An energetic male lead of the late silent and early talkie era, and one of MGM's most bankable stars, actor William Haines used his boy-next-door looks and charm to play young collegiates or military...
Staunton, Virginia, USA
|Slide, Kelly, Slide||1926||Actor||n/a||19267|
|A Man's Man||1928||Actor||n/a||19287|
|The Marines Are Coming||1933||Actor||n/a||19337|
|Brown of Harvard||1926||Actor||Tom Brown||19267|
|West Point||1927||Actor||Brice Wayne||19277|
|Spring Fever||1926||Actor||Jack Kelly||19267|
|Show People||1927||Actor||Billy Boone||19277|
|Circe the Enchantress||1923||Actor||n/a||19237|
|Souls For Sale||1922||Actor||n/a||19227|
|Film debut, "Brothers Under the Skin"|
|Ran William Haines, Inc., an interior decorating firm|
|Ran away from home at age 14|
|First talking film, "Alias Jimmy Valentine" (part-talkie)|
|Signed with newly-formed MGM|
|Breakthrough role, "Brown of Harvard"|
|Was subject of the documentary "Out of the Closet, Off the Screen: The William Haines Story", produced and directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato; aired on AMC in 2002|
|Was attacked by anti-gay lynch mob, along with 15 other gays living in Manhattan Beach, California|
|Last MGM film, "Fast Life"|
|Signed with Goldwyn|
|Worked as bookkeeper for SW Straus|
|Last film, "The Marines Are Coming" (Mascot Studios)|
Born on Jan. 2, 1900 in Staunton, VA, Haines was raised in a wealthy family by his father, George, a cigar store owner, and his mother, Laura. He became fascinated with movies as a child and spent a great deal of time watching silent films at his local theater. Recognizing his homosexuality as a young teenager, Haines ran away from home with a boyfriend to Hopewell, VA, where the two worked at a local factory and opened up a dance hall. He remained in the town until most of the place was burned down by fire in 1915. Haines moved briefly to New York City, until he was forced to return home following the family business filing for bankruptcy and his father's nervous breakdown. A few years after his father had sufficiently recovered, Haines returned to New York, where he worked a variety of odd jobs while settling comfortably into the gay community in Greenwich Village. While working as a bookkeeper for S.W. Straus, Haines started to model and was eventually discovered by a talent scout for Samuel Goldwyn. He was signed by the studio for $40 a week.
In 1922, Haines made his film debut with an uncredited bit part in the comedy "Brothers Under the Skin," and went on to play small credited roles in dramas like "Lost and Found on a South Sea Island" (1923) and "Souls for Sale" (1923). He soon attracted the attention of the newly-formed MGM studio and found his star beginning to rise with supporting roles in "Three Wise Fools" (1923), "The Midnight Express" (1924), "The Gaiety Girl" (1924) and "Circe, the Enchantress" (1924). Haines next portrayed an Irish cop in the Mary Pickford vehicle "Little Annie Rooney" (1925) before becoming a star in his own right with "Brown of Harvard" (1926), his breakthrough movie. The role established his brash, wisecracking but ultimately good-natured screen persona, which carried him through the remainder of the silent era. His films were enormously popular with the public at this time and often teamed him with either Joan Crawford in "Spring Fever" (1927), "West Point" (1928), "The Duke Steps Out" (1929) or Anita Page in "Telling the World" (1928), "Speedway" (1929), and "Navy Blues" (1929).
One of Haines' best films, and one of his best-remembered, was King Vidor's delightful comedy set in the world of Hollywood filmmaking, "Show People" (1928), in which his slapstick clown teamed memorably with Marion Davies' aspiring ingénue. He made the transition to talkies with "Alias Jimmy Valentine" (1928), and made a number of them with MGM, including "The Girl Said No" (1930), "Way Out West" (1930) and "Just a Gigolo" (1931). But as was the case with many silent actors, Haines found that his popularity waned with the advent of sound. He made his last picture with MGM, the romantic comedy "Fast Life" (1932), and his Hollywood career was near an end. Assisting his departure from the movie business was a 1933 arrest at a YMCA after being caught with a young sailor. Studio head Louis B. Mayer gave him the choice between entering into an arranged marriage of convenience with a willing starlet or continuing his relationship with Shields. Haines made a couple of Poverty Row pictures, including his last film "The Marines Are Coming" (1934), before being blacklisted for his lifestyle by Hollywood censor, William Hays. Meanwhile, Haines and Shields started a successful interior design business that catered to a number of celebrities throughout the years, including Gloria Swanson, Carole Lombard, and Ronald and Nancy Reagan. The business flourished until Haines died from lung cancer on Dec. 26, 1973 with Shields still his companion. He was 73 and had never made another film, but because of his refusal to compromise his true self during such a less-than-progressive era - not to mention the professional price he paid to do so - he became a something of a heroic figure in the LGBT community long after his death.
By Shawn Dwyer
|George Adam Haines Jr||Brother||born in 1908|
|Ann Fowkes Haines Langhorne||Sister||born on February 3, 1906; died in July 1986|
|Lillion Juliet Haines Stone||Sister||born on December 11, 1902; died on September 29, 1993|
|George Haines||Father||born c. 1874; married Haines' mother in 1896; died on September 22, 1950|
|Laura Haines||Mother||born in 1878; married Haines' father in 1896; converted to Christian Science before her death on July 17, 1932|
|Henry Haines||Brother||born in November 1917|
|Barbara La Marr||Companion|
|James Shields||Companion||together from c. 1925 until Haines' death; committed suicide on March 6, 1974|
|Robert E Lee High School|
|In his lifetime, Haines always claimed to have been born on January 1, 1900. While no birth certificate exists, biographer William Mann found his baptismal record at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Staunton, VA where the date of birth was entered as January 2, 1900. Social Secuirty records also support this date.|
|On his most famous role: "I didn't have to act. I was just myself. Brown was the sort of fellow I am...kind of lazy, good-natured, wise-cracking." --William Haines, quoted in newspaper interview from the late 1920s|
|"After establishing a reputation for wise-cracking it isn't hard to keep it up. I don't have to do homework by reading joke books. People just laugh at anything I say from force of habit." --Haines quoted in newspaper interview, c. 1930|
|On his retirement from acting: "It's a rather pleasant feeling of being away from pictures and being part of them because all my friends are. I can see the nice side of them without seeing the ugly side of the studios." --William Haines, quoted in 1949 newspaper article|
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