Wisecracker Cover


The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star

By William J. Mann

Penguin Books, Paperback, 9780140275681, 480pp.

Publication Date: February 1, 1999

In 1930 William Haines was Hollywood's number-one box-office draw -- a talented, handsome, romantic lead. Offscreen, he was openly gay. This bestselling biography captures the rich gay subculture of Hollywood before the Production Code -- before studio intimidation led to the establishment of the Hollywood closet. Alone among his contemporaries, Billy Haines refused to compromise and was ultimately booted out by Louis B. Mayer. Forced to give up acting, Haines went on to become a top interior designer to the stars and to clients such as Nancy Reagan. By his side through it all was his lover, Jimmie Shields; their fifty-year relationship led their best friend, Joan Crawford, to call them the "happiest married couple in Hollywood". 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.