Frank Maxwell, 87; ‘General Hospital’ Actor, National Head of AFTRA
Frank Maxwell, a veteran character actor and leading figure in the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists for several decades, has died. He was 87.
Maxwell, who was AFTRA’s national president from 1984 to 1989 and served as president of the union’s Los Angeles chapter from 1982 to 1985, died Wednesday at his home in Santa Monica of complications from heart disease, according to his daughter, Chris.
In a six-decade acting career, Maxwell was perhaps best known for his television work. His most noted role was as Dan Rooney in the ABC daytime series “General Hospital” on which he appeared from 1978 to 1990. He also had regular roles in the television series “Our Man Higgins,” “The Second Hundred Years” and “Felony Squad.”
At AFTRA in the 1950s, Maxwell led development of the first health and retirement benefits for actors, news broadcasters and recording artists. Earlier, as Actors’ Equity vice president, he helped establish a pension fund for stage actors.
As president, he was a forceful advocate for a still-unrealized merger with the Screen Actors Guild. Maxwell was also a key negotiator for decades in AFTRA contracts with networks and television and radio producers.
“He was a battler from the beginning. He never retreated or surrendered ground on ideas he maintained. He was a battler for justice in terms of the union,” actor Ed Asner, a former president of the Screen Actors Guild, told The Times on Monday. “He was a man who knew you shot for the sun and hopefully you got the moon.”
Born in New York City, Maxwell majored in history at the University of Michigan with plans to study law. But he joined the Ann Arbor Dramatic Festival, where he appeared in a production of “Macbeth” and he abandoned ideas of being a lawyer.
After graduation, he moved to New York and got his first professional stage job three days later. He also found work on the radio series “Gangbusters.”
A vocal participant in local meetings of Actors’ Equity, Maxwell soon won a seat on the union’s board.
Maxwell enlisted in the Army Air Forces at the outset of World War II and served with the 20th Air Force as a navigator and bombardier.
After the war, he returned to acting and union activity in New York, landing roles in “Dance Night,” “Stalag 17” and “Death of a Salesman.”
According to his daughter, Maxwell was blacklisted for a time during the McCarthy period and turned to summer stock to make a living.
By 1958, however, he was working steadily and came to Los Angeles for a role in the Dore Schary play “Miss Lonelyheart.” He moved his wife, stage actress Maxine Stuart, and young daughter, Chris, to Los Angeles when he was offered a role in a “Playhouse 90” production directed by John Frankenheimer.
Over the years, he made more than 100 guest appearances on various television shows, including several on “The Twilight Zone.” In addition to serving as AFTRA’s president, Maxwell was a trustee of the AFTRA Health and Retirement Funds and was a member of AFTRA’s board of directors.
Maxwell and Stuart divorced in 1963. He later married actress Rita Lynn and they remained together until her death in 1996.
In addition to his daughter, Chris Ann Maxwell, a senior vice president at 20th Century Fox, he is survived by a stepdaughter, Donna Lynn of Ojai, as well as two step-grandchildren and two step-great-grandchildren.
Services are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. today at St. Monica’s Church in Santa Monica, with burial to follow at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.
The family suggests that memorial donations be made to the Frank Nelson Sick and Benefit Fund, c/o AFTRA, 5757 Wilshire Blvd., 9th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90036-3689.