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Overview for William Haines
William Haines

William Haines


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Free and Easy... It's Buster's talkie debut with a special "as you've never heard it before"... more info $16.95was $19.99 Buy Now

Show People ... Marion Davies has stars in her eyes in this "delightful look at silent... more info $16.95was $19.99 Buy Now

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The Girl Said... The story follows a brash young man out to make his fortune. His means: sell a... more info $14.95was $17.99 Buy Now

Fast Life ... A snappy action-comedy about an ex-sailor with a nifty boat-engine design who... more info $14.95was $17.99 Buy Now

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Also Known As: Bill Haines,Charles William Haines Died: December 26, 1973
Born: January 2, 1900 Cause of Death: lung cancer
Birth Place: Staunton, Virginia, USA Profession: Cast ... actor interior decorator dance hall owner bond company bookkeeper powder factory worker dry goods worker


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 recruits in a number of successful pictures. Haines first made his name in a number of supporting roles in the mid-1920s with movies like "Three Wise Fools" (1923), "The Gaiety Girl" (1924) and "Circe, the Enchantress" (1924), before becoming a star in his own right with his breakthrough picture, "Brown of Harvard" (1926). His brash, wisecracking persona proved to be a big hit and Haines went on to star in a series of movies like "Spring Fever" (1927), "West Point" (1928), and "Telling the World" (1928), where he was often paired opposite Joan Crawford or Anita Page. Haines transitioned over to talkies with "Alias Johnny Valentine" (1928), but like so many of his silent era contemporaries, he failed to last long in the sound era. Making matters worse was his refusal to hide his homosexuality, which at the time was a major taboo and proved to be his ultimate downfall. After making his last movie with "The Marines Are Coming" (1934), Haines was effectively banished from making movies by censor William Hays, but soon launched a highly successful second career as an interior decorator with lifelong partner, James Shields, who was with him up till the very end.

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


drednm ( 2006-05-25 )

Source: Swanson's autobiography.

William Haines was offered a role in SUNSET BOULEVARD by Gloria Swanson, but he had been out of films almost 15 years and was a successful interior designer, so he said no.

Redgie ( 2008-02-14 )

Source: not available

During his early years in New York City, he shared an apartment in Greenwich Village with Jack Kelly, a painter from Australia, who became the designer Orry-Kelly, and Archie Leach, a vaudevillian from England, who would become Cary Grant.

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