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Airs Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: J.D. Salinger with signature cigarette.

Courtesy of Denise Fitzgerald

The only photo during WWII of Salinger writing "The Catcher in the Rye."

Courtesy of Denise Fitzgerald

“The Four Musketeers”: J.D. Salinger, Jack Altaras, John Keenan, Paul Fitzgerald. Salinger was part of the U.S. Army's Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) on the ground in Europe during World War II. Salinger formed a strong bond with three other men in the CIC and they dubbed themselves the Four Musketeers.

Filmmaker Shane Salerno’s 10-year investigation culminates in the first work to get beyond "The Catcher in the Rye" author's impenetrable wall of privacy and seclusion. AMERICAN MASTERS presents the exclusive, never-before-seen director’s cut of "Salinger" as the series’ 200th episode, featuring 15 minutes of new material.

Salinger is an intricately structured mystery that reveals the author’s private world: how World War II influenced his life and work, his painstaking writing methods, his many relationships with young women, and the literary secrets he left behind after his death in 2010.

The documentary features interviews with some 150 subjects including Salinger's friends, colleagues and members of his inner circle who speak on the record for the first time, as well as previously unseen film footage, photographs and other materials.

Participants including E.L. Doctorow, Tom Wolfe, Gore Vidal, Pulitzer Prize-winners A. Scott Berg and Elizabeth Frank, actors Martin Sheen, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, John Cusack, Danny DeVito, playwright John Guare and Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Towne all share Salinger’s influence on their lives, their work and the broader culture.

AMERICAN MASTERS is on Facebook. Past episodes of AMERICAN MASTERS are available for online viewing.


American Masters: Salinger Trailer


Salinger's Work in World War II Army Intelligence


Spirituality and Meditation in Salinger's Writing


"The Catcher in the Rye" as a Revolt Against the 1950s

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and professor Elizabeth Frank credits J.D. Salinger's novel "The Catcher in the Rye" with pointing out the dreariness and hypocrisy of the early 1950's. "I think that The Catcher in the Rye was a very revolutionary book for the America of of the early 1950's. It truly was an era of conformity. I remember the 50s and I'm glad that they're over with."


Edward Norton's Analysis of "The Catcher in the Rye"


Salinger vs. Hemingway in Characters Voicing Their Sincerity


Salinger's Last Story in Cosmopolitan, "Blue Melody"

Editor, novelist and playwright A.E. Hotchner talks about J.D. Salinger's last short story in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1948. Then Salinger's friend and a Cosmopolitan editor, Hotchner had been warned by Salinger that "not one word can be changed" in the story. Unbeknownst to Hotchner, others had made a single edit. Salinger's title "Scratchy Needle on a Phonograph Record" became "Blue Melody."