Holden Caulfield was reportedly based on Freddie Bartholomew, pictured top middle.

In The Catcher In The Rye, Holden Caulfield is described as resembling a child actor from a movie; LIFE.com says analysts have since pinpointed down who that actor was: English-born child actor named Freddie Bartholomew—specifically, as he appeared in the 1937 movie Captains Courageous. Is this what you imagined one of the world's most famous literary characters to look like?

Turns out that a lot of other actors fancied themselves fit to fill Holden's shoes, and since the book was published there's been a push by many to bring it to the stage or screen. In 1961 the idea of bringing the book to Broadway came up, and J.D. Salinger said he'd be open to if he could play Holden himself (he eventually changed his tune, saying, "I cannot give my permission. I fear Holden wouldn't like it.").

Others that had hoped to play Holden Caulfield on the big screen: Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Jerry Lewis, Tobey Maguire, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Alas, Salinger wrote of his character: "Holden Caulfield himself, in my undoubtedly super-biassed opinion, is essentially unactable. A Sensitive, Intelligent, Talented Young Actor in a Reversible Coat wouldn't nearly be enough. It would take someone with X to bring it off, and no very young man even if he has X quite knows what to do with it."