In 1930 William Haines was Hollywood's #1 box-office draw—a talented, handsome, and wisecracking romantic lead. Off screen, however, protected by a careful collaboration between studio and press, he was openly gay with reporters and studio chiefs alike. Here is Haines's virtually unknown story—rich with detail, revelations, and scandal—about silent movies and talkies; his lover Jimmie Shields, and their fifty-year relationship (Joan Crawford, their best friend, called them "The happiest married couple in Hollywood") and the enforcement of the Production Code and establishment of the Hollywood closet, which led to the blacklisting that ultimately doomed Haimes's film career.
Wisecracker sweeps from gay pool parties to the excitement of early talkies to Haines's infamous encounter with gay-bashing white supremacists in 1936. He survived the scandal to emerge as a top interior decorator to the stars and to such clients as Nancy Reagan and Walter Annenberg, who employed him for the American Embassy in London. With a cast of characters running from Tallulah Bankhead to Betsy Bloomingdale, from Clark Gable to William Randolph Hearst, Wisecracker is an astounding piece of newly discovered gay history, a chronicle of high Hollywood, and—at its heart—a great and enduring love story.