JERICHO, New York, NY, October 8, 2001 — AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS will premiere a new documentary based on the critically acclaimed book, “Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood’s First Openly Gay Star” by William Mann. The one-hour documentary, OUT OF THE CLOSET, OFF THE SCREEN: THE LIFE OF WILLIAM HAINES, premieres February 5, 2002 on AMC.
Haines shot to stardom in the late 20’s perfecting a witty, wisecracking romantic lead who invariably gets his comeuppance and wins the girl in the final reel. By 1930, the MGM star was the number one male box-office draw in America. “Billy Haines is one of the forgotten giants of the silent era. He took a bold step and risked a lot, rather than not be true to himself or his fans,” says Marc Juris, Executive Vice President and General Manager. “Even though he was the number one male box office star, Billy Haines did something that a lot of people wouldn’t have had the courage to do.”
Billy Haines was one of Hollywood’s Alist stars, both on and off the screen. He rubbed elbows with William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies at San Simeon, counted Joan Crawford as one of his closest friends, and was a frequent dinner guest of director George Cukor. Haines was also openly gay, and his refusal to change his lifestyle at the behest of MGM honcho Louis B. Mayer essentially forced him out of Hollywood three short years later. “At its core, this is really a love story. This is a man who sacrificed his career for the man he loved. He and his partner were together for fortyseven years,” remarks executive producer Fenton Bailey. “It also will take a rare look at Hollywood’s ongoing struggle with how to deal with homosexuality.”
Undaunted by his fading acting career, Haines turned his hobby interior design into a spectacular career that saw him decorating homes and designing furniture for the likes of Joan Crawford, Jack Warner, Alfred and Betsy Bloomingdale, and Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Almost thirty years after his death, Haines’ furniture is more popular than ever as a collectable, and celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Courtney CoxArquette and Cameron Diaz own Haines’ pieces. Barbato and Bailey owners of World of Wonder Productions – traveled the globe from London to Virginia to Los Angeles conducting interviews and documenting examples of Haines’ extensive career as a designer. The special includes scenes filmed at Winfield House the grand estate of the United States Ambassador to Great Britain that Haines designed for Walter and Lee Annenberg in 1969.
OUT OF THE CLOSET, OFF THE SCREEN: THE LIFE OF WILLIAM HAINES is produced and directed by awardwinning filmmakers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey (THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE and AMC’s original series, “The Hollywood Fashion Machine”) of World of Wonder. It is Executive Produced by Marc Juris and Jessica Falcon, Produced by David Schiff, and CoProduced by Joan Cohen.
AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS is the nation’s premier classic movie network, bringing timeless favorites to a broad audience by placing them in a fresh and contemporary context. Award-winning original documentaries, series and specials are infused with the energy and excitement of Hollywood past and present. Launched in 1984, AMC is currently available in 81 million homes.
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