This post is part of the Cool Rider Blogathon run by Pale Writer dedicated to the work of Maxwell Caulfield. An actor whose developed a cult following in recent years thanks to a growing appreciation for two films, Empire Records (1995, Alan Moyle), and Grease 2 (1982, Patricia Birch). Neither film was considered a success at the time but over the years both have deservedly undergone a reappraisal. I’ve chosen to write about arguably his most famous role, Miles Colby and the character’s introduction in the first six episodes of Dynasty leading up to the The Titans, the crossover episode which would launch the spin-off show The Colbys.
Dynasty had ended its fifth season in with a massive cliffhanger dubbed The Moldavian Massacre which saw the fate of every character on the show left hanging in the balance after terrorists armed with machine guns put the windows in at Prince Michael’s wedding and left everybody on a pile on the floor. Apparently there were a lot of contracts up at the end of season five and this storyline gave the producers an out should any negotiations prove problematic. The Shapiros proved ruthless when it came to killing off or replacing characters. In the end it turned out there were only two casualties, and all of the main players returned. Though viewers would notice two new faces in the opening credits sequence.
The season six opener Aftermath follows on from the events in Moldavia but it also sets up The Colbys by introducing us to Fallon Mk II (Emma Samms) and Miles Colby (Caulfield). Fallon was last seen in the form of Pamela Sue Martin losing control of her car and heading towards an oncoming truck. Now she’s in Los Angeles having lost her memory. She’s drawn to a photo in a local newspaper of a handsome young polo player but it’s the caption underneath and the name Colby that seems to trigger some meaning. She heads to the stables to see if she can meet Miles and find out if he knows anything about her. Neither Miles or her realise she’s his cousin Jeff Colby’s presumed dead ex-wife he planned to remarry before she went missing.
In the next episode Homecoming Fallon explains her amnesia and she now calls herself Randall because she saw the name on the side of the bus. Over the course of the next few episodes leading up to The Titans they’ll get one scene in each episode furthering their relationship and hinting at her past. She’ll find out she can speak French, or she can ride a horse, or a trip to the ocean triggers a flashback. Miles seems like a nice guy but he’s impulsive, even going as far as proposing marriage to an amnesiac. She wisely turns him down.
Season 5 was when the producers really began to crank up the craziness in the storylines. In its early days Dynasty mostly focused on the feud between blue-collar oil worker Matthew Blaisdel (Bo Hopkins) and oil tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe). Ratings weren’t great and Blaisdel was written out of the show, missing and presumed dead after a car crash in South America. Alexis (Joan Collins) became the show’s main antagonist and the show fully embraced 80s’ excess becoming a tale of the battles of the super-rich in the boardroom and the bedroom. If any working-class people entered this world they did so as a potential threat. Nothing emphasised this more than the amiable and decent Matthew Blaisdel returning at the end of season 7 as a ruthless villain out for blood.
By the time we get to The Titans the other story arcs running include the coup in Moldavia which has led Prince Michael to falsely believe he is now King, failed Hollywood film director Joel Abrigore kidnapping Kristal (Linda Evans) and coaching her double Rita (Evans) to replace her in the Carrington household, Jeff’s search for Fallon leading to his discovery she survived the car crash buy may have perished in a bright red WWI bi-plane flown by her former lover Peter (Helmut Berger), and Blake and Jason Colby (Charlton Heston) at loggerheads over an oil pipeline deal. All will culminate with a gathering held by Blake in honour of both families at his home in Denver.
Miles has no interest in attending the party, preferring instead to focus on helping Fallon. Up until now we’ve seen the kinder side of Miles but a meeting with his twin sister Monica (Tracy Scoggins) gives us some more insight into his character. “Why do you always have to embarrass him?” Miles is the wild child, prone to acting on impulse without really thinking his actions through. Fallon might have picked up on this already because she’s bought a ticket to elsewhere and is about to board a Greyhound bus to Phoenix. Miles gets there in time but misses an important clue. She’s wearing a horrendous pair of ivory tusk earrings, a sure sign she comes from money but Miles is more interested in getting her accompany him to the gathering of the clans in Denver. Without even knowing it he’s taking her home.
Meanwhile in Denver Joel and the exiled Sammy Jo (Heather Locklear) have successfully completed their Pygmalion experiment on Rita by schooling her in every detail of Kristal’s life. “I’m an artist, a filmmaker…” he insists. Now I loved Michael Praed in Robin of Sherwood but he’s lumbered with playing an insufferable prig in Dynasty. Last season Prince Michael spent most of his time belittling his beautiful wife Amanda (Catherine Oxenberg). Now that he thinks he’s a King he’s even worse and he’s driving Amanda into the arms of the show’s resident alpha-male, gravelly-voiced big belt-buckle wearing Dex Dexter (Michael Nader). Dex also happens to be Amanda’s step-father. There’s a lot going on there. As well as cuckolding Prince Michael, Dex also suspects the King of Moldavia is still alive and hatches a rescue mission which will involve sneaking back into the country and disguising Alexis as a nun.
The extended opening credits sequence lists a massive 21 stars and the majority of them are present at the gathering including the Colby matriarchs Constance (Barbara Stanwyck) and Sable (Stephanie Beacham). There’s plenty talk of Miles with most people wondering if he’s even going to show. Jeff is solemnly staring at couples and feeling a bit lost. Monica chides him, warning Jeff not to try anything with Miles new girlfriend when they arrive because “This one could be serious.” Way to kick a man when he’s down Monica. Blake later finds Jeff hiding away in another room staring at a photograph of Fallon. Just as he’s finally ready to let go and accept she’s dead, Miles drives up in his bright red Italian sports car and delivers her to the door. Only Fallon can’t go in. She knows this house and it terrifies her. So they drive away with Jeff running after them. A dynamic that will be repeated and switched around over two seasons of The Colbys.
The Titans is peak Dynasty from an era when it was really operating at the height of its powers. Storylines in later seasons eventually began to repeat themselves and as the show fell in the ratings the budget became smaller and the cast was thinned out. Jeff and Fallon returned to Dynasty after The Colbys ended, bringing Sable and later Monica with them. I was always a bit surprised Miles never made an appearance in the last two series although the show was cancelled during its hiatus so maybe there were plans to eventually bring him back for season 10. Miles does however play a leading role in the mini-series Dynasty: The Reunion (1991), and the rivalry between Jeff and him has only become worse since they discovered they were not cousins but in fact half-brothers. Fallon is now divorcing Jeff and he’s not best pleased to find Miles at the house playing football with his daughters. “Miles Colby doesn’t know how to be civilised. He’s all mouth and temperament. He has a history of bad behaviour.” It’s like Patrick Marber’s Closer with the same couples breaking up and getting back together every few years. As much as I enjoy the new Dynasty (2017-) I do wish they’d done something similar to Dallas and brought back the original cast alongside younger actors. These three would probably still be driving each other crazy and we might have found out if Fallon really was abducted by aliens, because they just dropped that storyline and hoped nobody would notice.
Incidentally here’s some other things Maxwell Caulfield has appeared in that I really like. I mentioned Grease 2 and Empire Records at the beginning of this post and both are terrific, and his hilariously obnoxious washed-up rock star in the latter might be his best work. But he’s also great as a crazed teenager on a killing spree in The Boys Next Door (1985, Penelope Spheeris), another film worthy of critical reappraisal. Haven’t seen it since it came out and I suspect it might not have aged well but Caulfield’s very funny in The Real Blonde (1997, Tom DiCillo). I didn’t much care for what the show Beverley Hills 90210 became, but the feature length pilot directed by Tim Hunter (River’s Edge) is really good and features Caulfield in a supporting role. Any excuse to watch The Rockford Files will do and Caulfield plays an unlikely mob associate in the 1996 TV movie Godfather Knows Best written by The Sopranos creator David Chase. There’s also some decent genre stuff. A pair of Anthony Hickox horror movies, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989) and Waxwork II (1992), plus enjoying himself in Full Moon’s Oblivion 2 (1996, Sam Irvin) as a top hat and tails wearing alien bounty hunter.
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