21 February 2009

Great Ladykillers of Yesteryear: William Haines

Charles William Haines was one of MGM's most important leading men in the 1920s. Haines typically played the role of the impudent smart ass, a trait which invariably landed his characters in hot water. Will was frequently cast alongside many of MGM's biggest names, including Lon Chaney in Tell it to the Marines, Marion Davies in Show People and Lionel Barrymore in Alias Jimmy Valentine (which was also MGM's first all-talking picture). He also appeared in a number of films with Joan Crawford, of whom he was a close personal friend.

Yet despite being one of MGM's most likable players, Will's film career was quite suddenly cut short in 1933, when he was arrested during a tryst with another young man at the local YMCA. Although Haines was openly gay (and had been living with his lover for some time), MGM had kept the matter under the radar. In the wake of the incident, Louis B. Mayer insisted that Haines enter into a lavender marriage if he wished to keep his film career going. Being a man of principle, Haines refused and went on to live a long and happy life with Jimmy Shields. After leaving the motion picture business, Haines took up interior decorating with Shields. Many of Will's old friends from Hollywood were among their clients.

One more thing about Will Haines: the motherfucker had some good taste. If you don't believe me, have a look at some of his interior design work at William Haines Designs.

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