JD Salinger died today. He was out of the public eye for so long it was sometimes easy to forget that he was still alive, but regardless his novels and short stories continued, and will continue, to have great influence on the reading and writing world. But like a lot of people I often wondered about the fact that his works remained untranslated to film (wondered about it even when acknowledging that this was probably indeed a good thing.) Anyway, there is an interesting little history of his relationship with film in his Wikipedia entry (see entry for footnoted sources).
In the early 1940s, Salinger had confided in a letter to Whit Burnett that he was eager to sell the film rights to some of his stories in order to achieve financial security. According to Ian Hamilton, Salinger was disappointed when "rumblings from Hollywood" over his 1943 short story "The Varioni Brothers" came to nothing. Therefore he immediately agreed when, in mid-1948, independent film producer Samuel Goldwyn offered to buy the film rights to his short story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut." Though Salinger sold his story with the hope—in the words of his agent Dorothy Olding—that it "would make a good movie", the film version of "Wiggily" was lambasted by critics upon its release in 1949. Renamed My Foolish Heart and starring Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward, the melodramatic film departed to such an extent from Salinger's story that Goldwyn biographer A. Scott Berg referred to it as a "bastardization". As a result of this experience, Salinger never again permitted film adaptations to be made from his work.
In the wake of its 1950s success, Salinger received (and rejected) numerous offers to adapt The Catcher in the Rye for the screen, including one from Samuel Goldwyn. Since its publication, there has been sustained interest in the novel among filmmakers, with Billy Wilder, Harvey Weinstein, and Steven Spielberg among those seeking to secure the rights. Salinger stated in the 1970s that "Jerry Lewis tried for years to get his hands on the part of Holden." The author has repeatedly refused, though, and in 1999, Joyce Maynard definitively concluded: "The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J. D. Salinger."
Here's more from Letters of Note, correspondence from Salinger regarding film adaptation inquiries for Catcher in the Rye.