Wisecracker cover

(This is a copy of a Goodreads review.)

An encouraging bit of Pride Month reading of the “Nice to know we’ve always been here” variety. “Openly gay” in the context of the 1920s held a different meaning than today, not an affirmation, but a refusal to lie, evading direct questions with clever evasions (making Haines the “Wisecracker” of the title). That’s bad for the author, leaving him with a lack of primary sources and the need to offer what evidence he can gather to support educated guesses or outright speculation about many important events. Still, he was able to speak with many who where there, and to build a portrait of the vibrant gay social scene in the Hollywood of the 1920s (almost rivaling the one in Berlin in the same period) and how it changed in the face of the more reactionary 1930s.

There’s a lot of name dropping and Hollywood gossip to titillate, but at its heart, it’s a portrait of a good, honest, and much-loved man who lived a life of integrity for more than 50 years before Stonewall and whose 47-year relationship with his partner put all his straight friends and Beverly Hills neighbors to shame. Not essential, but well worth the time. I’m putting the author’s more general survey of Gay Hollywood on my reading list.

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