Actor and interior decorator WILLIAM HAINES died on this date (b: 1900); Young William Haines ran away from home at the age of fourteen with his “boyfriend” and worked in a dance hall which may have also served as a brothel. He was an assistant bookkeeper at a New York bond house when he sent in his photograph to a “New Faces” contest sponsored by movie producer Samuel Goldwyn in 1922.
After a successful screen test, he was signed as a contract player; and in 1922 he departed for California. It was in Brown of Harvard (1926) that he crystallized his screen image, a young arrogant man who is humbled by the last reel. “He has never been in love with any girl yet, and doesn’t intend to”, stated fan magazines.
Indeed, in 1926, Bill Haines fell in love for twenty-one-year-old Jimmie Shields, who he met in New York probably as a pick-up on the street. They moved in together and became, as Joan Crawford once said, “the happiest married couple in Hollywood”. Shields was put on the MGM payroll as Bill’s secretary and stand-in. The two stayed together for nearly fifty years, until Bill’s death.
Haines was the perfect male flapper for the latter half of the 1920s. While Valentino represented the dangerous love and John Gilbert played noble, tortured heroes, Haines exemplified the sunny, collegiate self-confidence of jazz Age. His screen heroes were the happy-go-lucky fellows his fans thought themselves to be.
And Bill’s generally cheery off screen personality fitted perfectly with this. In 1933, Billy Haines picked up a sailor in Pershing Square in Los Angeles and took him to the YMCA where he had a room. The house detective and L.A. Vice Squad burst in and arrested and handcuffed both men. Losing his boyish good looks after age 30, Haines accepted the decline of his star with grace. Battles with Louis B. Mayer over his “scandalous” love life finally ended his career in 1934. After that, tasteful Haines became a famous interior decorator.