Joan Chaffee


Joan Chaffee went from a college educated high society girl to brief flashes of glory in the papers as another one of the Goldwyn Girls, only to end up in obscurity a very short time later.


Elizabeth Joan  Chaffee was born on January 19, 1925, in Los Angeles, to Harry Chaffee and Frances J. Anderson, their first and only child.

Her parents lived in Beverly Hills and were very well off. Joan grew up in a loving, nurturing environment and started dancing as a child.

Her parents divorced in the 1930s, and she continued living with her mother in Beverly Hills. In 1943, she enrolled into the UCLA. She did some amateur dramatics at the UCLA theater and was noticed by a talent scout who steered her towards a movie career.


JJoanChaffeeoan appeared in only two movie, and both were uncredited. What a waste!

She was one of the many Goldwyn girls in Up in Arms, a nice, fluffy, happy go lucky movie designated to make your day a bit sunnier. While not a masterpiece by any account, not something so deep it will leave you thinking, it’s more than adequate for the musical escapist fare. The cast, Danny Kaye, Dinah Shore, Dana Andrews and so on, are all very good .

Her second and last movie was Belle of the Yukon is solely remembered today as a showcase for the famous burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. And add an impressive roster of B tier actors. Nothing else is especially notable about it. No tension, muddled plot.

Joan retired from movie acting afterwards.


Very slim information here. She hit the papers in 1942/1943, but it was never related to her personal life.

In 1943, she was a part of a publicity stunt devised by Sam Goldwyn to shame a hermit living in Los Angeles Hills into taking a job and living a more typical existence. One afternoon Goldwyn sent sent the Virginia Cruzon, Dorothy Garner, Virginia Mayo and her to do the picketing, plus two photographers to record it for the papers.

Joan left movies in 1944 and got married not long after. She entered a new career in 1945, but the paper refused to disclose it, claiming it was all hush hush, so I never found out what exactly did she do. She got divorced from her first husband prior to 1950.

Joan married her second husband, William E. Watson, on June 7, 1952, in California. William was born in 1922. Joan divorced her husband at some point and moved to the East coast. She became a film editor, and worked in New York City until her retirement n the late 1990s, when she moved to Connecticut.

Joan Chaffee died in Sharon, Connecticut, on April 4, 2002.




7 responses

  1. Pingback: Joan Chaffee | Tinseltown Times

  2. I can tell you a bit more about Joan Chaffee. She is also credited as “Joan Laird” at imdb, and was the assistant film editor on the noted film “Salt of the Earth” (1954) which was shot at the time you mention Chaffee took on a “top secret” project. Apparently the film’s editing was done in a “cutting room built in secret in Topanga Canyon” (according to commentary on the film’s history by Debora Silverton Rosenfelt.) Chaffee went to school with actress Mia Farrow, who would know more about her marriage and life. In her youth, director George Cukor told Chaffee she would “be the next Ina Claire,” but I don’t know why she gave up pursuing a film career. She was my landlady for a while in NYC in the 1980’s (on W. 81st Street) and she also had a country house somewhere outside the city, accessible by train, where she spent most of her time.

  3. You’re welcome. Not to dilute the drama, but in reading back over my previous post and comparing the dates in your entry, the “hush hush” project the newspapers reported Chaffee working on in 1945 would actually NOT have been related to her later film editing contribution to “Salt of the Earth” (1954) under the (perhaps married?) name Joan Laird. I doubt that project was in production/development for 10 years…though, maybe it was. I can also add that her floor-through apartment on the Upper West Side housed an extensive collection of cinema reference books (her large dining room had been done over as a library), and one of its bedrooms had been converted into a working darkroom. She had a direct, slightly salty personality, liked rescuing dogs and cats (as well as occasional people via philanthropy), and white wine. She was not a wealthy woman at the end, but she knew how to hold onto property and take care of herself. I’m glad I could help you learn a bit more about her. PS: While I knew she had been a part of the Hollywood scene in her youth, she never personally referenced being a Goldwyn Girl or a pinup. She identified more with the technical work of being a film editor.

    • Thank you so much for the information, it’s absolutely fascinating! I am so glad to hear that at least one of the girts I profiled here was involved with the technical aspects of movie making. All the best!

  4. Nice work from little information and what a contribution from someone who rented from her!
    JOAN’s actual death is 22 March (SSDI). The April date is her obituary date.
    In the CA Marriage Index I found:
    7 June 1952 ELIZABETH J. CHAFFEE (age 26) marries WILLIAM E. WATSON (31):
    registered in Solano and Santa Clara Counties.
    He is possibly (CADI) b. 15 Dec 1922 in CO; d. 29 Aug 1991 San Bernardino Co. (68) mother’s maiden name CARRICK. Haven’t been able to find anything more on him.

    Thanks to GALMONDAYTHRUFRIDAY’s clues
    6Aug 1962 “Broadcasting Magazine”: “JOAN CHAFFEE, free-lance film editor, joins Dolphin Productions, NY, as supervising editor of TV commercials”.

    20 Aug 1981 “Harlem Valley (NY) Times”: bold headline “HVTA Fights To Save Dover Station.
    ………”JOAN CHAFFEE of Sharon, a commuter on the line to NYC is one of those leading the fight against ConRail and the MTA to prevent further dismantling of the once proud
    Earlier, they had closed JOAN’s station at Sharon, CT . The “HVTA” she led was “Harlem Valley Transportation Association”.

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