In 1930 William Haines was Hollywood's #1 box-office draw - a talented, handsome, and wisecracking romantic lead. Off screen, however, protected by a careful collaboration between studio and press, he was openly gay with reporters and studio chiefs alike. Here is Haines's virtually unknown story - rich with detail, revelations, and scandal - about silent movies and talkies; his lover Jimmie Shields, and their fifty-year relationship (Joan Crawford, their best friend, called them "The happiest married couple in Hollywood") and the enforcement of the Production Code and establishment of the Hollywood closet, which led to the blacklisting that ultimately doomed Haimes's film career.
Wisecracker sweeps from gay pool parties to the excitement of early talkies to Haines's infamous encounter with gay-bashing white supremacists in 1936. He survived the scandal to emerge as a top interior decorator to the stars and to such clients as Nancy Reagan and Walter Annenberg, who employed him for the American Embassy in London. With a cast of characters running from Tallulah Bankhead to Betsy Bloomingdale, from Clark Gable to William Randolph Hearst, 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.
William Haines, the number-one box office star of 1930, has somewhat faded into obscurity. In all likelihood his career would’ve survived the shift from silent films to talkies but could not survive the increasingly repressive atmosphere of Hollywood at the time of the production code. Biographer William Mann says the first "openly gay" actor may be somewhat of an anachronism - the idea didn’t even really exist at the time - but calls Haines courageous nonetheless for abandoning his career when Louis B. Mayer told him to choose between his contract and his boyfriend. Bo Foxworth gives a rich, refined performance of this well-researched, sympathetic biography of the wisecracking actor whose life has proved as historically important as his work.
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A real eye opener
Yes, a biography of someone I'd never heard of. A real eye opener revealing the life of a remarkable man whose life in Hollywood as an silent movie star and later as a respected interior designer is a real roller coaster of a read. Informative, exciting, revealing the lives of early Hollywood stars during the hedonistic early years of the century. It was also interesting to understand how Haine's coped proudly with his homosexuality at a time before gay rights. I was riveted from start to finish.
The only other book I can compare Wisecraker to is Ginger:My Story by Ginger Rogers as she too was honest, open and revealed and insider's view of the secret world of Hollywood.
I haven't listened to any other of Bo Foxworth's performances.
Tears and laughter both.
I can't recommend this highly enough for anyone who has an interest in Classic Hollywood.
- Amazon Customer
Hollywoods Forgotten Star
It was fascinating to find out about one of Hollywood's forgotten stars and a by-gone era
There were so many, it's hard to list them all!
This was the first time I'd listened to one of his performances, and it was certainly entertaining
For me, the most moving moment was when the narration covered how Jimmie couldn't carry on without his beloved Billy
An engrossing, entertaining and fascinating story. Highly recommended
- S. E. Errington