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Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood’s First Openly Gay Star | [William J. Mann]

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

In 1930, William Haines was Hollywood's #1 box-office draw - a talented, handsome, and wisecracking romantic lead. Off screen, however, protected by a careful collaboration between studio and press, he was openly gay with reporters and studio chiefs alike. Here is Haines's virtually unknown story - rich with detail, revelations, and scandal - about silent movies and talkies; his lover Jimmie Shields, and their fifty-year relationship.
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Audible Editor Reviews

William Haines, the number-one box office star of 1930, has somewhat faded into obscurity. In all likelihood his career would’ve survived the shift from silent films to talkies but could not survive the increasingly repressive atmosphere of Hollywood at the time of the production code. Biographer William Mann says the first "openly gay" actor may be somewhat of an anachronism - the idea didn’t even really exist at the time - but calls Haines courageous nonetheless for abandoning his career when Louis B. Mayer told him to choose between his contract and his boyfriend. Bo Foxworth gives a rich, refined performance of this well-researched, sympathetic biography of the wisecracking actor whose life has proved as historically important as his work.

Publisher's Summary

In 1930 William Haines was Hollywood's #1 box-office draw - a talented, handsome, and wisecracking romantic lead. Off screen, however, protected by a careful collaboration between studio and press, he was openly gay with reporters and studio chiefs alike. Here is Haines's virtually unknown story - rich with detail, revelations, and scandal - about silent movies and talkies; his lover Jimmie Shields, and their fifty-year relationship (Joan Crawford, their best friend, called them "The happiest married couple in Hollywood") and the enforcement of the Production Code and establishment of the Hollywood closet, which led to the blacklisting that ultimately doomed Haimes's film career.

Wisecracker sweeps from gay pool parties to the excitement of early talkies to Haines's infamous encounter with gay-bashing white supremacists in 1936. He survived the scandal to emerge as a top interior decorator to the stars and to such clients as Nancy Reagan and Walter Annenberg, who employed him for the American Embassy in London. With a cast of characters running from Tallulah Bankhead to Betsy Bloomingdale, from Clark Gable to William Randolph Hearst, Wisecracker is an astounding piece of newly discovered gay history, a chronicle of high Hollywood, and - at its heart - a great and enduring love story.

©1998 William J. Mann (P)2013 Audible, Inc.

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  • S. E. Errington
    Northumberland, England
    6/8/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Hollywoods Forgotten Star"
    What did you like most about Wisecracker?

    It was fascinating to find out about one of Hollywood's forgotten stars and a by-gone era


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Wisecracker?

    There were so many, it's hard to list them all!


    Have you listened to any of Bo Foxworth’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    This was the first time I'd listened to one of his performances, and it was certainly entertaining


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    For me, the most moving moment was when the narration covered how Jimmie couldn't carry on without his beloved Billy


    Any additional comments?

    An engrossing, entertaining and fascinating story. Highly recommended

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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