That is such a lovely quote. Thank you for sharing it!
It is a lovely quote, tempered somewhat by its coming from someone not exactly known to be a great family member.
I disagree; I think no one is as quick to recognize a genuinely happy family as someone who has only experienced unhappy ones.
Jimmy Shields and Billy Haines were as Out as it was possible to be in those days. Haines was, for a time during the twenties, the biggest star in Hollywood. Rather than succumb to pressure and make a "beard" marriage, he walked away from it all and became the most successful interior decorator in town. I think Carole Lombard gave him his first big job. There are lots of stories still circulating about Jimmie and Billy, including a Haines biography by William Mann, and an anecdote about the Portos Beach scandal in Kenneth Anger's "Hollywood Babylon." I think several of BH's signature rooms still exist, intact and unchanged.
Lemora, just about the only anecdote in Hollywood Babylon that I WANT to be true is the one about Billy Haines more or less inventing color-coordinated sheets after an encounter with the Klan put him off white ones forever.
Reading "Hollywood Babylon" --which I did about thirty years ago-- makes one want to take a shower and immediately watch something uplifting, like "Singin' In The Rain" or "Enchanted April," the better to shake off the sordidness of that book! I have completely blanked on the item about the sheets! The Ku Klux Klan was very powerful in California during the twenties and thirties, if that's when he created the colorful sheets! I skimmed the Mann book on a bargain table when it came out, feeling very skeptical about most of it. Reviewers felt the same way.
Billy Haines was successful as an actor but never the biggest star in Hollywood. What, then, would you call Mary Pickford, Doug, Sr., Charlie Chaplin, Valentino, Gloria Swanson, etc.
He was quite big star when he played playful college boy types. But as he got older, and heavier, those parts faded. So it's not quite fair to say that being "out" ended his career. David Geffen is a big collector of Haines furniture.
Nowadays the 1926 MGM silent "Tell It To The Marines" probably offers William Haines' most prominent role -- a cocky wisecracker transformed by Lon Chaney's tough-as-nails (Has there ever been any other kind in a Hollywood movie?)drill sergeant into a fighting Marine blazing away at Chinese rebels.In time-honored fashion for Chaney pictures, he wins the heroine (Eleanor Boardman)whom Chaney's grizzled leatherneck also loves but must cede (here rather sentimentally) to the young glamorpuss.
So, Michael, I have to ask, not knowing a lot about Billy Haines' screen career or the history of the Marines, where, exactly, in 1926 were the Marines slugging it out with the Chinese? Inquiring minds want to know.
Billy Haines in Tell It To The MarinesEleanor Boardman (Mrs. King Vidor) on the set of Marines.Eleanor Boardman at home (1926).Eleanor Boardman by Arnold Genthe (1918)TEXT
Lemora --"Tell It To The Marines" was released but is not set in 1926.The Haines, Chaney, and Boardman characters end up in China as part of an expedition at an unspecified earlier date to combat an epidemic (she's a nurse)and a bandit army.If memory serves, the film doesn't mention the Boxer Rebellion. But the U.S. Navy (which transports the film's Marines to China) did have some degree of involvement in that conflict. It seems that "Tell It To The Marines" borrows (and perhaps distorts) some bits of this history
Sounds like "Tell It To the Marines" is placed in the same period of time as "The Sand Pebbles." I'd see a movie with Steve McQueen squaring off with Lon Chaney.
Thanks, Michael, for the clarification. I thought it might be the Boxer Rebellion, or a complete fantasy, but wasn't sure. Yojimboen, thank you for the great photos of Eleanor Boardman. I've seen a photo of Eleanor Boardman on the marquee of the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, CA --near where I live and a great old single screen movie palace-- when she was performing there in vaudeville in the 1920's. Another film dealing with the Boxer Rebellion in from 1962: "55 Days To Peking," with David Niven and Ava Gardner. I well remember the scene of her pawing her emeralds. I'd like to see "Tell It To The Marines."
Oh dear. That's what I get for posting so late at night. It was "55 Days At Peking," and Ava Gardner wasn't pawing her emeralds --at least not on camera-- she was pawning them. I remember the movie as really boring, but I was only 14 years old and didn't know anything about this bit of history.
55 Days at Peking was directed by Nicholas Ray, but it could have been directed by anyone. I don't think he was much of an auteur by that point.
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