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Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star


An astounding piece of newly discovered gay history, a chronicle of high Hollywood, and the life and times of William Haines--the first openly gay ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star

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  • Excellent! Aug 31, 2007
    by gablefan

    A very well-written and researched bio of a star who's been sadly neglected. Mann deals with both Haines' film career and his interior decorating career with equal sensitivity and insight. Great job!

  • A Great Star Remembered Jun 22, 2007
    by drednm

    Mann writes an excellent biography of a long-forgotten star, William
    Haines, who was a top 5 box-office star between 1927 and 1932. Haines
    was a huge star of his time, transitioned between silent films and
    talkies, and was the first "outed" gay star in America.
    Mann also delves into the personal life of Billy Haines and shows us
    his "gay" life with partner Jimmie Shields, as well as his his hugely
    successful career as an interior designer after his film career ended
    in 1934.
    Haines hit Hollywood in the early 1920s and landed small parts in a
    number of films before getting the big build-up after his co-starring
    role in 1925 with legendary Mary Pickford in "Little Annie Rooney."
    From there Haines climbed the ladder of film success in a series of MGM
    films that included "Brown of Harvard" and "Show People" before making
    the transition to talkies in "Navy Blues" and "Hollywood Revue of
    Until 1932, Haines reigned as a major star until he ran afoul of the
    hypocritical Louis B. Mayer, who demanded Haines marry. Haines held
    fast and refused to play that game. Mayer fired him. Haines returned
    for a few B films at a minor studio and retired from films.
    Haines maintained his Hollywood friendships with major names like Joan
    Crawford, Constance Bennett, Marion Davies, Marie Dressler, Carole
    Lombard, and Gloria Swanson and launched a career as a designer. Haines
    had, without credit, designed the sets of many films. But as an
    interior designer he had a career that spanned the next 40 years. He
    designed the homes of many Hollywood stars and even designed rooms at
    the White House when Reagan was president.
    Haines was a huge star and major Hollywood talent who refused to play
    the hypocritical game played by many other stars. He stood by his gay
    partner until his death in 1973. Shortly after Haines' death, Jimmie
    Shields, dressed in Haines' pajamas committed suicide. Joan Crawford
    always said they were the happiest married couple in Hollywood.
    Haines leaves a legacy of dozens of movies, many of them classics.
    Gloria Swanson tried to lure Haines back to the screen for a role in
    "Sunset Boulevard," but the 50-year--old ex-star refused. Haines' films
    are still shown on Turner Classic Movies, and now and then, a classic
    is restored and shown as a Turner Premiere film with great fanfare.
    Mann brings the life and name of William Haines back from the movie
    vaults to the present. Haines deserves to be remembered as a movie
    star, a great actor, and a wonderul human being. His talent and guts
    are examples for us all.

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