William Haines; Celebrated Interior Designer & The First Openly Gay Movie Star
“He lowered everything to make the room and the people in it grander”
How great is this interior? Classic William Haines! The Brody Residence on South Mapleton Drive in Holmby Hills was designed by architect Quincy Jones and Interior Designer William Haines in 1949.
There’s a lot to love about this interior; the split level open floor plan, the black hardwood floors and the soffit are all incredibly chic even by today’s standards.
I love the way Billy Haines used low profile furniture (his designs) and touches of chinoiserie. After all he was the father of the Hollywood Regency style. I can only imagine how this interior must have been received back in 1949. Quite a departure from the heavy, ornate Spanish Revival style that was so prevalent at the time.
“I can only tell you this – I would rather have taste than either love or money”
Charles William Haines was born on January 2, 1900 to a wealthy family in Staunton, Virginia. The 3rd child of George Adam Haines, a cigar maker and Laura Virginia Haines (nee’ Matthews) ran away from home with his boyfriend at the age of 14.
Billy Haines made his way to Greenwich Village, New York in and around 1919 when the area was known as the first “American Bohemia”, a place where artists, poets and radicals converged.
“Oh ho, let’s go to the treasure box at 7 Sheridan Square. We’ll surely find a mine of gifts quaint and rich and rare…”
During his stint in Greenwich Village, William met and eventually became roommates with Archie Leach who would go on to become the actor Cary Grant. Soon afterwards, William was discovered by a talent scout for Goldwyn Pictures and promptly signed to a contract.
“The Happiest Married Couple in Hollywood” –
In 1922, William Haines had a bit part in the silent film “Brothers under the skin” where he met and fell in love with his stand in Jimmy Shields. Their marriage would last 50 years.
The Cafe Trocadero was one of “the” places to be seen in the 1930’s.
Photograph- Cafe Trocadero 1935 – Clockwise; Edith Gwynne Wilkerson (wife of Trocadero owner Billy Wilkerson), Jean Harlow, William Powell, Jimmy Shields (standing), Anderson Lawler (seated), unidentified man (standing), William Haines and Edith Wilkerson’s sister Marge.
William Haines went on to star in dozens of silent pictures before making a successful transition to talkies.
Billy Haines and Joan Crawford in the silent film “Spring Fever” produced in 1927. Such a classic photograph. Who knew Joan Crawford had freckles? So cute! It’s particularly touching considering Billy and Joan would remain close friends throughout their lives.
Billy Haines and Marion Davies in the silent film “Show People” from 1928. As with Joan Crawford, Billy became close friends with his co-star Marion Davies who was then dating William Randolph Hearst. Both Joan & Marion were accepting of Billy’s relationship with Jimmy Shields.
“Hearst was an eccentric art and antique buyer and he furnished his home with a collection of items gathered on his many trips to Europe. His warehouses were bursting with inventory. He would buy entire ceilings and facades of old European buildings…”
The Enchanted Manor
The dining room at Hearst Castle referred to as “La Cuesta Encantada” by Hearst.
Billy Haines developed his love of antiques during his frequent visits to Hearst Castle.
1933 – Studio Head, Louis B. Mayer orders star William Haines to enter into a “lavender marriage”.
In 1933, Billy Haines was caught in a “compromising situation” at a local YMCA. Up until that point, the studio had kept his sexual preferences a secret. MGM boss, Louis B. Mayer delivered an ultimatum to Billy to either enter into a “Lavender Marriage” or leave MGM. Lavender marriages were arranged marriages designed to cover up same sex relationships. Billy refused Louis B. Mayer’s ultimatum which many believe led to the demise of his acting career.
Haines-Foster Inc., 1936 | 8720 Sunset Blvd.
Billy Haines second act involved a career as an extremely successful interior designer. His antique shop on Sunset Boulevard was considered the height of chic.
Billy’s relationships with Joan Crawford and Marion Davies helped put his career on the fast track.
Joan Crawford’s Beverly Hills Home designed by William Haines, 1949.
Producer, Ryan Murphy had Joan Crawford’s home recreated for the telefilm “Feud”.
The 2 stars in happier times on the set of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”. If you haven’t watched the series “Feud” about the making of the movie, I highly recommend it. Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon deliver stellar performances. Alfred Molina who I worked with on a small film in Carmel and Judy Davis who I worked with on “Me and My Shadows, The Judy Garland Story” turn in Emmy worthy supporting roles.
The Mocambo nightclub opened on January 3, 1941
William Haines designed the interior of the latin themed nightclub on Sunset Blvd. The Mocambo was frequented by stars like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland to name a few.
The Mocambo’s main stage was recreated as The Tropicana in the television series “I Love Lucy”.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Mocambo 1949
William Haines hired then unknown designer Tony Duquette to design and fabricate plaster figurines for the club.
Plaster figurine designed by Tony Duquette.
William Haines went on to design the interiors of some of the most prestigious homes in the United States.
Ann & Jack Warner’s House in Palm Springs, 1963
When Ann and Jack Warner (of Warner Brothers Studios) decided to purchase a home in Palm Springs, they called on Billy Haines to decorate the interior. I love the golden cream neutral palette, the signature low profile furniture and the touch of Chinoiserie with the lamps. Still chic by today’s standards.
Billy Haines career as a renowned Interior Designer continued until his death in 1973. His mark on the design world lives on through the reissue of his furniture designs and the resurgence of the Hollywood Regency Style.
Billy Haines marriage to his husband Jimmy Shields lasted until his death in 1973.
Clockwise; Jimmy Shields, William Haines, Joan Crawford, Joan’s Husband, Al Steele, 1955
Sources: 1. Brody Residence 2. William Haines Photograph 3. The Treasure Box 4. Trocadero 5. Spring Fever 6. Marion Davies 7. Hearst Castle 8. Louis B. Mayer 9. Haines Antiques 10. Joan Crawford’s Home 11. Bette Davis & Joan Crawford 12. Mocambo Exterior 13. Desi & Lucy 14. Plaster Figurine 15. Ann & Jack Warner’s House 16. William Haines & Friends