WITH his neat moustache and slicked back hair, Maxwell Caulfield looks every inch the golden era movie mogul.
"I'm playing him bombastic and cigar-chomping, those guys are still around," says a charming and chatty Maxwell, of his role as studio boss RF Simpson in Singin' in the Rain. "It's a job with pressure - balancing egos and chasing business deals - and you need an artistic bent too; you have to anticipate where the public's tastes will go next. Today it's all CG-driven movies, they call them franchises. It's all about the sequel. In those days there was this seismic shift to talkies, which must have been incredibly daunting."
The show, coming to Bradford following a hit West End run, is about popular silent film star Don Lockwood who, with his shallow, "uniquely-voiced" leading lady, Lina Lamont, faces the tricky transition to sound.
With a score featuring numbers from the much-loved 1952 movie, including Good Morning, Make ‘em Laugh and the classic title song, the show boasts a spectacular set design, including 12,000 litres of water.
"Audiences get very excited about the rain," smiles Maxwell, 55. "It looks great and has everything you want from a lovely old musical - a great story, romance, song-and-dance and comedy. Poor Lina Lamont has a voice like a screaming seagull, it reminded me of a book I read about Marlon Brando which inspired me to go to LA as a young actor. When Guys and Dolls was released in Germany Brando's singing was dubbed with a much deeper voice. He was this big guy but sang in a very light voice which brought out gales of laughter in test audiences, like Lina's voice does."
Born in Derbyshire, Maxwell got his break starring opposite Michelle Pfieffer in Grease 2, the 1982 Grease sequel which retains cult appeal. "Michelle stood out; she had the looks and could sing. We were cherry-picked because we were young and ripe," says Maxwell. "The role was meant for Andy Gibb, but he didn't screen test well so they opened it up. I'd been in Entertaining Mr Sloane on Broadway which caused a stir. I was given John Travolta's leather jacket to wear for the audition, there was a note he'd written to Olivia Newton-John in the pocket. I thought that was a good omen."
Maxwell went on to become an Eighties pin-up, playing Miles Colby in The Colbys and Dynasty. He laughs when I recall his "Hunk of the Month" status in Jackie magazine. "They found it difficult to market me because I'd just got married Juliet Mills," he says.
Maxwell has been married to the actress, sister of Hayley Mills, since 1980. He has more than 70 film, stage and television credits to his name, most recently playing Mark Wylde in Emmerdale, the head of Home Farm estate who was revealed as a bigamist and shot dead by his second wife, played by Amanda Donohoe.
"They should have kept the Wyldes," says Maxwell. "Emmerdale needs a glamorous family in the big house, but there's always a big turnaround in soaps. I remember high-tailing it out of Ilkley Lido wrapped in a towel once when a bunch of kids started shouting "Bigamist!" at me!"
It was a different world in the American soaps, oozing old-school glamour and intrigue. "I was working with old Hollywood stars like Charlton Heston and Barbara Stanwyck, it doesn't get much better," smiles Maxwell.
* Singin' in the Rain runs at the Alhambra from September 2 - 13. For tickets ring (01274) 432000.