Riddle of the Larne actor who Joan Collins claims drugged and raped her
Larne's most famous actress Olivia Nash has admitted she knows nothing about the town's most infamous actor Maxwell Reed, who's made headlines again 40 years after his death with Hollywood star Joan Collins accusing him of raping her before they were married in the Fifties.
"I've heard the name," said Olivia, who played the part of Ma in the TV series Give My Head Peace. "And I've read what Joan Collins said about him, but I didn't realise he was from Larne."
At the Larne Museum and Arts Centre staff also drew a blank as they checked their archives and local history books for any clues about the actor, who starred in scores of films in Britain and in America.
And on a Facebook page called Memories of Larne, Reed's name had rarely been mentioned before Collins made her allegations on camera in an interview with former Israeli Miss World Linor Abargil for a film called Brave Miss World
The beauty queen was herself a victim of a rape in 1998, six weeks before she was crowned Miss World.
Collins, who had previously written about her ordeal in her autobiography, said she was a 17-year-old virgin when Reed drugged and raped her.
She said that the attack happened on a date with Reed, whom she'd met on the set of a film, and she told how she later married him through a sense of guilt because he had taken her virginity.
In posts yesterday on the Memories of Larne Facebook page, however, few people were able to cast any light on Reed's early life in the Co Antrim port town.
One woman did say that she had worked with Reed's niece in England and the family weren't happy about what Collins had said about her ex-husband in her autobiography.
"We only have her side of the story," she said.
Reports say that, at the insistence of Reed's family, a number of claims were withdrawn from later editions of Joan Collins' book.
Another Facebook contributor yesterday said she remembered her mother talking about how Reed had paid a visit to his family in Larne in the Sixties. After that the trail goes cold.
Reed, who was described as a matinee idol in several newspaper articles about him, has also been dubbed the "forgotten man" because his career waned so dramatically in later life.
Apparently, Reed wasn't highly regarded among his peers. One website described him as "an unfortunate mixture of ruggedness and woodenness who was not a disciple of self-effacement".
Reed's biography says he was born in Larne in 1919 and was briefly a merchant seaman who also saw service in the Second World War with the RAF.
The writer claims that Reed had appeared in a number of plays in Northern Ireland, but amateur theatre veterans in Larne have no records of the name Maxwell Reed. He later settled in England where he decided to try his luck in the professional theatre, joining a repertory company.
One writer says: "His good looks made up for his lack of prowess at acting."
He's listed as having made a number of appearances at the New Theatre in London in productions like Henry IV Part 1 and Oedipus Rex in 1945.
But it wasn't long before he caught the eye of film-makers and one of his first roles was in a musical called Gaiety George in 1946.
Three years later, however, he landed a co-starring role with Margaret Lockwood in Madness Of The Heart before being cast alongside Irish actress Siobhan McKenna, who played the part of a serial murderer in The Lost People.
Throughout the Fifties he worked extensively in low budget British thrillers, meeting and marrying Collins along the way.
Reed later moved to Hollywood where he was picked up by Universal and appeared in The Flame Of Araby with Maureen O'Hara. But the film flopped and eventually Reed returned to Britain to star in a series of movies before going back and forward to America.
An online biography says, however, that his career was "running out of steam" and the starring roles were becoming harder and harder to find, though he was in a Robert Wise movie, Helen Of Troy.
In 1956 he was offered the title role of a swashbuckling South Seas hero in TV series Captain Grief, which, echoing its title, died a death with audiences.
But he did get the chance to appear with Oscar winner Jack Lemmon and Fred Astaire in a 1962 movie The Notorious Landlady and worked with the illustrious director Otto Preminger on a film called Advise And Consent.
But neither of the movies was a box office hit and Reed is said to have became more and more disillusioned with the industry, though he's credited with a number of TV appearances in Bonanza in 1961, Perry Mason (1964), Daniel Boone (1965) and Sherlock Holmes (1965.)
One of his last sorties onto the big screen was in the Charles Bronson film Mr Majestyk in 1974 when he played the part of a Press photographer. He died from cancer in October that year in London. He was 55.
An internet website says: "Maxwell Reed's departure was an unheralded as his entrance but he did at least have some opportunities, which in retrospect were as much as he could have hoped for."
Now, however, the name of Maxwell Reed will be remembered not for what he achieved in the movie world of make-believe, but for what Joan Collins alleges he did to her in real life.