1900 - 1973

“The only real freedom we have left is the home. Only there can we express anything we want.”

– William Haines

As a youngster William Haines spent hours watching early silent films in theaters. At14 he ran away from home, accompanied by a young man he described as his "boyfriend." The couple eventually fled to Hopewell, Virginia, got jobs and even opened dance hall. When Haines moved to New York City in 1919 he immersed himself in the burgeoning gay community of Greenwich Village. Working as a model, he was eventually discovered by a talent stout which resulted in his move to Hollywood. Photogenic and charismatic on screen, Haines's popularity grew throughout the mid-1920s in films like 'The Midnight Express' (1924) and 'Little Annie Rooney' (1925). By 1926 Haines was a star. That same year he met Jimmie Shields while on a trip to New York and convinced him to move to Los Angeles where they lived as a couple. Haines was a top-five box office star from 1928-1932 with films like 'Alias Jimmy Valentine' 11928), 'Show People' (1928), 'Navy Blues' (1929) and 'Way Out West' (1930). But, in 1933, he was arrested at a YMCA in a compromising position with a Marine. MGM's Louis B. Mayer demanded Haines either enter a sham marriage or forfeit his career. When he refused to deny his gay identity, MGM terminated his contract, A few low budget pictures followed before Haines rebred from films in 1934. Afterwards, he and Shields began a successful interior design and antique business with high profile clients like Joan Crawford, the Bloomingdales, Marion Davies, and Gloria Swanson. In 1936 Ku Klux Klan members dragged Haines and Shields from their home and beat them after a neighbor accused them of propositioning their son. Fearing repercussions, the couple did not report the incident to police. After settling in Brentwood, the two remained together until Haines' death from lung cancer in 1973. Heartbroken, Shields died by suicide three months later. The two men Joan Crawford once called "the happiest married couple in Hollywood" are interred side by side in Woodlawn Memorial Cemetery.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) Interwar Period (1918-1939) Roaring Twenties (1920-1929)

Field(s) of Contribution



Commemorations & Honors

Hollywood Walk of Fame Star For Motion Pictures (1960)


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Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell