The Tailor-Made Man written by Claudio Macor is the true story of how MGM studio owner Louis B Mayer brought its major silent screen star William “Billy” Haines to his knees in the movie business because of his homosexuality, his indiscreet behavior and his refusal to hide his relationship with his partner (for over 50 years) Jimmie Shields. It is a story that certainly resonates with current events in Hollywood and the world today.
Mitchell Hunt (Mr Selfridge, Hollyoaks) played William “Billy” Haines from his discovery to stardom with great bravado, and a poignant Tom Berkeley was suitably besotted in his portrayal of his life long partner Jimmy Shields. What was particularly effective were several direct monologues to the audience, mainly by Shields, filling in parts of the story and his emotions to events in their turbulent relationship.
With help from Shields. already an interior designer, and also from movie stars like Marion Davies (a very impressive Yvonne Lawlor) and Carole Lombard and the outrageous silent movie star Pola Negri (both played quite wonderfully by Rachel Knowles), Haines managed to rise like a phoenix as a highly successful international interior decorator for the rest of his life.
Louis B Mayer (Dean Harris) and his right hand man Howard Strickling (Edwin Flay) were very masterful in their manipulation of Haines and in his ultimate downfall. They erased all memory of the star’s history by destroying his studio photographs, and having his films removed from release and sealed in the MGM vaults never to be seen again.
Director Bryan Hodgson’s Cut! Action! was a very effective way of marking the beginning and end of each scene keeping the filmic effect of the story. The set, albeit small, evoked the atmosphere extremely well as did the costumes, both outstanding and created by Mike Lees.
This rather compelling and throughly enjoyable production from Eastlake Productions marks the 25th anniversary of the original (non-musical) production, and runs until November 25th at London’s White Bear Theatre.
Review by Peter Harrington : Contributing Editor