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Wisecracker Hardcover – Feb 3 1998


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Viking USA (Feb. 3 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670871559
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670871551
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 16.3 x 3.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 794 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #838,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents


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First Sentence
It's a central fact of his life that Billy Haines rarely told a lie, but he did have his ways of making the truth fit the situation at hand. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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By A Customer on April 28 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book was a major disappointment. It could have been good. Unfortunately, once you throw out all the regurgitated gossip, conjecture, and seemingly endless repetition, there's not much real information on William Haines. It doesn't help that Mann doesn't seem to know (or care) that he frequently contradicts himself. Potentially interesting topics - that Haines may have been a manic depressive, to name just one - are touched on, but Mann prefers rehashing old publicity to attempting any real insight.
One of the more irritating aspects of this book is the repeated emphasis on how "cultured" Haines was. He quit school at age 14; how and when he acquired the "culture" he was so famous for is never really made clear. It's possible that he educated himself in art, music, literature, etc., which would be laudable as well as interesting, but if this side of Haines existed, Mann does him a huge disservice by ignoring it. Apparently it's enough for Mann that Haines was well-versed in antiques and Emily Post's Etiquette.
As has been pointed out in other reviews, Mann's research leaves a lot to be desired. Take, for example, his reference in Chapter Four to Gloria Swanson's "marriages to European royalty." Supposedly Mann read Swanson's autobiography; of her six husbands -and she discusses each one-only two were Europeans and neither one was a member of a royal family. Sounds like nitpicking, but that's just one of several statements based on slipshod research.
Then there's the question of style. Mann's prose is, on the whole, pedestrian, except when he tries to be imaginative, and then the results are laughable.
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Format: Paperback
This book is very informative and full of eye-opening photographs. It reflects an issue that needs to be addressed much, much more. I already knew much about this silent star, and have learned more just by simply skimming through Mr. Mann's excellent survey. I definitely recommend it as I also recommend another of the author's books, which I am currently reading as well, "Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood 1910-1969."
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By A Customer on May 10 2003
Format: Paperback
For those looking for an introduction to the career of William Haines and for some insights into gay life in the 1920s and 1930s, this book will suffice. But it has as its grounding assumptions several false facts.
1) William Haines was not the biggest moneymaker or the biggest star at MGM in 1930. He was not the Gay Gable. That "fact" is gleaned from one minor poll of distributors and is not reflective of the reality that by 1930 -- even 1929 -- Haines was fading.
2) Haines was fading partly because he was losing his looks -- an odd thing to say about a thirty year old man -- but true. He was getting heavy; he was losing his hair, and he was losing the boyish look that had been the source of his appeal.
3) Anyone who has ever seen a Haines talkie will understand why his career faded. His wiseguy personna did not translate well to the talking screen. He was, in a word, obnoxious. He looked like a big obnoxious stiff.
4) Mann says that changing mores in Hollywood, mores that would soon result in the Hays Code, partly brought about Haines's downfall. Wrong. Haines was already finished by 1932, long before the Code was instituted. And in any case the Code wasn't a product of some kind of consensus within Hollywood. And there could have been no moral re-trenchment in Hollywood, in anticipation of the Code, because in 1932, no one saw it coming. And to know that, all one has to do is watch some 1932 movies.
5) Half the people Mann says were gay weren't.
6) Some of the sex stories are specious, undocumented, seventy-year-old gossip.
7) Haines gayness was a nuisance, so far as MGM was concerned, but if his movies were making money the studio would have kept him indefinitely. He was dropped because his movies were tanking.
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By AJ on July 31 2002
Format: Paperback
Yea, Mr. Mann gets a little gossipy in areas, without stating real facts, and he does tend to lean towards the "gay" angle on everything, but overall this is a pretty good book. He talks way too much about William Haines' teenage sex life which, to me, didn't sound too credible, but I pick and choose what I want to believe. He also DOES say all that a previous reviewer said about the Arbuckle/Rappe scandal (which I do believe was Rappe getting even with Fatty, by the way), but if you're film buff enough to know who William Haines is, I think most would shrug it off. The very ending of the book was moving -- but I won't give that away! Buy it and see for yourself.
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Format: Paperback
I got much more out of this biography than I expected. I wanted to learn more about Billy Haines, and his struggle to be openly gay in Hollywood, and about his long marriage to Jimmie Shields. But, what I learned was how alot of people in Hollywood were gay, and openly so, but then became closeted later. Stars I never knew were gay, Cary Grant, Claudette Colbert and many others. The book was fascinating. Lots of gossip, Hollywood stories, movie star information, but more than all that its a book about the amazing life of Billy Haines, and more than 50 year love affair with his companion Jimmie Shields. The book was well researched and never really left me wanting more. I recommend this book as a source for Hollywood lovers, and for gay men and women. A story all would enjoy, and a life worth reading about.
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