Poltergeist Actress Zelda Rubenstein and Catcher in the Rye Author J.D. Salinger Die

by | Jan 28th, 2010 | 5:02PM | Filed under: News

ZeldaYes, I know it's weird to headline character actress Zelda Rubenstein's passing over that of J.D. Salinger, but of course redblog is a film blog first and foremost, and Salinger famously didn't make a lot of movies.

Four-foot, three-inch Rubenstein was in her late 40s when she rose to pop culture prominence in 1982's Poltergeist, as the medium Tangina. She also appeared Poltergeist II and III. Oddly, my favorite memory of Rubenstein was from Sixteen Candles as the organist at the sister's wedding. I just love when Sam's mother says of heavily "muscle-relaxed" sister Ginny, "She's a little out of it," and Rubenstein responds, "Just a little." Always cracks me up.

Rubenstein was also a very early public AIDs-awareness activist in the mid-'80s, and worked throughout her life on behalf of rights and respect for little people. The 76-year-old had been gravely ill since late December, when her family and companion had taken her off life-support due to kidney and lung failure.

Salinger Then there's good old Jerome David, who died today at the age of 91, having lived in semi-seclusion in Cornish, New Hampshire, out of the public eye since the mid-'50s. Though he was said to have been a film lover, Salinger was infamously unwilling to let his written works, including The Catcher in the Rye, be adapted into movies. Many speculate this was due to feeling his story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" was mishandled when being adapted into the 1949 film My Foolish Heart with Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward. Since then, Salinger aggressively pursued copy-right lawsuits against anyone attempting to adapt his work.

Each new generation has had several directors and actors who've wanted to take a run at portraying Holden Caulfield on screen, and all failed to convince Salinger to give them the film rights. At one point in the '50s Salinger himself wanted to play Holden on stage, saying that if he couldn't play his character no one could. Jerry Lewis, Billy Wilder, Brando, and Nicholson all made attempts to launch film versions. In the past decade Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Spielberg, Harvey Weinstein, Terrance Malick, and John Cusack have also expressed their desire to make a Catcher film.

An experimental art film entitled The Catcher in the Rye was created in 2008 by artist Nigel Tomm. It's just 75 minutes of blue screen, underscoring the point that both Salinger and Holden would hate the idea of a film capturing the story, and that it's best to just read the book. 

Does Salinger's death increase the possibility of a Catcher in the Rye film someday? Probably not anytime soon. He's survived by his wife Colleen O’Neill, his estranged daughter Margaret, and his son Matthew–whether or not they would now have the final decision on any adaptations would depend on the nature of Salinger's estate and his wishes. As I understand it, under US copyright law, The Catcher in the Rye would not enter the public domain until 70 years after its author's death. Other sources suggest that based on its copyright renewal, it could be available after 2044. (If we have an copyright legal experts out there, feel free to chime in!) Either way, don't expect any movie versions in the near future unless it's with the permission of the Salinger estate.

UPDATE: The Hollywood Reporter sheds a little more light on the film-rights situation: "In 2008, the rights to his works were placed in the J.D. Salinger Literary Trust, of which the author was sole trustee. Phyllis Westberg, who was Salinger's agent at Harold Ober Associates in New York, declined Thursday to say who the trustees are now that the author is dead — but she was clear that nothing has changed in terms of licensing movie, TV or stage rights."

3 Responses to “Poltergeist Actress Zelda Rubenstein and Catcher in the Rye Author J.D. Salinger Die”

  1. Kristin
    Posted on January 29, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Sad and sad…

  2. Howard
    Posted on January 29, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Anjelica Huston

  3. moviegoer123
    Posted on January 29, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    Sad…Sad…Let him rest in peace under God’s arms! Amen.