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Jack Kelly (William Haines) is a golf-obsessed shipping clerk who has helped his boss Mr. Waters (George Fawcett) improve his own golf game. As a reward, his boss grants Jack a two-week stint in paradise: the Oakmont Country Club, where he can hobnob with the wealthy.
Jack initially offends the upper-crusts with his clunky manners. But his golf skills (in real life, Haines hated golf) soon win them over, especially the rich beauty Allie Monte (Joan Crawford). Passing as Mr. Waters' nephew, Jack falls hard for the high life, and when his tenure is up finds it hard to consider returning to his humble origins. Jack therefore vows he will marry for money and insure his place among his new wealthy friends.
Spring Fever (1927) was Joan Crawford's second pairing with William Haines (they had previously appeared in Sally, Irene and Mary in 1925). She would appear soon after with Haines in West Point (1928), filmed on location at the military academy in upstate New York. Crawford was said to scandalize the production of that film when she refused to wear stockings (and according to some reports, a bra) and enjoyed a dalliance with at least one cadet, who was expelled for skipping class to romance the seductive movie star.
Crawford said of her many appearances alongside Haines, "I was strictly secondary." While Crawford's star was rising, Haines was one of the top male movie stars and a major box-office draw during the silent era. According to author Lawrence J. Quirk, Crawford "knew that she was only window-dressing in his movies." Crawford and Haines nevertheless enjoyed a lifelong friendship.
Author Elinor Glyn coined the term "It" to describe the sexual magnetism certain stars possessed. And in a 1927 issue of Photoplay she made her picks of the movie stars who had "It." The stars who possessed the elusive quality of "It" included Clara Bow, John Gilbert, Greta Garbo, Pola Negri, Douglas Fairbanks and Gary Cooper, among others. Haines, however, was one of the stars singled out for not having "It." William J. Mann, author of Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, Hollywood's First Openly Gay Star attributed that to Glyn's unfavorable view of Haines' homosexuality.
When a distraught Louis B. Mayer tried to get Haines to marry or find a girlfriend to reverse the dreaded lack of "It," Haines countered Mayer's claim that he lacked sex appeal. According to author William J. Mann, Haines told Mayer, "You're quite wrong. Before I came out here, I was kept by the best men and women of New York City. I appeal to both sexes!" "He never quite forgave me for that," conceded Haines.
Ultimately, Haines refused to give in to Mayer's pressure to enter into a sham marriage, and instead enjoyed a 50-year relationship with his lover Jimmie Shields. When he left MGM, Haines and Shields transitioned into successful careers as interior designers and antiques dealers. Crawford called them "the happiest married couple in Hollywood."
And even failure to secure "It" did not impede Haines. His turn in Spring Fever was a great success despite some critical misgivings about the film itself. Variety noted "Haines is a likable personality and should travel far. This picture, however, will not help him much. The players do well all around and Ralph Spence's titles contribute effectively on the comedy end, but the director, Sedgwick, could not cope with a weak theme."
Director: Edward Sedgwick
Screenplay: Frank Davis, Albert Lewin; Ralph Spence (titles); Vincent Lawrence (play)
Cinematography: Ira Morgan
Film Editing: Frank Sullivan
Cast: William Haines (Jack Kelly), Joan Crawford (Allie Monte), George K. Arthur (Eustace Tewksbury), George Fawcett (Mr. Waters), Eileen Percy (Martha Lomsdom), Edward Earle (Johnson), Bert Woodruff (Pop Kelly), Lee Moran (Oscar).
by Felicia Feaster