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William Haines was born Charles William Haines in Virginia in 1900. Haines knew he was gay at an early age, and he left home with a young man when he was a teen, and eventually landed in New York City. After a variety of jobs he started acting, and he was signed to a contract by Samuel Goldwyn in 1922. At first his career progressed slowly with mostly minor roles, but in 1926 he was noticed in a supporting role in Brown of Harvard. He was given the lead in his next movie, Lovey Mary, and the public liked this tall athletic actor, and he stayed very busy, playing the romantic lead in 21 movies over the next six years, often playing a soldier or an athlete. In 1930 he was the top male box-office star. But Haines was not only gay (not at all unusual in Hollywood), but he was also openly gay, living with his boyfriend Jimmie Shields, who he had met in 1926. Haines was the only openly gay major star at that time. In 1930 The Production Code came to Hollywood movies, led by Will Hayes, which was an attempt to curb "immorality" in movies. With the support of the Catholic Church, the Code slowly gained power in the early 1930s. In 1933, Haines was arrested in a YMCA with a sailor he had picked up, and Louis B. Mayer (head of MGM and very much afraid of Hays and the Code) gave him an ultimatum to either give up Jimmie Shields and enter into a sham marriage and hide his homosexuality, or be fired. Haines refused, and he was fired, and his career was essentially over. But Haines had many great friends in Hollywood, including Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, Marion Davies and George Cukor, and he started a very successful interior decorating business that lasted for 40 years. His clients over the years included many of his friends, such as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, at the time when Reagan was Governor of California (Haines was an active supporter of the Republican Party). Haines relationship with Jimmie Shields lasted until Haines passed away in 1973 at the age of 73. Shortly after, Shields committed suicide, and they are buried together. Joan Crawford described them as "the happiest married couple in Hollywood"!
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