Claudio Macor’s The Tailor-Made Man, the true story of heartthrob actor William Haines, returns for its 25th anniversary.
In the 1920s – and for decades after – Hollywood found a pretty face, signed them into a long contract and set about making that face a star by manipulating the media and force-feeding them to a paying public. But the pretty face had to play the Hollywood game.
William Haynes came to the notice of Louis B Mayer and was soon made into an A List star as the handsome lead in silent films, playing alongside Joan Crawford, Mary Pickford, Marion Davies, amongst many. Haynes, though, was gay, but this was kept quiet by MGM paying journalists not to write anything detrimental. Nonetheless, when he was arrested in bed with a sailor the studio chiefs wanted him to change his ways or ‘marry’ a fading female star.
All the cast perform exceptionally well in this. Dean Harris (L.B. Mayer) turns in a great rags to riches speech that gets us onside before losing us when it turns homophobic and spiteful; Haines’ lover Jimmy (Tom Berkeley) shows real adoration for the man who doesn’t always treat him right; but my favourites were Rachel Knowles and Yvonne Lawlor who between them brilliantly create Marion Davies, Carole Lombard and a priceless Pola Negri. With wonderful wigs and dresses to die for, these two sassy ladies burn up the stage.
The Tailor-Made Man is both an exposé of all that was hypocritical about Hollywood and about a man who stayed true to himself and conquered all adversity. In a poignant dénouement we discover what happens after the final scene ,which left us with plenty to discuss on the way home.
The Tailor-Made Man, is on at the White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Road, SE11 until Saturday 25 November.
Times: Tuesday – Saturday at 7.30pm; Sunday at 4.00pm.
Admission: £16 and £12 concs.
Phone: 0333 012 4963