True story of openly gay Hollywood Actor blacklisted

“My father died before my conception!” 

Pola Negri

“Damn Broads complaining about menstruation!” 

Louis B Mayer


Hugo Pilcher as Billy Haines and Shelley Rivers as Miss Marion Davies (Photo: Peter Davies)

In what must be London’s most intimate theatre space, the Stage Door Theatre above the pub the Prince of Wales on the corner of Drury Lane and Long Acre, hosts The Tailor-Made Man. Claudio Macor’s play is revived here in a cosy traverse space in a bar with the audience of maybe 40 seated either side of the action.

It’s a story about one of the Hollywood actors in the 1920s who was making the transition from silent movies to talkies but whose story was blighted by his openly being gay.  Artistic Director Robert McWhir has chosen this as his first play in the new venue.  William Haines (Hugo Pilcher) who was born into a poor cigar maker’s family in Virginia had made a career for himself as a heartthrob in the 1920s, having been signed by Samuel Goldwyn as a “New Face” of 1922 along with BeBe Daniels.  In 1924, Samuel Goldwyn Productions were acquired and became Metro, Goldwyn Mayer.

This left Haines in the grips of Louis B Mayer (a shouty Dereck Walker) who was both homophobic and a misogynist, as well as a completely power-crazed film boss.  Apparently LB was known for his shouting. I liked LB’s way of deciding if a script was the right length: by dropping it from a desk and seeing how long it took to land. 

Haines had a long term live in boyfriend Jimmie Shields (Gwithian Evans) who was very tolerant of Haines’ random flings and sexual encounters.  Jimmie would pass his days alone, when Haines was filming, recreating the drawings Haines had made of the Hollywood aristocracy homes and interiors and how he would redesign them.  We meet the major film stars Carole Lombard (Olivia Ruggiero) and Haines’ long term friend Miss Marion Davies (Shelley Rivers) who was William Randolph Hearst’s mistress. 

Within Evans as Jimmy Shields ans Hugo Pilcher as Billy Haines (Photo: Peter Davies)

Initially Haines is promoted by Howard Strickling (Peter Rae) Head of Publicity for MGM but after a newspaper reporter finds Haines in a liaison at the YMCA, a cover up marriage is proposed to Pola Negri (Olivia Ruggiero).  Haines refuses the lavender marriage and LB Mayer takes a major revenge involving all the other studios in boycotting Haines and worse, condemning all his movies to never be shown by locking them in a vault at MGM. 

Haines is lauded now for maintaining his honesty about his sexuality and Hugo Pilcher conveys his clownish humour and his affection and openness well.  As Haines’ partner Jimmie, Gwithian Evans keeps the relationship afloat with sincerity and loyalty.  Dereck Walker is suitably villainous as the tyrannical Louis B Meyer. Robert McWhir gets excellent performances where the audience is so close to the actors, any hesitation would be exposed. 

There is however a happy ending as the resourceful Jimmie, channelling Haines’ artistic talent,  devises a future for them both in interior design to the rich and famous.  It is a heart warming story about success in the face of cruel adversity.

Winfield House in Regents Park was built in the 1930s for the Woolworths’ heiress Barbara Hutton and her third husband Cary Grant. It has 12 acres, the largest garden of any private house in London, bar Buckingham Palace.  Guess who did the interior design for what is now the London residence of the American Ambassador? 

Production Notes

The Tailor-Made Man

Written by Claudio Macor

Directed by Robert McWhir



Dereck Walker

Gwithian Evans

Peter Rae

Shelley Rivers

Hugo Pilcher

Olivia Ruggiero


Director: Robert McWhir

Set Designer: David Shields

Costume Designer:  Janet Huckle

Lighting Designer: Richard Lambert

Composer:  Aaron Clingham

Video/Projection Design: Steve Caplin


Running Time: One hour 50 minutes

including an interval

Booking to 31st July 2024


Stage Door Theatre

Above The Prince of Wales

150 Drury Lane

London WC2B 5TD


Tube: Covent Garden

Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Stage Door Theatre

on 16th May 2024