Vintage Hunk: Maxwell Caulfield
Of all the 1980s hunks who looked like they were headed for stardom, none seemed more promising than Maxwell Caulfield. He was cast as the male lead opposite Michelle Pfeiffer in Grease 2, and this sequel to the original 1978 hit with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John was projected to be the movie sensation of 1982. To say that Grease 2 was a disaster is akin to saying The Titanic didn't complete its maiden voyage—the movie was reviled by the critics and a commercial disaster. Pfeiffer survived this debacle and went on to a great film career, but Caulfield's career never recovered from this ghastly musical.
But for die-hard fans, all was not lost. Caulfield did find TV fame as bad boy Miles Colby in the great nighttime soap Dynasty and its spin-off series The Colbys, plus he made gay fans sit up and take notice when he appeared nude in the cult play Salonika.
Maxwell Findlater was born in England in 1959. His American stepfather kicked him out of his home at age 15. He reportedly performed as a nude exotic dancer in London to earn an Equity card, and chose his new last name Caulfield after the lead character in the J. D. Salinger classic Catcher in the Rye. Caulfield moved to the U.S. and landed a few stage roles, then met actress Juliet Mills and they married in 1980. Sister to the famous child star Hayley Mills, Juliet had been married twice before and was 18 years older than the hot young actor who seemed to have absolutely no qualms about using his good looks to get publicity, constantly being photographed shirtless. No one thought the marriage would last.
Things looked very promising when gay producer Allan Carr gave Caulfield the coveted male lead in Grease 2; movie stardom seemed to be on the horizon. Unfortunately, the film and Caulfield received pretty horrendous reviews. The New York Times stated the movie was "dizzy and slight, with an even more negligible plot than its predecessor had. This time the story can't even masquerade as an excuse for stringing the songs together." Zeroing in on the sexy male lead, the Times continued, "Mr. Caulfiled is no one for Mr. Travolta to worry about, but he may be a threat to Michael York. As the nice new English boy at Rydell, Mr. Caulfield makes his role every bit as interesting as it sounds." Needless to say, this flop film pretty much destroyed any chance at movie stardom.
Caulfield did recover, moving on to Dynasty and The Colbys. Playing bad boy Miles Colby, Caufield was sexy and fun in these popular guilty-pleasure TV shows. Caulfield had also amassed numerous gay fans, particularly after appearing on the cover of After Dark, a very gay-leaning publication with entertainment articles and images of men in skimpy clothing that masqueraded as an "arts" publication. Needless to say, these fans became very excited in 1985 when he appeared in Salonica off-Broadway with stage legend Jessica Tandy. Frank Rich in his New York Times review put it this way: "Soon the beach is occupied by a nude male body, sunning itself in the clear rays... The body, which belongs to the young actor Maxwell Caulfield, is undeniably suitable for exhibition." Nude for most of Act I, Rich further comments, "Allowed to wear some clothing in Act II, the actor adds emotional flesh to his role." I saw this production in New York in 1985 and all I can say is that Caulfield nude on stage for almost 40 minutes was one of the greatest voyeuristic stage experiences of all time. I cannot remember one single thing from that evening except the exquisitely naked man.
There were a number of small films in Caulfield's career, more stage work including a very well-received revival of Cactus Flower in 2011. And as for his marriage, cynics said it wouldn't last but Caulfield and Mills have been married for over 30 years.
Looking back at Grease 2 (it really wasn't that bad) and The Colbys, one is left with the sight of a beautiful boy on the cusp of manhood. And seeing gorgeous Max nude on stage in all his glorious manhood, unhindered by the kinds of concerns most straight actors of the period would have if asked to appear naked on stage, was the cusp of his career and beyond! One can only wonder what would have happened to Caulfield had a dynamo like Harvey Weinstein as a benefactor instead of Allan Carr.
Twenty five years ago Maxwell Caulfield was a total stud— beautiful face with a bod to match— and he is still a handsome man today.