We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
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.
Regular Price:$29.95
  • Membership Details:
    • First book free with 30-day trial
    • $14.95/month thereafter for your choice of 1 new book each month
    • Cancel easily anytime
    • Exchange books you don't like
    • All selected books are yours to keep, even if you cancel
  • - or -

Your Likes make Audible better!

'Likes' are shared on Facebook and Audible.com. We use your 'likes' to improve Audible.com for all our listeners.

You can turn off Audible.com sharing from your Account Details page.

OK

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.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (35 )
5 star
 (20)
4 star
 (9)
3 star
 (4)
2 star
 (2)
1 star
 (0)
Overall
4.4 (32 )
5 star
 (21)
4 star
 (7)
3 star
 (1)
2 star
 (3)
1 star
 (0)
Story
4.3 (32 )
5 star
 (18)
4 star
 (9)
3 star
 (3)
2 star
 (2)
1 star
 (0)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Lucian Siedler 01-06-15 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Juicy, Thoughtful and One of a Kind!"

    I had little to no knowledge of "courageous" Billy Haines and author Mann told an involved historical tale superbly. As the audio book ended I found myself going to google to look for additional information. I found archived photos of Haines, his pals and his amazing decor at a website in his name. Someday we will have audio books that
    feature actual archived voices counter poised against the authors rendering. Mann's book and it's narration came alive when Haines was quoted. In the meantime I am content to remember Mann's rich and thoughtful exploration.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert 03-02-15
    Robert 03-02-15 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A touching love story and a fascinating history of Hollywood"
    Any additional comments?

    Bo Foxworth's warm reading style conveys the real affection that author William Mann developed towards William Haynes in the process of talking to his friends and family for this biography. Haynes' story offers amazing insights into the secret lives of Hollywood stars in the early days of silent films, followed by the transition to films with sound and the imposition of stodgy censorship of the movies. Mann skillfully describes how societal attitudes towards gay people went through many ups and downs over the decades, and how William Haynes was consistently open and forthright about his love for his long-time partner and his right to live his life as he saw fit.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anna M. Kauffman san francisco 08-07-15
    Anna M. Kauffman san francisco 08-07-15 Member Since 2014

    anna

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    38
    3
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "william haines"
    What made the experience of listening to Wisecracker the most enjoyable?

    the book brought painted a vivid history of life in Hollywood from the early 1920's. I listened to it in black and white...I enjoyed every minute of it...and I liked Williams Haines very much. I was sorry when the book ended....


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stewart Gooderman San Francisco, CA 07-19-15
    Stewart Gooderman San Francisco, CA 07-19-15 Member Since 2007

    DrG

    HELPFUL VOTES
    114
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    37
    23
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Story That Needed To Be Told"

    What a fascinating life! Yet so few people really know of William Haines today. The author is right when he states that when you come down to it, this is a love story of a couple who just happen to be of the same sex. No different than the great enduring marriages you hear or read about from the humblest to the mighty. Joan Crawford was right in stating that their's was "The happiest marriage in Hollywood."

    If there was one thing that I'm at odds with, and even Mr Haines is guilty of this, is that William Haines is considered a film actor primarily in the silent film era who became a famed interior decorator. I see him as the opposite, a world famous interior decorator who earlier in life did some work in film.

    I've seen some of his films and they are okay, with the best one being Show People. Even today, it holds up as being a very good film, and had Haines not been his own worse enemy and took acting seriously, he could have gone on to become a great character actor, even with his lost hair and this weight gain.

    I think the book is recorded well, with the exception of glaring edits with variable sound quality.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Carpenter Baton Rouge, La 03-15-15
    M. Carpenter Baton Rouge, La 03-15-15 Member Since 2011

    Music Specialist

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    18
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Obscure actor-Hard to relate to"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Since Billy Haines is basically obscure, more stories involving other celebrities woould have be good.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Learning about this man..


    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • S. E. Errington
    County Durham, 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

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.