Today is the 120th birthday of the Hollywood heartthrob turned interior designer to the stars William Haines. His refusal to conform and live his life as a lie is a lesson to us all. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: William Haines
DATE OF BIRTH: January 2, 1900
PLACE OF BIRTH: Staunton, VA
DATE OF DEATH: December 26, 1973
PLACE OF DEATH: Santa Monica, CA
REMAINS: Buried, Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery, Santa Monica, CA
HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME: 7000 Hollywood Blvd.
BEST KNOWN FOR: Charles William “Billy” Haines, known professionally as William Haines, was an American film actor and interior designer. Haines was discovered by a talent scout and signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1922.
William Haines won a talent contest judged by Samuel Goldwyn, and went on to become one of the top actors of Hollywood’s early years. He came to stardom in 1926’s Tell It to the Marines with Lon Chaney. His best-known silent film was the backstage Hollywood comedy Show People with Marion Davies, and his most famous talkie was the con-man comedy New Adventures of Get Rich Quick Wallingford with Jimmy Durante.
His career came to a sudden end when studio maven Louis B. Mayer told him to either ditch his unapologetically gay off-screen life and enter a studio-arranged sham marriage, or kiss his career good-bye. Haines told Mayer, “I’m already married” — referring to his lover, Jimmie Shields — and watched as Mayer tore up his MGM contract.
He subsequently appeared in a few low-budget films for smaller studios, then had a long and successful career as an interior decorator, with clients including Walter Annenberg when he was Ambassador to England, George Cukor, Nancy and Ronald Reagan, and Frank Sinatra. Haines was offered a chance at a comeback role in Billy Wilder’s 1950 classic Sunset Boulevard, but politely declined.
He lived with Shields for nearly fifty years, and their best friend, Joan Crawford often said they had “the happiest marriage in Hollywood.” Haines’ died in 1973, and just months later Shields swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills and followed him. They were buried beside each other at Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery.
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Fast Life (16-Dec-1932)
Are You Listening? (26-Mar-1932)
New Adventures of Get Rich Quick Wallingford (3-Oct-1931)
Just a Gigolo (6-Jun-1931)
Remote Control (15-Nov-1930)
Way Out West (2-Aug-1930) · Windy
Free and Easy (22-Mar-1930)
The Girl Said No (15-Mar-1930) · Tom Ward
Navy Blues (13-Dec-1929)
The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (14-Aug-1929) · Himself
Show People (11-Nov-1928)
The Smart Set (4-Mar-1928)
West Point (31-Dec-1927) · Brice Wayne
Spring Fever (18-Oct-1927)
Tell It to the Marines (23-Dec-1926) · Pvt. “Skeet” Burns
Brown of Harvard (2-May-1926)
Sally, Irene and Mary (7-Dec-1925)
Little Annie Rooney (18-Oct-1925)
Souls for Sale (27-Mar-1923)