Joan Caulfield

Beatrice Joan Caulfield (June 1, 1922 – June 18, 1991) was an American actress and model. After being discovered by Broadway producers, she began a stage career in 1943 that eventually led to signing as an actress with Paramount Pictures. In the opinion of Ephraim Katz in The Film Encyclopedia, published in 1979, "For several years she was among Paramount's top stars, radiating delicate femininity and demure beauty but rarely much else."[1]

Joan Caulfield
Beatrice Joan Caulfield

(1922-06-01)June 1, 1922
DiedJune 18, 1991(1991-06-18) (aged 69)
OccupationActress, model
Years active1941–1987
Frank Ross
(m. 1950; div. 1960)

Robert Peterson
(m. 1960; div. 1966)
RelativesGenevieve Caulfield (aunt)

Early life

Beatrice Joan Caulfield was born on June 1, 1922 in West Orange, New Jersey.[1][2] She attended Miss Beard's School in Orange, New Jersey.[3] Caulfield was the niece of Genevieve Caulfield, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 for her work with blind children.[4] During her teenage years, the family moved to New York City, where she eventually attended Columbia University. While at Columbia, Caulfield was active in many plays presented by the university's drama group. She also ventured into being a model with the Harry Conover Agency and "became a favorite with top-drawer fashion magazines," with her pictures appearing in many national magazines,[5] including being on the cover of Life magazine's May 11, 1942, issue.[6]



Caulfield appeared on Broadway in Beat the Band in 1942. Directed by George Abbott it ran for 67 performances.[7]

She had a great success portraying the troublesome teenager Corliss Archer in the 1943 hit comedy play Kiss and Tell, also under the direction of Abbott. It was a huge success, running for 956 performances until 1945. After a year in the role, Caulfield left the production to pursue offers from Hollywood and she was replaced by her sister Betty Caulfield. (Shirley Temple would play Caulfield's role in the 1945 film version of Kiss and Tell.) Paramount offered her a contract which gave her six months off a year to do a play.


In July 1944 Paramount put Caulfield in a lead role in her first film: Miss Susie Slagle's (1946), a drama about medical students with Sonny Tufts and Veronica Lake.[8]

The film was not released for a number of months due to a backlog of films. Made after but released earlier was Duffy's Tavern (1945), in which Caulfield had a cameo along with most of Paramount's talent roster.

Caulfield was Bob Hope's leading lady in Monsieur Beaucaire (1946), a popular comedy.

She was with Bing Crosby and Paul Draper in Blue Skies (1946). When original director Mark Sandrich died, Caulfield was pulled out of the film but Crosby insisted she stay. Eventually Draper was replaced with Fred Astaire. The result was a huge box office success.[9][10] Caulfield waived her right to take time off to do stage work.[11]

Caulfield was teamed with William Holden in Dear Ruth (1947), based on the hit play by Norman Krasna.

She was reunited with Crosby in Welcome Stranger (1947), another huge hit, and had a cameo in another all-star Paramount film, Variety Girl (1947).[10]

One of Caulfield's most memorable film roles was when she was loaned out to Warner Bros. to appear in The Unsuspected (1947) with Claude Rains and Audrey Totter. Caulfield, taking over a role intended for Virginia Mayo, was billed over Rains.[12]

Back at Paramount, Caulfield did The Sainted Sisters (1948) with Lake playing roles intended for Betty Hutton and Diana Lynn.[13]

Universal borrowed her for a film noir, Larceny (1948).

Paramount offered Caulfield $100,000 for 40 weeks work but she walked out on it to do Voice of the Turtle and Coquette on stage on the east coast. She said she did this because "I want to become a really great actress one day," and felt she needed the experience from stage. "Actresses in the movies spend most of their acting time with the hairdresser and the costumer."[14] She returned to Paramount to do a sequel to Dear Ruth, Dear Wife (1948).

Caulfield went to Columbia to make a musical with Robert Cummings, The Petty Girl (1950) which she said she did to change from the "sweet young thing" parts she did at Paramount. She said she intended on staying in Hollywood.[15]

She did a film for her husband's company, The Lady Says No (1951), releasing through United Artists.[16]


In the early 50s Caulfield began guest starring on televisio shows such as Robert Montgomery Presents, Lux Video Theatre, The Ford Television Theatre, Schlitz Playhouse and Hollywood Opening Night. She said she preferred working in television.[17]

In 1953 she signed a contract with CBS. In the 1953 and 1954 seasons,[5] she had co-starred with Barry Nelson (the original James Bond, albeit on television) in the television version of My Favorite Husband,[18] which was based upon the Lucille Ball radio series that had evolved into I Love Lucy.[19]

She had a good support role in The Rains of Ranchipur (1955). In August 1955 she left her CBS contract to pursue feature work.[20]

She was in Celebrity Playhouse, Schlitz Playhouse again, Screen Directors Playhouse, and The Ford Television Theatre again.

Being the subject of an episode of This Is Your Life in 1957 brought Caulfield to the attention of television executives. In the words of a newspaper writer, "She photographed so beautifully that the show was hardly over before she was being approached for television appearances."[18]

During the 1957–1958 season, Caulfield starred in Sally, a short-lived situation comedy, in the role of a traveling companion to an elderly widow, played by Marion Lorne. At midseason, Gale Gordon and Arte Johnson joined the cast.[21][22]

When the series ended Caulfield continued to guest star on shows like Pursuit, General Electric Theater, Hong Kong, Cheyenne, Burke's Law, and My Three Sons. She did stage shows like I Am a Camera and had the occasional role in a feature, such as Cattle King (1963), Red Tomahawk (1967) and Buckskin (1967).[23]

In 1967, she starred in the TV series The High Chaparral as Annalee Cannon in the pilot episode. She was murdered in the episode and that was the premise for the whole plot.

Later years

In the 1960s and 1970s, Caulfield was active in touring companies of plays, summer stock theater and dinner theater across the country.[5] She guest starred in a 1966 episode of My Three Sons as Florence, a visiting former girlfriend who Steve could not remember ever knowing. She could be seen in the pilot for The Magician (1973), The Daring Dobermans (1973), The Hatfields and the McCoys (1975), The Space-Watch Murders (1975), Pony Express Rider (1976), and episodes of Baretta and Murder, She Wrote.


Caulfield has a star at 1500 Vine Street in the Television section of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was dedicated February 8, 1960.[24]

Cultural legacy

An urban legend states that Caulfield's film Dear Ruth (1947) inspired author J.D. Salinger to name the protagonist of his novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951) "Holden Caulfield" after seeing a movie theater marquee with the film's stars: Caulfield and William Holden. However, Holden Caulfield was mentioned in Salinger's short story "Last Day of the Last Furlough" in the July 15, 1944 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, three years before Dear Ruth.[25] The earliest known use of the Caulfield name, including a mention of Holden, is in the unpublished 1942 story "The Last and Best of the Peter Pans."[26] A more common version of the legend claims that Salinger was taken by Joan Caulfield upon first seeing her in a modeling photo or a publicity still or an acting performance.[27][28] Since Joan was a leading model by 1941 and her acting career began in 1942 with an appearance in the short-lived Broadway musical Beat the Band,[29] this version of the legend makes his using her surname for his character at least possible.

Personal life

In 1950, Caulfield married film producer Frank Ross, with whom she had a son, Caulfield Kevin Ross (born 1959). Ross produced and directed her 1951 film The Lady Says No, with David Niven taking second billing as her romantic interest.[30] Caulfield was in a car accident in 1959. She separated from Ross, blaming the stress of working on Sally, then she found out she was pregnant. Ross and Caulfield were divorced in 1960.[31][32][33][34]

In 1960, Caulfield married dentist Robert Peterson, with whom she had her second son, John Caulfield Peterson (born 1962). Her second marriage ended in divorce as well, in 1966.[35][36]

Caulfield was a Republican who campaigned for Dwight Eisenhower during the 1952 presidential election.[37].


Caulfield died from cancer, aged 69, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and had lived in Beverly Hills, California.[2] A.C. Lyles spoke the eulogy.[38]

At the time of her death, she had one grandchild. She died within 24 hours of actress Jean Arthur, the first wife of her husband Frank Ross. Arthur had been married to Ross in 1932, and they divorced in 1949.

Partial filmography

Radio appearances

1946Lux Radio TheatreMiss Susie Slagle's[41]


  1. Katz, Ephraim (1979). The Film Encyclopedia: The Most Comprehensive Encyclopedia of World Cinema in a Single Volume. Perigee. p. 218. ISBN 0399506012.
  2. New York Times, Glenn Fowler (20 June 1991). "Joan Caulfield, A Film Actress, Is Dead at 69". Retrieved October 23, 2007.
  3. Obituaries Today. "Joan Caulfield, Actress". At Miss Beard’s, a local private school, Joan made her stage debut in A Kiss for Cinderella Accessed October 23, 2007
  4. Moss, Ruth (20 October 1963). "She Proves the Blind Can Lead the Blind!". Chicago Tribune. p. 5–2. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  5. "Joan Caulfield To Shine At Hayloft". Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. 23 July 1972. p. 80. Retrieved September 30, 2015 via
  6. "Model Becomes Broadway Actress". Life. April 12, 1943. p. 46. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  7. "Joan Caulfield". Playbill Vault. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  8. Picture Plans, The Christian Science Monitor 3 July 1944: 4.
  9. "60 Top Grossers of 1946". Variety. 8 January 1947. p. 8,46.
  10. Los Angeles Times, Hedda Hopper (20 October 1946). "Joan Caulfield Keeps Cool: Neither Failure Nor Success Fazes Her". p. B1.
  11. Joan Caulfield. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963); Chicago, Ill. [Chicago, Ill] 2 May 1948: f2
  12. Kanin to Produce 'Art of Murder': First Independent Films Will Be Released by U-l -- Curtiz Borrows Joan Caulfield. By Thomas F. Brady. New York Times. 4 Jan 1947: 11.
  13. New York Times, Thomas Brady (24 January 1947). "Fox to Make Film of Chicago Women". p. 18.
  14. Los Angeles Times, John L Scott (6 June 1948). "Joan Caulfield Tosses Off $100,000 Film Contract to Make Stage Tour: Starlet Joan Caulfield to Go on Stage". p. B1.
  15. Los Angeles Times, John L Scott (18 Sep 1949). "Sweet Little Joan Caulfield Now Playing Sophisticated 'Petty Girl'". p. D1.
  16. Los Angeles Times, E J Strong (24 September 1950). "Sweet Joan Caulfield Heeds Call to Try Talent as Comedienne: Joan Caulfield Trading Sweet Roles for Comedy". p. D1.
  17. Los Angeles Times, Walter Ames (26 December 1952). "Joan Caulfield Is Real TV Convert; Benny Opposes Any Format for Air Show". p. 18.
  18. "A Style Show With Joan Caulfield". The Times. 6 July 1957. p. 11. Retrieved September 30, 2015 via
  19. "Joan Caulfield Gets Wish". The Washington Post (1923-1954). 8 Nov 1953. p. L4.
  20. Los Angeles Times (12 August 1955). "Joan Caulfield Quits TV for Theater Films". p. B5.
  21. "Sally". Classic TV Archives. Retrieved September 11, 2009.
  22. Frank – A Family Affair: Movie Man and Wife, Joan Caulfield, Turn To TV With 'Sally' Separate Drawbacks. By Oscar Godbout. New York Times 25 August 1957: 123.
  23. Joan Caulfield; Actress in TV and Movies: [Home Edition]. Folkart, Burt A. Los Angeles Times. 19 June 1991: 20.
  24. "Joan Caulfield". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  25. Saturday Evening Post, July 15, 1944
  26. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-01-25. Retrieved 2010-02-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  27. Richler, Mordecai. "Summer Reading; Rises at Dawn, Writes, Then Retires", The New York Times, June 5, 1988. Accessed October 23, 2007. "We are told, for instance, that the name Holden Caulfield probably came from joining the name of a boyhood friend called Holden to that of the movie actress Joan Caulfield, on whom Mr. Salinger once had a crush."
  28. William H. Honan "Shylock To Sherlock A Study In Names", The New York Times, February 9, 1997. Accessed October 23, 2007. "J. D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, he said, resulted from the writer's combining the last names of a friend named Holden and the actress Joan Caulfield."
  29. Beat the Band
  30. Joan Caulfield to Wed. The Washington Post. 28 Feb 1950: 6.
  31. Chicago Tribune, Vernon Scott (6 December 1959). "Joan Caulfield, Real Life Soap Opera Heroine". p. 3D. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  32. New York Times (17 Mar 1959). "Joan Caulfield Seeking Divorce". p. 40.
  33. Joan Caulfield, Real Life Soap Opera Heroine. Vernon, Scott. Chicago Daily Tribune. 6 Dec 1959: nD.
  34. Joan Caulfield Divorces Film Producer Ross. Los Angeles Times 10 April 1959: 2.
  35. Joan Caulfield Rewed New York Times. 25 November 1960: 30.
  36. Joan Caulfield Given Divorce. New York Times. 20 May 1966: 38.
  37. Motion Picture and Television Magazine, November 1952, page 34, Ideal Publishers
  38. Memorial Rite for Joan Caulfield Slated Sunday. Los Angeles Times. 21 June 1991: OCA28.
  39. Anderson, Nancy (January 24, 1975). "Trappings of stardom tempted Joan Caulfield". Valley Morning Star. p. 16. Retrieved October 1, 2015 via
  40. Johnson, Erskine (August 1, 1949). "'New' Joan Caulfield Has Curvaceous Petty Girl Role". Dixon Evening Telegraph. p. 7. Retrieved September 30, 2015 via
  41. "Lux Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. October 19, 1946. p. 17. Retrieved September 29, 2015 via
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