Friday, October 21, 2011

William Haines and Jimmy Shields - the happiest marriage in Hollywood.

William Haines and Jimmy Shields, openly flaunted their relationship in Hollywood for almost 50 years.

Jimmy Shields, on the left, husband of actor/decorator, William Haines, second on left. Joan Crawford, (in the middle,) and the two men maintained a lifelong friendship, and Joan called them "the happiest married couple in Hollywood." Haines and Shields were together 47 years.

William Haines' career was cut short by MGM Studios due to his refusal to deny his homosexuality. Haines never returned to film and instead started a successful interior design business with his life
partner Jimmy Shields.

Harlow in Hollywood, authors Mark Vieira and Darrell Rooney (middle); Cafe Trocadero 1935: Edith Gwynne Wilkerson (wife of Trocadero owner Billy Wilkerson), Jean Harlow, William Powell, William Haines' lover Jimmy Shields (standing), Anderson Lawler, unidentified man (standing), William Haines, Edith's sister Marge (bottom)

Billy Haines.
Billy Haines, fell in love with his stand-in, Jimmy Shields, and they moved in together in 1923, a move that destroyed his acting career.

                       Billy Haines and Clair Windsor.

 Although the Hollywood system at the time put pressure on gay actors to provide an 'acceptable' public image by marrying, Haines turned down an offer of marriage from Joan Crawford who was then still hoping to be a rising star. In 1930 Haines and Jimmy Shields bought an antique shop and developed their interest in interior design by giving free advice to their Hollywood customers and friends.

Jimmy Shields, committed suicide a few months after William Haines, death after almost 50 years together.

Joan Crawford, a close friend of Tom Lyle Williams and Emery Shaver, as well as William Haines and Jimmy Shields, introduced the two couples.  Tom Lyle opened an antique store in Beverly Hills, for Emery, where he could meet celebrities, outside the Villa Valentino.  Tom Lyle, preferred a secluded life inside the Villa.  Haines and Shields had a hand in decorating The Villa Valentino, after it's remodel in the late 1930's. 

William Haines and Joan Crawford - Spring Fever, Real life besties William Haines and Joan Crawford share a cute scene in 1927's "Spring Fever".

William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star, talks about his 45 year relationship with Jimmy Shields

Read more about William Haines and Jimmy Shields friendship with Tom Lyle and Emery, in The Maybelline Story. 


  1. Just finished reading the book "Hollywood Bad Boys" and Haines was one of the actors who defied Hollywood moguls and had relationships with a couple icon movie stars as well his long time relationship with Shields. His story is refreshing on two points: he did not hide his homosexuality and he was completely dedicated to his lover Shields, up to the time of his death (and later, Shields suicide). Today, the closets are full to overflowing, and the denials and 'beards' are repeated over and over and when we do find out most have gone through several relationships, averaging, at most, five years! Is it just the sign of times?

  2. I think you'd like reading the Maybelline Story. Founder Tom Lyle Williams and Emery Shaver lived behind the gates of the Villa Valentino to protect their relationship and their families.

  3. This is very interesting, yet so very sad at the end.
    But what a strong couple for those times; and how wonderful and beautiful that they seemed to be supported by many in Hollywood, regardless of the uneducated/blinkered fearsome (and hypocritical) homophobes that were around in the industry and society.
    My partner of nearly 25 years passed away only a few months ago, and I feel I could possibly understand Jimmy Shields feeling of such loss: the surreality and the vacuum that a passing leaves us with when we lose our soul mate; although LGBTIQs in today's world over-all are thankfully far more accepted as an equal part this diverse world, and thus can have more areas of psychological support.
    I miss my lovely man extremely, and rarely a moment in a day goes by without me thinking of him. (...and I thought it was hard enough to cope with when my lovely parents passed away six years ago).
    Thank you for this beautiful post, Ms Williams.
    Best wishes and greetings from Australia.

  4. Thank you Anthony, for your heartfelt comment. My great uncle, Tom Lyle Williams, founder of the Maybelline Co. in 1915, was with his partner, Emery Shaver, for close to 50 years. When Emery died in 1964, my uncle, couldn't carry on without him and sold the Maybelline Co in 1967. Tom Lyle died in 1976 and their ashes rest together in the same Niche, for evermore. I'm sure the loss you are feeling now is much like Tom Lyle's loss, and he was never the same. The emotional weight of losing a soulmate is so heavy, it takes a lot of courage and strength to carry on. God Bless you and and your partner in Heaven.

  5. You're very welcome, Sharrie. And thank you so much for sharing the story of your great uncle and his partner; and for your very kind words and thoughts.
    I don't know if my late partner's middle sister would want me to be interned with Kenn's ashes in their family plot. She's not homophobic, she's just an extremely insecure an very selfish and self-centred person (and that's putting it nicely While I'm hoping that I'm assuming incorrectly, I feel that Kenn's older sister would probably over-ride any "no" from the middle sister. Anyhow, I'll need to review my will, so I'll see what happens.
    Nevertheless, some of me is actually with Kenn's ashes; as I was able to donate one of my kidneys to him in 2011.
    His plot is many miles from where I live, and I don't drive, so it's not easy to visit his grave since his internment a few months ago; however, I'm looking to visit on Christmas Eve on my way to staying with my sister and her boyfriend for a few days.
    Best, kind and warm wishes to you, Sharrie.

  6. I hope you were able to visit Kenn's grave Christmas Eve. I know it's impossible to believe he's gone. He was obviously a very special guy. Hope you have a better year after all the sadness you've been though. Sharrie Williams