Joan Caulfield was an American actress and former fashion model. After being discovered by Broadway producers, she began a stage career in 1943 that eventually lead to signing as an actress with Paramount Pictures.
Born while her family resided in East Orange, New Jersey, she moved to West Orange during childhood but continued attending Miss Beard’s School in Orange, New Jersey. During her teenage years, the family moved to New York City where Joan eventually attended Columbia University.
One of her most memorable roles was when she was lent out to Warner Bros. to appear in The Unsuspected alongside Claude Rains and Audrey Totter. Later in life she appeared mostly on television, appearing on programs such as Cheyenne, Baretta, and Murder, She Wrote, with Angela Lansbury. In the 1957-1958 season, Caulfield starred in her own short-lived NBC situation comedy, Sally 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.
An urban legend states that Caulfield’s film Dear Ruth inspired author J.D. Salinger to name the protagonist of his novel The Catcher in the Rye “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. The earliest known use of the Caulfield name, including a mention of Holden, is in the unpublished 1942 story “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans.” 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. 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”, this version of the legend makes his using her surname for his character at least possible.