Lost in the Movies: Mayor Dwayne Milford (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #57)

Mayor Dwayne Milford (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #57)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. The series will be rebooted in 2023 to reflect the third season (and patrons will have immediate access to each entry a month before it goes public), but this entry will remain intact. There will be spoilers.

The Mayor of Twin Peaks is less interested in governing the town than partaking in a petty family feud and a peculiar romance.

Friday, February 24, 1989
The aged Mayor Dwyane Milford of Twin Peaks calls a town meeting to order. Far from controlling the event, however, he seems bewildered and distracted. "Is this thing on?" he demands of the microphone as Sheriff Harry Truman helps him adjust the volume and gently sits him back down. A high school student, one of the most beloved girls in town, has just been murdered and whether due to grief or anxiety, the town leader looks overwhelmed. FBI Agent Dale Cooper explains that this dead girl, as well as another who escaped (but is in no condition to identify her assailant), may be victims of the same serial killer that struck a year earlier. The Mayor's unsettled expression registers the agent's following statement: "Now, there is a chance the person who committed these crimes is someone from this town, possibly even someone you know." This is a chilling thought, and the mood in the room is somber.

Wednesday, March 15, 1989
Nearly three weeks later, the mood in the Haywards' living room is relaxed and easygoing. The townspeople are attending the wake of the person who committed those crimes, whom they did know - Leland Palmer, a respectable lawyer and the father of the victim. However, no one seems much perturbed by this revelation and chatter focuses on more trivial matters. In the Mayor's case, he is taunting his older brother Dougie, publisher of the Twin Peaks Gazette, who is about to marry a much younger woman. Dougie ignores most of his brother's jabs ("doesn't she feed you?" ... "changing diapers"), declaring "You're just jealous!" But when the Mayor sneers "Besides, she's cursed!" the brothers get into a shoving and kicking match and have to be separated, with Big Ed Hurley holding the Mayor back as Harry shouts, "Knock it off! Remember where you are and why we're here!"

Thursday, March 16, 1989
The Mayor scowls through his brother's wedding at the Great Northern Hotel. When the preacher reaches the statement "If there be anyone who knows not why this union should be made, let him speak now or forever hold his peace," the Mayor leaps to his feet and declares that Lana, the new bride, is only after Dougie's money, and he's too old to marry her. Harry escorts the Mayor out of the room. At the reception the Mayor grumbles endlessly to Pete Martell. "Let a woman walk by with play in her eye and jello in her walk, and he's a trout on a hook!" He even remarks, when Pete compliments the music, "It should have been the death march!"

Friday, March 17, 1989
And how right he is. The following morning, the Mayor enters the honeymoon suite in a mournful spirit, joining the cops and doctor gathered around his dead brother's bed to declare sadly, "I hate to say it but I told you so." The Mayor calls an erotic book "the murder weapon" and, as Andy escorts him out (he's always being escorted out, isn't he?), he pauses next to the weeping widow and accuses her of witchcraft. That night, Doc Hayward informs the Mayor that Dougie died of natural causes ("no foul play") but the Mayor is not convinced. "She killed him with sex!" he declares, as Doc barely contains his laughter.

Sunday, March 19, 1989
Lana screams in the hallway of the sheriff's station. Harry, Andy, Hawk, and Cooper race to her side to discover the Mayor holding her and Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, the outlandishly-dressed town psychiatrist, at gunpoint. The old man vows to kill Lana and Jacoby if anybody moves. Cooper decides it would be a good idea to send Lana into the conference room alone with the still-gun-toting Mayor, so they can "talk first." When the lawmen check up on the duo, Lana is sitting on the Mayor's lap and his face is covered with lipstick marks. "We've decided to adopt a child," the Mayor explains calmly.

Friday, March 24, 1989
Five days into their torrid love affair, the Mayor and Lana are sharing a tender moment at the RR Diner. "I'll do anything body and mind can stand," the horny old man declares. "Surely the last few days have been proof of that!" But Lana has something more compromising in mind - she wants the Mayor, an official judge of the upcoming Miss Twin Peaks contest, to declare her its winner. He's hesitant to cheat, but her seductive manner convinces him. Later on, at the Road House, the Mayor sits on a selection committee with Pete and Doc, listening to Ben Horne pitch an environmental theme for the pageant. "What's he selling?" a skeptical Mayor queries. Afterwards though, he concedes, "The idea has merit." Then the Mayor is on to more crucial matters, grinning as he invites Lana up to the stage.

Saturday, March 25, 1989
The Mayor finds Lana at the Road House and tells her that Norma Jennings and Dick Tremayne are the judges, so she should be assured easy victory. The latter judge is "British or...Bahamian or something. He's bound to fall for your charms." He then encourages his beloved to cuckold him with Dick, and pleads that she marry him afterwards, weeping from sheer desire as she cradles him. That night at the same location, the Mayor welcomes a crowd to a dance on the eve of Miss Twin Peaks. He struggles again with a microphone which keeps sliding down the stand. While Cooper's date says the old man onstage is cute, Cooper watches him more intently. The Mayor grumbles, "This isn't right. There's something wrong here!"

Sunday, March 26, 1989
At the Road House again the next day, the Mayor brainstorms criteria for Miss Twin Peaks with Norma and Dick ("beauty and power" are the qualities he praises) as Lana takes a break from her rehearsal. She asks Dick to help her find something in the storage closet and as she leads the already-trembling Tremayne away, the Mayor grins and blows them a well-wishing kiss. That evening, the Mayor sits beside a runway installed at the front of the Road House stage, observing the contestants with Dick and Norma by his side. After some respectful applause for his fiancee's rivals, the Mayor gapes in sheer delight at Lana's "contortionistic jazz exotica." When she finishes her routine, he shouts, "There, my friends, is a real artist!" He's less impressed by the eventual winner Annie Blackburn (nearly sleeping by the end of her speech) and his face falls when Lana gapes at him from the otherwise-joyful stage, as most of the other contestants flock to Annie's side. The Mayor angrily protests her victory: "She's been living in this town about fifteen minutes!" Dick insists that Annie's speech was beautiful, and the Mayor is left to consider what this upset means for his marriage prospects.

Characters the Mayor interacts with onscreen…

Harry Truman

Dougie Milford

Ed Hurley

Pete Martell

Doc Hayward

Deputy Andy

Deputy Hawk

Lana Milford

Dr. Jacoby

Agent Cooper

Ben Horne

Norma Jennings & Dick Tremayne

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through the Mayor
Like Andrew before him, the Mayor is a town father who isn't really there for his community. The circumstances are different, however. Andrew hides away from Twin Peaks and even plots its destruction whereas the mayor is always in the mix of townspeople, and his peccadilloes are mostly harmless (unless you consider the fixing of the Miss Twin Peaks contest equally important as the arson of the town's main industry). Indeed, the locals regard their wayward leader with much affection and amusement: he's more a beloved institution than a source of power and guidance. The Twin Peaks that the Mayor inhabits is more social than natural - we never see him wandering in the fresh air; he's usually in a crowd, attending big indoor events like the emergency meeting, the wake, the wedding, and the pageant (though he's missing from Laura's funeral). Perhaps surprisingly, given his melancholy if slightly bemusing first appearance, the Mayor represents Twin Peaks in its most broadly comic aspect. Even the potentially violent or melodramatic elements of his storyline are presented in the most farcical manner possible: this is Twin Peaks as straight-up sitcom, not murder mystery, horror show, or (except in broad outline) soap opera.

The Mayor’s journey
The Mayor's progression through Twin Peaks is highly unusual. He's present quite early, presiding over a crucial expository moment in the pilot before disappearing for sixteen episodes. Like Sylvia Horne and Heidi, he eventually returns; unlike them, he takes on a regular recurring role rather than a winking cameo. Viewers may not even remember who the Mayor is when he pops up at the wake, but they'll probably remember him afterwards (if not necessarily in a positive light). As I noted in Dougie's entry, the fight between the brothers marks a turning point in the series especially since it occurs at the site of what should be a tragic commemoration. (In fact Dougie and the Mayor are grappling in the exact spot where Bob crossed into the living room and terrorized Maddy eight episodes earlier.) Thus this character, initially a marker of our entrance into the world of Twin Peaks, becomes an indicator of our departure from that earlier spirit. And what of his actual storyline? As we move up in screentime, we are reaching characters who have not just one arc, but several. The Mayor's first plot sees long-simmering tensions with his brother spill over after his death, culminating in a confrontation that confirms suspicion: beneath his bluster, the Mayor really is just jealous a guy. Lana easily wins him over. That's that until the writers bring the Mayor back for a second storyline. This time the point is his devotion to Lana, and how far he'll go to please her. I'm hardly a fan of the first story (the Milfords' machinations are one of my least favorite parts of Twin Peaks, although I am fond of the character on his own terms). Yet this second story is arguably even more static and low-stakes. The Mayor simply swoons over Lana for several scenes and presides over Miss Twin Peaks-related activity without doing much to move the plot forward (aside from setting up the Dick seduction). There is potential here for overlap with some of Twin Peaks' main themes: the dangerous attraction of youth, the frustrated violence of the towns' patriarchs, the manipulation of sexuality, the possibility of supernatural interference in human affairs...but of course it's all handled in an offhand, cartoonish fashion. Ultimately, one's take on the Mayor depends on how much mileage one gets out of the actor's dedicated, amusing performance while ignoring the forced fluffiness of the material he's dealing with.

Actor: John Boylan
Boylan's greatest gift to Twin Peaks may simply be his old-school look and presence, further rooting the town in a bygone era (in this case, more the Depressed-but-dapper thirties/forties than the swooning teen-dream fifties). An Irish-American son of immigrants, he acted theatrically in his spare time and for stretches between other jobs - both locally (including bringing plays to a Pennsylvania penitentiary), and on trips to Philadelphia and Greenwich Village where he hobnobbed with luminaries like Burgess Meredith. Boylan also labored for four decades as a steelworker in Ohio and Pennsylvania, intially riding the rails looking for jobs and eventually settling down and retiring as a plant manager in 1975 (at which point he began pursuing screen work). Rooting himself in Seattle, Boylan was a natural pick for the Twin Peaks pilot, but when they wanted him back for his recurring part in season two he was acting in a play at the Seattle Rep. According to his Seattle Times obituary (which provides a great, illuminating little read), "He continued at the Rep but every Sunday night would fly to Los Angeles, film all day Monday, then return to Seattle in time for the Tuesday matinee. He was 79 at the time." As Boylan's New York Times obituary observes, "his silver hair and mustache earned him roles as amiable grandfathers or snooty butlers." Indeed Boylan's classic looks, voice, and bearing (and one suspects, that quintessentially twentieth-century history he carried around with him) fit the times perfectly. As the boomers hit middle age in the late eighties and early nineties there was a flush of nostalgia for an era they'd never experienced. Perhaps it never existed aside from Hollywood movies and, at a glance anyway, Boylan's own life: a mix of sophistication and dedication, grace and grit, where a hard-scrabble steelworker and a wandering intellectual bohemian could seem like two sides of the same quintessentially American coin. (film pictured: Sleepless in Seattle, 1993)

The Pilot

Episode 17 (German title: "Dispute Between Brothers")

Episode 18 (German title: "Masked Ball")

*Episode 19 (German title: "The Black Widow" - best episode)

Episode 21 (German title: "Double Play")

Episode 26 (German title: "Variations on Relations")

Episode 27 (German title: "The Path to the Black Lodge")

Episode 28 (fan title: "Miss Twin Peaks")

The Mayor was introduced in a teleplay by Mark Frost and David Lynch, and written in individual scripts by Tricia Brock, Barry Pullman (twice), and Scott Frost, as well as one Mark Frost/Harley Peyton and two Harley Peyton/Robert Engels collaborations. He is directed by David Lynch, Tina Rathborne, Duwayne Dunham, Caleb Deschanel, Uli Edel, Jonathan Sanger, Stephen Gyllenhaal, and Tim Hunter.

The Mayor is onscreen for roughly twenty minutes. He is in twelve scenes in eight episodes, taking place over one month. He's featured the most in episode 28, when he judges the Miss Twin Peaks contest. His primary location is the Road House. He shares the most screentime with Lana.

Best Scene
The Pilot: In a poignant scene quite unlike any of his others, the aged Mayor looks overwhelmed by the tragedy that has overtaken his town and sits circumspectly to the side as an FBI agent assumes control of the town meeting.

Best Line
“And the hippie too!”

Additional Observations

• The Mayor writes the appropriately eccentric message at the front of the Access Guide which states, "My advice to those who visit is to get out. Get out and enjoy the weather and whatever." He also writes, "I would like to pass on so many things to all of you. Not least of which would be the ability to look a total stranger in the eye and spout with a friendly air, 'Do you have that ten dollars you owe me?'"

There aren't enough offscreen moments to justify a standalone section today, but after the Milfords storm out of the wake scene, Harry, Pete, and Doc explain the brothers' history to Cooper (including Dougie's recent engagement). They chuckle over the fact that when Dwayne first ran for mayor in 1962, Dougie wrote an editorial opposing him...even though Dwayne was running unopposed!

• In deleted dialogue from episode 17, Pete recalls the Mayor's revenge for Dougie's editorial: "Dwayne was dog catcher at the time. So he let all the dogs from the pound loose in Dougie's house." "Damn dogs ate all the furniture," Doc recalls, "Broke up Dougie's third marriage too, as I recall."

• Episode 18 also contains deleted dialogue; as he's being escorted from the wedding, the Mayor shouts, "Why isn't anybody from her family here? Any of you asked yourselves that? Kind of peculiar, don't you think?" Later at the wedding he tells Pete how Dougie met Lana: "She started by taking one of Dougie's college classes. Ethics in Modern Journalism. Two things I guarantee you that little bird knows nothing about. Three weeks later she's landed a job writing for the Gazette." At the bar Harry speculates, "My theory is Dwayne's jealous."

• The teleplay for episode 28 extends the Mayor's final moments in the series a bit longer as he protests Annie's victory. "She stole half of it off a dead Indian, she plagiarized that speech -" he insists, to which Norma responds, "She didn't plagiarize, she quoted." "You voted for your own sister!" the Mayor tries one last time. Norma comes right back at him: "You voted for your girlfriend!" Neither on page nor screen do we witness the Mayor's reaction to the ensuing crisis, as Windom Earle attacks the pageant and the crowd becomes a terrified mob. As always, the Mayor's personal problems take priority over the crises of his community!

• We see quite a bit of the Mayor, long before he's been elected, in Mark Frost's The Secret History of Twin Peaks. Frost introduces "Scoutmaster Dwayne Milford" when he's a 21-year-old Boy Scout leader in the 1920s. Since Dougie is the central figure of the book, his brother keeps popping up and we learn further details of their rivalry although the timeline is shifted from what we heard on the series. Dougie actually endorses his brother's mayoral re-election when he buys the newspaper in 1969 (after its editor Robert Jacoby dies, although he later pops up writing an article in 1986...yeah, making sense of this chronology is probably a fool's errand!). Their falling-out owes more to politics than personality (although there is a lifelong clash between the future Mayor's steadfast discipline and his brother's more wayward adventurism). When President Nixon, a close friend of Dougie, resigns in 1974, Dougie writes an editorial: "The political career of a great American statesman died today, hoist on the petard of his own fungible morality, without question, but also, and perhaps even more so, the victim of a vengeful and venomous political vendetta." The Mayor, a very left-wing "socialliberal," despises this stand and his brother's increasingly right-wing politics in general. The Mayor is also publicly suspicious about the source of Dougie's immense wealth. The book tells us that Lana spent six months in Twin Peaks after Dougie's death but despite providing "great comfort and emotional support during that time to our grieving mayor," she was waiting for probate to close. Far from marrying her besotted old brother-in-law, the recent widow fled Twin Peaks with her fortune as soon as she was able. No word on how the Mayor managed his undoubtedly broken heart.

• Update 2023: This entry was written in 2017, before the third season, and did not need to be revised as the Mayor did not re-appear. Only the description/intro at the top and the ranking were updated. In the original character series, the Mayor was ranked #42, between Jean and Lana.

SHOWTIME: No, Boylan is not on the cast list for 2017. He passed away in 1994 and would be well over a hundred years old today, as would the character (although Hank Worden, the Room Service Waiter, beat Boylan by a decade as Twin Peaks' oldest performer). What happened to the Mayor after Lana left? I can't say I hold out much hope for him. His brother gone, his lover deserted, his town descended into chaos, this probably felt like a good time for the addled old man to check out. A different question: who is mayor of Twin Peaks today? Has the Milford legacy continued to the present? (We never meet or hear about the Mayor's children, but he was married for half a century.) Will one of the characters we already know take up the reigns?

Next (available now): Lana Budding Milford
Previous: Jean Renault

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