BETHPAGE, New York, NY, 2000 — AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS has begun production on 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 is expected to air on AMC in early in 2001.
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, Senior Vice President of Production, Packaging and Programming. “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 A-list 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 forty-seven years,” remarks executive producer Fenton Bailey. “It also will take a rare look at Hollywood’s on-going 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 Cox-Arquette and Cameron Diaz own Haines’ pieces. Barbato and Bailey — owners of World of Wonder Productions — will be traveling the globe from London to Virginia to Los Angeles conducting interviews and documenting examples of Haines’ extensive career as a designer. Their shooting schedule includes a stop at Winfield House — the grand estate of the United States Ambassador to Great Britain that Haines designed for Walter and Lee Annenberg in 1969.
AWisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood’s First Openly Gay Star is Produced and Directed by Award-winning 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 Co-Produced by Joan Cohen.
AMERICAN MOVIE CLASSICS is the premiere 24-hour movie network featuring award-winning original productions about the world of American film. With one of the finest, most comprehensive libraries of classic films from the 1930s through the 1980s and a diverse blend of original series, documentaries and interstitials, the service offers in-depth information on timeless and contemporary Hollywood classics. Through the network’s multiple platforms AMC’s website (www.amctv.com), AMC’s original broadband programming and AMC Magazine — the entertainment provider informs passionate movie fans about the history behind the films. AMC is available in 73 million homes.