Joan Caulfield

Active - 1945 - 1991  |   Born - Jun 1, 1922   |   Died - Jun 18, 1991   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Mystery

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Biography by AllMovie

"I happen to be darn lucky that I photograph well in Technicolor," peaches-and-cream complexioned Joan Caulfield readily admitted, having just romped through Paramount's Blue Skies (1946), opposite Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, and the equally colorful Monsieur Beaucaire (1946), with Bob Hope. One of those sexually non-threatening blondes who decorated postwar Hollywood escapism, Caulfield had been a model for Harry Conover when discovered by Broadway producer George Abbott, who cast her in the lead of Kiss and Tell (1943), a typical piece of Americana that lasted a whopping 480 performances and turned the novice into a hot commodity. She signed a contract with Paramount and went on to decorate a series of rather bland musical extravaganzas (her time-stepping with Astaire in Blue Skies is hardly memorable) and comedies. Warner Bros. borrowed her for The Unsuspected (1947), a pale imitation of Laura (1944) with Caulfield as the girl who returns from the grave, so to speak. But cast against such scene-stealers as Audrey Totter and Constance Bennett -- not to mention an especially hammy Claude Rains -- a star-billed Caulfield found herself thoroughly upstaged.

She was much better suited to playing the title role in Dear Ruth (1947), from Norman Krasna's Broadway hit, and offers a restrained performance as the girl whose enterprising kid sister (Mona Freeman) mails her likeness to an Army lieutenant (William Holden) based overseas. The popular comedy spawned two sequels, Dear Wife (1950) and Dear Brat (1951), but Caulfield's role was eliminated in the latter. Cinematically, the 1950s proved anticlimactic and Caulfield mainly appeared in films produced by her husband (from 1950), Frank Ross, but she was a success on the small screen, especially opposite Barry Nelson on My Favorite Husband. Much to her later regret, she left the situation comedy in 1954 when film replaced live performances and it would be Vanessa Brown who went on to receive rerun residuals. Another attempt for sitcom stardom, the self-produced Sally struggled on for a season or so before being canceled in 1958.

Like so many of her contemporaries, Caulfield turned up in A.C. Lyles' Westerns in the 1960s, earned fourth billing in the equally retro The Daring Dobermans (1973), and, now a mature character player, decorated such popular television shows as High Chaparral, Baretta, and, inevitably, Murder She Wrote. An unspectacular actress, Joan Caulfield is nevertheless fondly remembered for adding a bit of dignity and Dresden doll beauty to the immediate postwar years, a nice and comforting counterpoint to the often fatal femmes that defined the era.

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