William Haines, also known as Billy Haines, was one of the biggest stars of the silent era. By the end of the silent era he was regularly named the #1 male box-office draw. However, his career quickly vaporized, allegedly after a feud with studio head, LB Mayer. According to the ‘inside story’ Haines, who was gay, would not end his relationship with his long time partner, Jimmie Shields. Mayer allegedly demanded that Haines had a choice: Either leave his partner, Jimmie, or leave the industry. The now well –known threat “You’ll never work in this town again” saying supposedly came from this incident. And so, rather than accede to the demands of LB Mayer and the studio, rather than betray his partner and live the rest of his life as a lie, Haines left the screen.
Haines, then reinvented himself as one of the most successful interior designers in Hollywood. Haines was beloved by almost everyone who met and knew him (but obviously NOT LB Mayer). His loyal friends became his clients, including Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, director George Cukor, Cary Grant, and even rival flim studio owner Jack L. Warner. Haines and Jimmie Shields remained a couple to the very end of their lives– over 50 years together. By the way, Billy Haines furniture and designs are being re-discovered by a whole new generation and are once again gaining popularity.