utah Beach on D-day and also fought in the battle of the bulge. In Wartime, the distinguished critic, and veteran, Paul Fussell describes how young Americans who survived this brutal stage of the war became rapidly unfit for frontline service in a matter of weeks.

Salinger certainly suffered "battle fatigue", possibly a breakdown, having been one of the first to enter a liberated concentration camp. He told his daughter: "You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose entirely, no matter how long you live." Holden Caulfield puts it in a slightly different way: "I'm sort of glad they've got the atomic bomb invented. If there's ever another war, I'm going to sit right the hell on top of it. I'll swear to God I will." Several of the stories in For Esm̩ Рwith Love and Squalor draw on Salinger's wartime experiences.

I remember Norman Mailer, Salinger's junior by four years, and also a veteran, telling me shortly before he died that, for his generation of writers, literature became the great postwar project. America had come through, and triumphed, in a life-and-death struggle with a profound historical evil and now the republic could be cleansed and renewed through American letters. This, said Mailer, was the impulse behind The Naked and the Dead, the youthful novels of Gore Vidal, the launch of the Paris Review, and of course the immediate postwar fiction of JD Salinger whose career really took off with "A Perfect Day for Bananafish", first published in the New Yorker in 1948.

That was a turning point. "Bananafish" was the first of the stories to feature the Glass family, two retired vaudeville performers and their seven precocious children: Seymour, Buddy, Boo Boo, Walt, Waker, Zooey and Franny. Salinger was not yet 30, but the local acclaim of New York critics was translating into a buzz around his name that would soon explode into a cacophony.

Now the creative and financial security afforded by the New Yorker encouraged Salinger to embark on the novel he had been incubating since 1940 and with which his name will be forever associated, the story of one boy's adventures in New York City, during a few days following his expulsion from an elite Pennsylvania boarding school. Salinger's celebrated first line echoed the author's angry, distracted, and solitary nature: "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know etc" and it precisely recalls Huck Finn's equally famous: "You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of…"

That nails The Catcher in the Rye as a classic American boys' book, by Twain, so to speak, out of Fitzgerald, whom Salinger admired, and Hemingway, whom he had met as a GI in France. As a boys' book it gets constantly rewritten, which is part of its hypnotic grip on the American imagination. Louis Menand, for example, says it is "a literary genre all its own". Among its "rewrites" he identifies Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (1963), Hunter S Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971), Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City (1984) and Dave Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000). Here, in Britain, the grumpy teens who stomp through the novels of Melvin Burgess and Jacqueline Wilson must also owe a debt, however remote, to Salinger.

Like Salinger, Holden Caulfield is obsessed with "the phoneys" of adult society and is questing in a cynical, discontented way in search of emotional honesty in a world of troubling privilege and comfort. In archetypal terms, he is the classic fish out of water. As an odd fish, Holden is acutely alert to what Joyce Carol Oates calls "the moral rootlessness of contemporary American materialism", which is probably why he has remained such an evergreen character. But he also revels – and this is also part of his appeal – in the wonderful angst that the American pursuit of happiness engenders. "Reading Catcher," says the New York Times, "used to be an essential rite of passage."

Back in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye, which had been turned down by Harcourt Brace, struck an immediate chord with its readers, was reprinted eight times within two months of publication and was a New York Times bestseller for 30 weeks. Current newspaper estimates put the novel's sales at about 60m worldwide. It became the bible for the 60s generation of American schoolkids, the indispensable manual to brooding adolescence. Like Huckleberry Finn, it was censored, denounced, idolised and mythologised. Holden was compared to Billy Budd, Natty Bumppo, and Melville's Ishmael. Whatever the models and influences, the troubled life of Salinger's protagonist became tragically mirrored in the teenage traumas of some readers.

In 1980, Mark David Chapman was clutching a battered copy of Catcher in the Rye when he shot John Lennon. By then, Salinger had become "the Garbo of letters", living a fiercely defended private life in rural New Hampshire, a town named Cornish. To some, he seemed to be fulfilling Holden's desire to build himself "a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made and live there for the rest of my life" away from "any goddam stupid conversation with anybody".

As long ago as 1961, on the cover of his masterpiece Franny and Zooey, he had written: "It is my rather subversive opinion that a writer's feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second most valuable property on loan to him during his working years." Thereafter, for at least five decades, he dedicated himself to being invisible. His agent was told to burn the fan mail. Newspapers who tried to snatch a photo of the old man got short shrift. He was said to be working on a masterpiece, but no one had seen a line of it.

Salinger's last published work, "Hapworth 16, 1924", appeared in the New Yorker in 1965. From then on, it was the academics who became the bane of his life. There were moments of sanity. In 1974, Philip Roth wrote: "The response of college students to the work of JD Salinger indicates that he, more than anyone else, has not turned his back on the times, but instead has managed to put his finger on whatever struggle of significance is going on today between self and culture."

Salinger certainly kept a beady eye on the commentators. In 1986 he used extreme legal sanctions to prevent the distinguished British poet and critic, Ian Hamilton, from publishing In Search of JD Salinger. In 1999, a former girlfriend, Joyce Maynard, published a memoir of her relationship with the hermit of Cornish, At Home in the World. There was an ephemeral brouhaha, some tittering about the old boy's foibles (acupuncture; hours in an orgone box; an obsession with Vedanta Hinduism) and then silence descended once more.

Salinger, meanwhile, continued to write and write from day to day, following a monk-like routine. Others speculated that he was like Jack Torrance in The Shining, repetitively writing the same mad sentence again and again. Was he, asked the New York Times, "a crackpot or the American Tolstoy"? No one knows what, exactly, that legacy will amount to. His position in the American canon is secure, however, and rests on a slender collection of immortal stories and one enduring masterpiece of a novel whose garrulous anguish makes him, in the words of writer Gish Jen "the avatar of American authenticity", a boy for all seasons.

New jackets for Salinger reissues

Before his death, JD Salinger's publisher, Hamish Hamilton, worked with him to produce jackets for reissues of his books (originally planned for June, they are now due out next month). Here, you can view all four covers for the first time

Simon Prosser, publishing director, Hamish Hamilton: "There are strict rules about JD Salinger's covers. The only copy allowed on the books, back or front, is the author name and the title. Nothing else at all: no quotes, no cover blurb, no biography. We're not really sure why this is, but it gives you definite guidelines. Last year we decided it was probably time to re-design the covers, and we wanted a unique typeface that stood out. We commissioned Seb Lester, the highly regarded type designer, to hand-draw a font; that font, on the cover of these re-issues, is a one-off and is known in-house here at Hamish Hamilton as the 'Salinger'."

J. D. Salinger RIP

"January 28, 2010 ~ J.D. Salinger dies at 91

It is with feelings of sadness and loss that Dead Caulfields shares the news of the death of author J.D. Salinger, who passed away at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire on Wednesday, January 27. According to his son, Matthew, Salinger died of natural causes and in keeping with his wishes, no public memorial is planned. However, I would like to offer a suggestion to all who seek to honor the legendary writer at this time: Read. Explore, whether for the first time or twenty, The Catcher in the Rye, read Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, Raise High and Seymour. Re-experience Salinger's works in tribute to the author who is so deeply embedded within them. Salinger the man may be gone from us now - and the world is an emptier place for that - but he will always live within the pages he created, and through his art remain as vital today and tomorrow as when he strolled the boulevards of New York and the woods of New Hampshire."


Thursday 28 January 2010

J. D. Salinger RIP

J. D. Salinger, Enigmatic Author, Dies at 91


J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91.

Mr. Salinger’s literary representative, Harold Ober Associates, announced the death, saying it was of natural causes. “Despite having broken his hip in May,” the agency said, “his health had been excellent until a rather sudden decline after the new year. He was not in any pain before or at the time of his death.”

Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” the collection “Nine Stories” and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.”

“Catcher” was published in 1951, and its very first sentence, distantly echoing Mark Twain, struck a brash new note in American literature: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Though not everyone, teachers and librarians especially, was sure what to make of it, “Catcher” became an almost immediate best seller, and its narrator and main character, Holden Caulfield, a teenager newly expelled from prep school, became America’s best-known literary truant since Huckleberry Finn.

With its cynical, slangy vernacular voice (Holden’s two favorite expressions are “phony” and “goddam”), its sympathetic understanding of adolescence and its fierce if alienated sense of morality and distrust of the adult world, the novel struck a nerve in cold war America and quickly attained cult status, especially among the young. Reading “Catcher” used to be an essential rite of passage, almost as important as getting your learner’s permit.

The novel’s allure persists to this day, even if some of Holden’s preoccupations now seem a bit dated, and it continues to sell tens of thousands of copies a year in paperback. Mark David Chapman, who assassinated John Lennon in 1980, even said that the explanation for his act could be found in the pages of “The Catcher in the Rye.” In 1974 Philip Roth wrote, “The response of college students to the work of J. D. Salinger indicates that he, more than anyone else, has not turned his back on the times but, instead, has managed to put his finger on whatever struggle of significance is going on today between self and culture.”

Many critics admired even more “Nine Stories,” which came out in 1953 and helped shape later writers like Mr. Roth, John Updike and Harold Brodkey. The stories were remarkable for their sharp social observation, their pitch-perfect dialogue (Mr. Salinger, who used italics almost as a form of musical notation, was a master not of literary speech but of speech as people actually spoke it), and for the way they demolished whatever was left of the traditional architecture of the short story — the old structure of beginning, middle, end — in favor of an architecture of emotion, in which a story could turn on a tiny alteration of mood or irony. Mr. Updike said he admired “that open-ended Zen quality they have, the way they don’t snap shut.”

Mr. Salinger also perfected the great trick of literary irony — of validating what you mean by saying less than, or even the opposite of, what you intend. Orville Prescott wrote in The Times in 1963: “Rarely if ever in literary history has a handful of stories aroused so much discussion, controversy, praise, denunciation, mystification and interpretation.”

As a young man, Mr. Salinger yearned ardently for just this kind of attention. He bragged in college about his literary talent and ambitions, and wrote swaggering letters to Whit Burnett, the editor of Story magazine. But success, once it arrived, paled quickly for him. He told the editors of Saturday Review that he was “good and sick” of seeing his photograph on the dust jacket of “The Catcher in the Rye” and demanded that it be removed from subsequent editions. He ordered his agent to burn any fan mail.

In 1953 Mr. Salinger, who had been living on East 57th Street in Manhattan, fled the literary world altogether and moved to a 90-acre compound on a wooded hillside in Cornish, N.H. He seemed to be fulfilling Holden’s desire to build himself “a little cabin somewhere with the dough I made and live there for the rest of my life,” away from “any goddam stupid conversation with anybody.”

He seldom left, except occasionally to vacation in Florida or to visit William Shawn, the almost equally reclusive editor of The New Yorker. Avoiding Mr. Shawn’s usual (and very public) table at the Algonquin, they would meet instead under the clock at the old Biltmore Hotel, the rendezvous for generations of prep-school and college students.

After Mr. Salinger moved to New Hampshire, his publications slowed to a trickle and soon stopped completely. “Franny and Zooey” and “Raise High the Roof Beam,” both collections of material previously published in The New Yorker, came out in 1961 and 1963, and the last work of Mr. Salinger’s to appear in print was “Hapworth 16, 1924,” a 25,000-word story that took up most of the June 19, 1965, issue of The New Yorker.

In 1997 Mr. Salinger agreed to let Orchises Press, a small publisher in Alexandria, Va., bring out “Hapworth” in book form, but at the last minute backed out of the deal. He never collected the rest of his stories or allowed any of them to be reprinted in textbooks or anthologies. One story, “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut,” was turned into “My Foolish Heart,” a movie so bad that Mr. Salinger was never tempted to sell film rights again.

In the fall of 1953 Mr. Salinger befriended some local teenagers, and allowed one of them to interview him for what he assumed would be an article on the high school page of a local paper, The Claremont (N.H.) Daily Eagle. The story appeared instead as a feature on the editorial page, and Mr. Salinger felt so betrayed that he broke off with the teenagers and built a six-and-a-half-foot fence around his property.

He seldom spoke to the press again, except in 1974 when, trying to fend off the unauthorized publication of his uncollected stories, he told a reporter from The Times: “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing. It’s peaceful. Still. Publishing is a terrible invasion of my privacy. I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.”

And yet the more he sought privacy the more famous he became, especially following his appearance on the cover of Time in 1961. For years it was a sort of journalistic sport for newspapers and magazines to send reporters to New Hampshire in hopes of a sighting. As a young man, Mr. Salinger had a long, melancholy face and deep soulful eyes, but now, in the few photographs that surfaced, he looked gaunt and gray, like someone in an El Greco painting. He spent more time and energy avoiding the world, it was sometimes said, than most people do in embracing it, and his elusiveness only added to the mythology growing up around him.

Depending on your point of view, he was either a crackpot or the American Tolstoy, who had turned silence itself into his most eloquent work of art. Some believed he was publishing under an assumed name, and for a while in the late 1970s William Wharton, author of “Birdy,” was rumored to be Salinger, writing under another name, until it turned out that William Wharton was instead a pen name for a writer named Albert du Aime.

In 1984, the British literary critic Ian Hamilton approached Mr. Salinger with the notion of writing his biography. Not surprisingly, Mr. Salinger turned him down, saying he had “borne all the exploitation and loss of privacy I can possibly bear in a single lifetime.” Mr. Hamilton went ahead anyway, and in 1986 Mr. Salinger took him to court, to prevent the use of quotations and paraphrases from unpublished letters. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and to the surprise of many observers Mr. Salinger eventually won, though not without some cost to his cherished privacy. (In June 2009 Mr. Salinger also sued Fredrik Colting, the Swedish author and publisher of a novel said to be a sequel to “The Catcher in the Rye.”)

Mr. Salinger’s privacy was further punctured in 1998 and again in 2000 with the publication of memoirs by, first, Joyce Maynard — with whom he had a 10-month affair in 1973, when Ms. Maynard was a college freshman — and then his daughter, Margaret. Some critics complained that both women were trying to exploit and profit from their history with Mr. Salinger, and Mr. Salinger’s son, Matthew, wrote in a letter to The New York Observer that his sister had “a troubled mind” and that he didn’t recognize the man portrayed in her account. But both books nevertheless added a creepy, Howard Hughesish element to the Salinger legend.

Mr. Salinger was controlling and sexually manipulative, Ms. Maynard wrote, and a health nut obsessed with homeopathic medicine and with his diet (frozen peas for breakfast, undercooked lamb burger for dinner). Ms. Salinger said that her father was pathologically self-centered and abusive toward her mother, and to the homeopathy and food fads she added a long list of other exotic enthusiasms: Zen Buddhism, Vedanta Hinduism, Christian Science, Scientology and acupuncture. Mr. Salinger drank his own urine, she wrote, and sat for hours in an orgone box.

But was he writing? The question obsessed Salingerologists, and in the absence of any real evidence, theories multiplied. He hadn’t written a word for years. Or like the character in Stephen King’s novel “The Shining,” he wrote the same sentence over and over again. Or like Gogol at the end of his life, he wrote prolifically but then burned it all up. Ms. Maynard said she believed there were at least two novels locked away in a safe, although she had never seen them.

Jerome David Salinger was born in Manhattan on New Year’s Day, 1919, the second of two children. His sister, Doris, who died in 2001, was for many years a buyer in the dress department at Bloomingdale’s. Like the Glasses, the Salinger children were the product of a mixed marriage. Their father, Sol, was a Jew, the son of a rabbi, but sufficiently assimilated that he made his living importing both cheese and ham. Their mother, Marie Jillisch, was of Irish descent, born in Scotland. The family was living in Harlem when Mr. Salinger was born, but then, as Sol Salinger’s business prospered, moved to West 82nd Street and then to Park Avenue.

Never much of a student, Mr. Salinger, then known as Sonny, attended the progressive McBurney School on the Upper West Side (he told the admissions office his interests were dramatics and tropical fish). But he flunked out after two years and in 1934 was packed off to Valley Forge Military Academy, near Wayne, Pa., which became the model for Holden’s Pencey Prep. Like Holden, he was the manager of the school fencing team, and he also became the literary editor of the school yearbook, Crossed Swords, and wrote a school song that was either a heartfelt pastiche of 19th-century sentiment or else a masterpiece of irony:

Hide not thy tears on this last day

Your sorrow has no shame;

To march no more midst lines of gray;

No longer play the game.

Four years have passed in joyful ways — Wouldst stay those old times dear?

Then cherish now these fleeting days,

The few while you are here.

In 1937, after a couple of unenthusiastic weeks at New York University, Mr. Salinger traveled with his father to Austria and Poland, where the father’s plan was for him to learn the ham business. Deciding that wasn’t for him, he returned to America and drifted through a term or so at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa. Fellow students remember him striding around campus in a black chesterfield with velvet collar and announcing that he was going to write the Great American Novel.

Mr. Salinger’s most sustained exposure to higher education was an evening class he took at Columbia in 1939, taught by Whit Burnett, and under Mr. Burnett’s tutelage he managed to sell a story, “The Young Folks,” to Story magazine. He subsequently sold stories to Esquire, Collier’s and the Saturday Evening Post — formulaic work that gave little hint of real originality.

In 1941, after several rejections, Mr. Salinger finally cracked The New Yorker, the ultimate goal of any aspiring writer back then, with a story, “Slight Rebellion Off Madison,” that was an early sketch of what became a scene in “The Catcher in the Rye.” But the magazine then had second thoughts, apparently worried about seeming to encourage young people to run away from school, and held the story for five years — an eternity even for The New Yorker — before finally publishing it in 1946, buried way in the back of an issue.

Meanwhile, Mr. Salinger had been drafted. He served with the Counter Intelligence Corps of the Fourth Infantry Division, whose job was to interview Nazi deserters and sympathizers, and was stationed for a while in Tiverton, Devonshire, the setting for “For Esmé — With Love and Squalor,” probably the most deeply felt of the “Nine Stories.” On June 6, 1944, he landed at Utah Beach, and he later saw action during the Battle of the Bulge.

In 1945 he was hospitalized for “battle fatigue” — often a euphemism for a breakdown — and after recovering, he stayed on in Europe past the end of the war chasing Nazi functionaries. He married a German woman, very briefly — a doctor about whom biographers have been able to discover very little. Her name was Sylvia, Margaret Salinger said, but Mr. Salinger always called her Saliva.

Back in New York, Mr. Salinger moved into his parents’ apartment and, having never stopped writing, even during the war, resumed his career. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” austere, mysterious and Mr. Salinger’s most famous and still most discussed story, appeared in The New Yorker in 1948 and suggested, not wrongly, that he had become a very different kind of writer. And like so many writers, he eventually found in The New Yorker not just an outlet but a kind of home, and developed a particularly close relationship with the magazine’s editor, William Shawn, himself famously shy and agoraphobic — a kindred spirit. In 1961 Mr. Salinger dedicated “Franny and Zooey” to Mr. Shawn, writing, “I urge my editor, mentor and (heaven help him) closest friend, William Shawn, genius domus of The New Yorker, lover of the long shot, protector of the unprolific, defender of the hopelessly flamboyant, most unreasonably modest of born great artist-editors, to accept this pretty skimpy-looking book.”

As a young writer Mr. Salinger was something of a ladies’ man and dated, among others, Oona O’Neill, the daughter of Eugene O’Neill and the future wife of Charlie Chaplin. In 1953 he met Claire Douglas, the daughter of the English art critic Robert Langdon Douglas, who was then a 19-year-old Radcliffe sophomore who in many ways resembled Franny Glass (or vice versa); they were married two years later (Ms. Douglas had married and divorced in the meantime). Margaret was born in 1955, and Matthew, now an actor and film producer, was born in 1960. But the marriage soon turned distant and isolating, and in 1966 Ms. Douglas sued for divorce, claiming that “a continuation of the marriage would seriously injure her health and endanger her reason.”

The affair with Ms. Maynard, then a Yale freshman, began in 1972, after Mr. Salinger read an article she had written for The New York Times Magazine called “An 18-Year-Old Looks Back on Life.” They moved in together but broke up abruptly after 10 months when Mr. Salinger said he had no desire for more children. For a while in the ’80s Mr. Salinger was involved with the actress Elaine Joyce, and late in that decade he married Colleen O’Neill, a nurse and the director of the Cornish town fair, who is considerably younger than he is. Not much is known about the marriage because Ms. O’Neill embraced her husband’s code of seclusion.

Mr. Salinger is survived by Ms. O’Neill; his son, Matt; his daughter, Margaret and three grandsons. His literary agents said in their statement that “in keeping with his lifelong, uncompromising desire to protect and defend his privacy, there will be no service, and the family asks that people’s respect for him, his work and his privacy be extended to them, individually and collectively, during this time.”

“Salinger had remarked that he was in this world but not of it,” the statement said. “His body is gone but the family hopes that he is still with those he loves, whether they are religious or historical figures, personal friends or fictional characters.”

As for the fictional family the Glasses, Mr. Salinger had apparently been writing about them nonstop. Ms. Maynard said she saw shelves of notebooks devoted to the family. In Mr. Salinger’s fiction the Glasses first turn up in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” in which Seymour, the oldest son and family favorite, kills himself during his honeymoon. Characters who turn out in retrospect to have been Glasses appear glancingly in “Nine Stories,” but the family saga really begins to be elaborated upon in “Franny and Zooey,” “Raise High the Roof Beam” and “Hapworth,” the long short story, which is ostensibly a letter written by Seymour from camp when he is just 7 years old but already reading several languages and lusting after Mrs. Happy, wife of the camp owner. Readers also began to learn about the parents, Les and Bessie, long-suffering ex-vaudevillians, and Seymour’s siblings Franny, Zooey, Buddy, Walt, Waker and Boo Boo; about the Glasses’ Upper West Side apartment; about the radio quiz show on which all the children appeared. Seldom, in fact, has a fictional family been so lovingly or richly imagined.

Too lovingly, some critics complained. With the publication of “Franny and Zooey,” even staunch Salinger admirers began to break ranks. John Updike wrote in The Times Book Review: “Salinger loves the Glasses more than God loves them. He loves them too exclusively. Their invention has become a hermitage for him. He loves them to the detriment of artistic moderation.” Other readers hated the growing streak of Eastern mysticism in the saga, as Seymour evolved, in successive retellings, from a troubled, suicidal young man into a genius, a sage, even a saint of sorts.

But writing in The New York Review of Books in 2001, Janet Malcolm argued that the critics had all along been wrong about Mr. Salinger, just as short-sighted contemporaries were wrong about Manet and about Tolstoy. The very things people complain about, Ms. Malcolm wrote, were the qualities that made Mr. Salinger great. That the Glasses (and, by implication, their creator) were not at home in the world was the whole point, she said, which said as much about the world as about the kind of people who failed to get along there.

Wednesday 27 January 2010


The Wrong Man (1956) is perhaps the least Hitchcockian film Alfred Hitchcock ever made. Based on a true story, and scripted by famous American playwright Maxwell Anderson, it tells of the arrest of New York jazz musician Manny Balestrero for a series of hold-ups. Henry Fonda, in the title role, plays a man trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare, and watches as his wife, Rose, brilliantly played by Vera Miles, falls apart.

The film is notable for Hitchcock NOT appearing in a cameo role in the main body of the film but rather simply appears in silhouette on a darkened street in a prologue, as though he didn't wish to disturb the documentary style of the film. Even his words stress the way the film stands apart from the normal Hitchcock outing: "In the past, I have given you many kinds of suspense pictures. But this time, I would like you to see a different one."

Reflecting the neorealistic movies of the later 1950s, The Wrong Man uses the real New York, including the famous Stork Club, where Manny/Fonda plays (and where Hitchcock was a regular), plus NY streets and City Prison in Queens, where an actual inmate can be heard to shout "What'd they get ya for, Henry?" But much of the rest of the movie employs a Hollywood soundstage and back-lots.

The Wrong Man is a very stark, unremitting film, which seems to abandon the usual Hitchcockian effects for black and white storytelling and powerful emotions kept in check. Bernard Herrman's score is also restrained, but also insistent. The black and white images of the police van with its lattice work, and the bare reality of his cell, tell their own story. Untypically, the film explores the central character's - and the director's? - Catholicism, through lots of religious iconography, including rosary beads, and references to praying.
The Wrong Man has proved influential - Scorsese employed what he saw as the "paranoia" of the insurance office scene for Taxi Driver. The film also provoked the longest piece of film criticism ever wriiten by Jean-Luc Godard. While Hitchcock rather underplayed the film in his famous book-length interviews with Truffaut - claiming it should be "filed under indifferent Hitchcocks... I don't feel that strong about it" - this was perhaps a reflection on the film's initial box office failure. (But never trust the artist - trust the tale, as the old adage says).

Some points:

Vera Miles was making both The Searchers with John Ford and The Wrong Man with Hitchcock at the same time. There is a story of Ford asking why she was speaking with a plummy accent when she returned to the set of his famous movie, while Hitch is said to have teased Miles, pretending to pull straw from her hair when she turned up on the set of his movie.

Winter was drawing in when the hotel scene was filmed in upstate New York - note the real snow on the ground . Hitchcock remained in his warm limo, telling his assistant director to film Fonda and Miles as they try to gather an alibi.

Virtually the whole movie was storyboarded, down to the smallest detail in Manny's cell.

The epilogue was Hitchcock's idea - and may NOT be true.
Publicity shot for a lobby card


Dead Whale in the Middle of the Beach

A local story...

Tests to discover how whale died

A post-mortem examination is due to be carried out on a sperm whale which died after becoming stranded on rocks on the Northumberland coast.

It is believed the 10m (32ft) mammal lost its way and became dehydrated before coming ashore at Beadnell Bay, near Seahouses on Monday.

The British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) said the 20-tonne whale was too heavy to be lifted from the scene.
A specialist vet is expected to carry out the on-site examination later.

Richard Ilderton, of the BDMLR, said the whale was too heavy to have been lifted back into the water.

Horrible events

He said it would have to be rendered before being disposed of.

He said: "If whales like this end up in the North Sea they won't have anything to eat and will end up dehydrated.

"That starts a horrible chain of events which ends up in the situation we have here.

"This animal was definitely not local and not of these waters."

Sperm whales are the deepest diving mammal and the largest toothed of all whales.

They can grow up to 18m (59ft) in length and weigh up to 50 tonnes.

The mammals are found in all oceans, except the Arctic, and feed on squid and other large deep-water fish.

And an update:

Thieves target dead whale's teeth

Scavengers have been attempting to steal the teeth of a sperm whale which died after becoming stranded on rocks on the Northumberland coast.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said officers had to turn away two men who were trying to remove its ivory teeth.

It is believed the 10m (32ft) mammal lost its way and became dehydrated before coming ashore at Beadnell Bay, near Seahouses, on Monday.

The remains are now being guarded while arrangements are made for removal.

Mark Clark, from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, said: "People are trying to extract the ivory teeth because they think they are worth something.

"The whale is protected under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species regulations, and if people remove the teeth and trade them, then that's an offence."

Tests are being carried out by a specialist vet in a bid to establish why the whale became stranded and died.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Terence talks and the FB listen (apart from cheeky chappie GW)

Pernell Roberts RIP

"Bonanza" star Pernell Roberts dies at 81

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Pernell Roberts Jr, who played the introspective eldest son of wealthy rancher Ben Cartwright on the hit TV western "Bonanza" and went on to star in medical drama "Trapper John, M.D.," has died. He was 81.

Roberts died at his Malibu home on Sunday of pancreatic cancer, said his spokesman, Richard Stone.

"Bonanza" first aired in 1959, and Roberts starred in the show from the start, as rancher Ben Cartwright's son.

Roberts earned many fans with the role as the quiet and serious Adam, but he left the show in 1965, even though some at the time said he was ruining his career by doing it.

"Bonanza" ran until 1973, and the popular series is one of the longest running westerns in TV history, behind "Gunsmoke."

After "Bonanza," Roberts mainly appeared in stage musicals and guest starring roles in TV shows, before he returned to series work in 1979 with his title role in "Trapper John, M.D." a part he played for seven seasons.

The actor supported the U.S. civil rights movement, and in 1965 he marched to Selma, Alabama, with Martin Luther King Jr in a campaign for voting rights for blacks.

Roberts was married four times and his only son, Chris, died in 1989. He is survived by his wife Eleanor Criswell.

Monday 25 January 2010

An actor not a cowboy...

January 22, 2010, 9:30 pm
Awesome, and Then Some

(Warning: Good friends have refused to believe a word of what I’m about to relate. Your credulity is about to be strained.)

The setting was the Universal lot in Hollywood, and I was preparing a prime-time special to be called “Dick Cavett’s Backlot U.S.A.” We’d somehow lured Mae West out of her most recent retirement. We had Mickey Rooney and Gene Kelly. We needed another big-name guest.

Someone came in with a message and casually dropped the words, “The Duke is shooting over on the Western street.”

I was fairly sure that by “Duke” he didn’t mean Edward VIII. Before there was time to even think, “Feets, do yo’ stuff,” I was all but out the door. My producer, the splendid Gary Smith, didn’t need to ask where I was going. He just said, “Get him for the show.”

“Sure thing,” I said, laughing.

I hit the ground running. A man carrying a fake tree pointed the way. It felt like that heavy slogging one experiences in dreams. I knew I’d be too late. I got through a section of London, the New York street, the New England village . . . and there it was up ahead. The square of an old Western town. “The Shootist,” which proved to be John Wayne’s final movie, was being filmed.

Somehow — although it seemed I had met all my heroes and non-heroes in the biz — I had always been certain, deep down, that I was not destined to meet John Wayne. It was just not in the scheme of things.

If the word “icon” — used daily now for just about everybody, even me — ever applied in its fullest force to anyone it was to the man embarrassed as a kid by his real name, Marion Mitchell Morrison.

How could I ever hope to find myself standing beside the star of “Sands of Iwo Jima,” seen five times by Jimmy McConnell and me in our Nebraska youth? (Later, we’d “play” the movie, taking turns being The Duke, our bikes standing in for horses.)

How could I expect to meet “The Ringo Kid” from “Stagecoach”? Or the man in another one of those great Monument Valley John Ford classics (“She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”?), riding toward the camera, the cavalry column behind him, the storm overhead. Surely this mythic figure could not occupy the space right next to you.

And yet there he was.

”The gods had smiled and arranged for my first glimpse of him to be the ideal one. Mounted and in full cowboy drag: the chaps, the boots and spurs, the neckerchief and the well-worn Stetson atop the handsome head. He was waiting for the scene to begin.

I moved, or rather, was moved toward him. He saw me gazing upward.

“Well,” he said — in John Wayne’s voice! — “It sure is good ta meet ya.”

I reached up to shake the mounted man’s proffered hand. It enveloped mine like a baseball glove.

He was instantly likable and, although it seems almost the wrong word for such a fellow, charming. We chatted for several minutes until shooting resumed. I watched him ride off for the next shot. I figured that was it. I was satisfied.

Meanwhile, I had forgotten about the special, and I started to leave. I couldn’t wait to phone Jimmy McConnell.

Suddenly, the Duke — preceded by his shadow — came up behind me, on foot now. As with the Great Pyramid at Giza, nothing prepared you for his size. (And there was a rumor that he wore lifts in his boots. I was not about to ask.)

“I’d enjoy talking to ya but I’ve got a scene to shoot with Betty Bacall,” he said. “Do you want to watch?”

The answer came easily. And my new friend led me inside to the set.

It was the old West, and the scene was in the kitchen of the house belonging to Lauren Bacall’s character. She was about to serve him a meal.

“Ya wanna run your lines, Duke?” asked an assistant.

“No thanks, I know ‘em. Most of ‘em, anyway.” (Crew laughs.)

I was a few feet from him, in the shadows. They were still setting up and Duke was humming to himself, and — I guess unconsciously recognizing the tune — I began to hum along. He spotted me and chuckled. And the following dialogue took place. On my solemn word. (I went straight home and wrote it all down before it faded.)

Wayne: Wasn’t he great?

Me: Who?

Wayne: Coward.

Me [startled, realizing now that the tune was Noel Coward’s “Someday I'll Find You”]: Yes.

Wayne: I’ve always loved his stuff. Remember the scene in “Private Lives” when they realize they still love each other?

Me: Yes, and did you know there’s a recording of Coward and Gertrude Lawrence doing that scene?

Wayne: Gee, I gotta get that. I guess I’ve read most of his plays.

Me [still not convinced there isn't a ventriloquist in the room]: I’ll send you the record.

Wayne: Well, thank ya. I like the line [he switched to quite passable upper-class British], “You’re looking very lovely you know, in this damned moonlight.”

Me: I did a show with Coward and, as he introduced them, “My dearest friends, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.”

Wayne: I sure would love to have seen them in “Design for Living.” [Mentally I reach again for the smelling salts.] And, damn, I’d love to see that show of yours.

Me: I’ll see that you do. [Jesus! Did I? Oh, I hope so.]

Wayne: That’d be awful nice of ya.

Me: Did you ever think of doing one of his plays?

Wayne: Yeah, but it never got past the thought stage. I guess they figured that maybe spurs and “Blithe Spirit” wouldn’t go together. Can’t you see the critics? “Wayne should go back to killing Indians, not Noel Coward.”

As I looked around for someone to pinch me, the mood was shattered by a sharp, barking voice: “O.K., people. Places for 43.”

(There is a good bit more to this encounter, including a life-and-limb incident. Interested? Or would you rather have a piece on “Edward Bulwer-Lytton: Man and Boy”?)

It required the common sense of Woody Allen to put the whole thing into perspective. When I burbled the story to him, he seemed disappointingly un-astonished.

“It reminds you that he’s an actor,” he said. “Not a cowboy.”
Seen here:

The Fab Three

Don't you hate it when your 'friends' become successful.

Sunday 24 January 2010


With friend

Walter Becker: Steely Dan man sees the light

Adam Sweeting
Published: 12:01AM BST 17 Jul 2008

Walter Becker talks to Adam Sweeting about his adventurous new solo album and the rollicking return of the band that made him

In the Seventies, Steely Dan's founding duo, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, were musical satirists, chastising an imperfect world with irony and black humour.

Their occasional interviews resembled clues from an insoluble crossword. In lesser bands, they inspired awe and reverence, laced with fear.

But nearly 30 years after the Gaucho album brought the curtain down on Steely Dan's original era, Becker and Fagen have thawed somewhat. The new millennium has seen a rebuilt Dan releasing two albums, the triple Grammy-winner Two Against Nature and Everything Must Go.

Previously allergic to live performance, they've become a regular touring attraction, playing shows that swoop across their catalogue - from oldies such as Showbiz Kids and My Old School to Deacon Blues, Hey 19 and beyond. Armed with a rollicking four-piece horn section and the brilliant lead guitarist Jon Herington, the 21st-century Dan is scintillating to behold.

As Walter Becker explains, touring has become vastly more attractive than it was 30 years ago. "We started touring with one guy who humped all the gear," he recalls, sitting in a small dressing room at New York's Beacon Theatre during Steely Dan's recent six-night stint. "We used to try to get our gear on to airplanes as baggage and try not to pay for it, so if stuff got bumped off the plane you were f---ed. But now we have trucks and crew members, and a giant swathe of rainforest has been cut down so we can do what we're doing."

As a bonus for Dan-o-philes, Becker has completed a second solo album, Circus Money. It has little in common with his first, 11 Tracks of Whack (1994), and derives its character from Becker's fascination with Jamaican music from the Sixties and Seventies. He'd spent years amassing Jamaican recordings. At first he planned to use authentic Jamaican backing tracks and graft new instrumentation and lyrics over them, but gave up that idea when multitrack tapes proved impossible to find.

"The Jamaican tracks were the starting point, but what you end up writing may be completely different," he says. "A lot of songs on this record don't sound like Jamaican music, and a couple have dub sections and repeats and a real Jamaican combination of elements. Downtown Canon was based on a very well-known dub track that goes by various names, but all we took was the tempo and the bass rhythm: the harmonies were completely changed."

Becker has few pretensions as a vocalist (he growls like a film-noir detective), but Larry Klein, his producer and co-writer, has provided guidance. "My singing could be worse, and it probably will be in time. Singing for me means singing as loud as I can. Larry said, 'Why don't you try not singing as loud as you can?' That was helpful."

Becker's songwriting has acquired a reputation for darkness and cynicism, but in songs such as Downtown Canon or Paging Audrey he sounds nostalgic or even sentimental. Nevertheless, reviewers keep portraying him as some sort of emotional pervert.

"I've wondered about that, too," he nods. "It's like reading a recycled review of [Steely Dan's] Royal Scam. For instance, the song Door Number Two has a gentle, musing quality, but the reviewer in Rolling Stone said it was about a game show host trying to seduce a contestant. This is stated as fact. I thought, 'Wow, where did they find a guy so literal-minded he'd believe that?'?"

Becker wanted to make Circus Money with live musicians, rather than resort to the obsessive overdubbing and re-recording that plagued late-Seventies Steely Dan albums. Jazz enthusiasts Becker and Fagen were trying to create their own version of classic big bands like Duke Ellington's, but circumstances made that impossible.

"We got more and more into a manufactured recording mode," says Becker. "I had nothing to do during this incredibly tedious process, except to think about things that were wrong with it, the biggest being that nobody was playing with anybody else and there was no musical ebb and flow."

So he and Donald had a frank exchange of views? "That's right, and to some extent each of us was persuaded by the other. Part of it is about letting things be what they are, and is good better or is perfect better? To me, good is better, and perfect is the enemy of good in this case."

It's 40 years since Walter and Donald first met at college. After periods in Hawaii and Los Angeles Becker is back in New York, though he finds the city increasingly hard work. Maybe it's time for Dan! - The Musical, a kind of Jersey Boys with more complicated chords.

"Well, sure!" Walter agrees. "Maybe in a few years. If this thing is gonna be bastardised and turned out like a five-dollar ho', then I certainly want to break in on that five dollars." Spoken like a true professional.

"The best thing I'd heard for ages..."

Thomas Dolby on Prefab Sprout

"I first encountered them in about 1983. I was a guest singles reviewer on BBC Radio One in London, a station that at the time had a total stranglehold on the volatile British pop charts. Most of the singles were absolutely dreadful, and of course the slimy DJ was calling them "Fab!" and "Ace!" In the midst of all the dross, one song came on that truly shone. " Dawn breaks in the Southern states" , wailed this soulful Geordie voice over frantic acoustic guitars and harmonica. "...the burden of love is so strange.""

More at

Saturday 23 January 2010


'I prefer Wallander'... GW

Jean Simmons RIP

Jean Simmons

With her beguiling round-eyed beauty and demure British manners, Jean Simmons - who has died aged 80 - crossed the Atlantic in 1950 to become one of Hollywood's most popular leading ladies.

Born in London in 1929, Jean Merilyn Simmons began her career at the age of 14 when, despite her lack of experience, she was plucked from her dance class to play Margaret Lockwood's sister in the 1944 film, Give Us the Moon.

With no intention of becoming an actress, Simmons completed her teacher training two years later but, nevertheless, began to make her name in some major British films.

Under contract to the Rank Organisation, she appeared in Caesar and Cleopatra, Black Narcissus and, most effectively, Great Expectations.

As the aloof but mischievous young Estella, she informed young Pip that "you may kiss me if you like" and a nation of schoolboys trembled in anticipation.

While still a teenager, Simmons' performance as Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's 1948 version of Hamlet earned her an Oscar nomination, an appearance on the cover of Time Magazine and a lot of attention in Hollywood.

She had already met British film star Stewart Granger on the set of Caesar and Cleopatra, and fallen in love. She followed him to California in 1950, and the couple eloped to Tucson, Arizona.

They had a daughter, Tracy, and starred together in several films, including Young Bess (1953). Their wedding had been arranged by the reclusive tycoon Howard Hughes who, Granger later recalled, was also in love with Jean.

The obsessive Hughes tried to use his power and influence to control the actress, threatening to ruin her career unless she worked for him.

Despite her vulnerable appearance on screen, Simmons was determined to protect her independence and resisted the great mogul, making only four pictures for him.

Versatile actress

Her efforts to control her own work paid off, and Simmons went on to enjoy a decade of huge success, including an appearance with Richard Burton in the popular costume drama, The Robe.

But Simmons felt she was required only to look dignified and pretty, and later called her role "a poker-up-the-ass part".

She got the chance to prove more mettle as the psychopathic Angel Face, alongside Robert Mitchum, and with Gregory Peck in The Big Country.

She played Desiree to Marlon Brando's Napoleon, and appeared alongside him again in Guys and Dolls. She even held her own singing alongside Frank Sinatra in the same film, for which she won a Golden Globe award.

By 1960, Simmons was at the peak of her career, the star of Kubrick's Spartacus, The Grass is Greener and Elmer Gantry. The last was directed by Richard Brooks, who became Simmons' husband after her divorce from Granger in 1961.


The 1967 Dean Martin film, Rough Night in Jericho, brought Simmons fresh acclaim for her performance as a hard-nosed businesswoman, and she secured her second Oscar nomination three years later for the role of alienated housewife Mary Wilson in The Happy Ending.

The following two decades proved less fruitful for the actress, and she found refuge in a number of television movies and mini-series.

As well as appearing in North and South, Simmons won an Emmy for her role in the 1983 epic The Thorn Birds, but she had long been depressed by the paucity of good parts coming her way and, in 1986, eventually sought treatment for alcohol addiction.

She made a triumphant comeback to film in 1995, starring alongside Winona Ryder, Ellen Burstyn and Anne Bancroft in How to Make an American Quilt, and was awarded an OBE in the 2003 New Year Honours List.

Jean Simmons continued to do voiceover work into her seventies. She lived in Santa Monica, just below the Hollywood Hills that she had, half a century earlier, taken by storm.