Barnabas’ Column #12: Michael Maitland (1956-2014)
DARK SHADOWS fans were shocked to hear of the April 23rd passing of Michael Maitland. Maitland died at age 57, after a long struggle with cancer.
Maitland’s time on DARK SHADOWS was short, but he made a lasting impression. He was cast as Michael Todd Hackett, the creepy Leviathan teen from the show’s H.P. Lovecraft-inspired Leviathan storyline, which originally aired in late 1969-early 1970. Maitland was chilling in his role as a supernatural being whose hypnotic stare terrified—and controlled—all who crossed his path. The Leviathan storyline was not a favorite among fans, yet even its detractors agreed that Michael Maitland’s performance during his brief tenure on DARK SHADOWS was superb. Some said they wished he’d stayed with the show longer, or had returned in another role, as other cast members had.
Maitland was a fairly busy child actor in his day. He’d had roles on the soaps EDGE OF NIGHT and SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, and worked on Broadway. In 1973 he guest starred on the prime-time series EMERGENCY, among others. He retired from acting in the mid-1970s, and for decades fans wondered what had become of him.
Maitland’s sister Jackie Graves tells Fango that her brother had enjoyed a good life, and that he was aware of DARK SHADOWS’ continued popularity. “After acting, Mike went into restaurant management and worked on his artwork, which he was very good at and very proud of,” Graves said. “He always had a new magic trick for our grandkids and was known as ‘Magical Uncle Mike”. Graves said that she was pretty sure her brother had left acting in order to pursue his art. She provided Fango with images of a few of his paintings.
He was also an athletic kind of guy, Graves told Fango, and enjoyed playing softball in New York’s Central Park. To that end, Graves has launched a Go Fund Me campaign in order to finance having a bench in the park dedicated to Michael’s memory. The bench would read “Michael Maitland’s bench. Please enjoy the view.” The cost to adopt a bench in the park and provide a memorial plaque is $7500. Those who wish to donate may log onto: www.gofundme.com/8npg98, where fans can not only donate, but also enjoy a lovely photo of Michael sunning himself in his beloved park.
It goes without saying that 57 is much too young of an age to pass on, and that no one deserves to have the scourge of cancer inflicted upon them. We wish Jackie Graves, her family, and all of Michael Maitland’s family and friends our condolences and a peaceful journey towards healing from their loss.
“Mike was sweet and talented and generous and brave and missed,” said Graves.
Blu Ray Update: Dan Curtis’ highly acclaimed 1973 TV version of DRACULA, starring Jack Palance as the thirsty Count, has been released on Blu-ray.
After DARK SHADOWS ended its network run in 1971, series creator/executive director Curtis went back to the horror classics of film and literature which inspired many of DS’ best loved storylines. FRANKENSTEIN, Oscar Wilde’s THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, and Henry James’ iconic ghost story THE TURN OF THE SCREW were all accorded the recognizable Curtis touch. These productions, while well received, were produced for ABC’s late night mystery movie. Shot on video, they were impressive looking productions, but leaned towards B-movie status.
With DRACULA, Curtis was given a sizable budget. He shot on film, in England, and though his Dracula was a television production, it was painted with the broad strokes of cinema. Palance, who starred in Curtis’ award winning TV version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE in 1968, (where DARK SHADOWS’ soon-to-be iconic musical interlude “Quentin’s Theme” was first heard) made for a superbly scary bloodsucker.
DRACULA was a giant step up for Curtis. Up to that point, the majority of his horror output had been produced on video, the first two DARK SHADOWS movies being the exception, rather than the rule. The superbly mounted and romanticized DRACULA, which borrowed a few of DS’ themes of reincarnated lost loves, was Curtis’ debut as a serious filmmaker.
It’s well worth checking out.