Jayne Mansfield

Jayne Mansfield

Mansfield in Kiss Them for Me (1957)
Born Vera Jayne Palmer
(1933-04-19)April 19, 1933
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Died June 29, 1967(1967-06-29) (aged 34)
Orleans Parish, Louisiana
Cause of death Traumatic brain injury sustained in automobile accident
Resting place Fairview Cemetery (Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania)
40°51′42″N 75°14′25″W / 40.861672°N 75.240244°W / 40.861672; -75.240244
Other names Vera Jayne Peers
Vera Palmer
Education Southern Methodist University
University of Texas at Austin
University of California, Los Angeles
Years active 1954–1967
Spouse(s) Paul Mansfield (m. 1950–58)
Miklós Hargitay (m. 1958–64)
T.V. Ottaviano, alias Matt Cimber (m. 1964–66)
Children Jayne Marie Mansfield
Mickey Hargitay Jr.
Zoltan Hargitay
Mariska Hargitay
Antonio Raphael Ottaviano (aka Tony Cimber)
Parent(s) Herbert William Palmer (1904–1936)
Vera Jeffrey Palmer Peers (1903–2000)
Awards Theatre World Award for Promising Personality (1956)
Golden Globe for New Star Of The Year – Actress (1957)
Website http://www.jaynemansfield.com/

Jayne Mansfield (born Vera Jayne Palmer; April 19, 1933 – June 29, 1967) was an American actress in film, theatre, and television. Mansfield became a major Broadway star in 1955, a major Hollywood star in 1956, and a leading celebrity in 1957.[1] She was also a nightclub entertainer, a singer, and one of the early Playboy Playmates. She was a major Hollywood sex symbol of the 1950s and early 1960s and 20th Century Fox's main sex symbol actress, along with Marilyn Monroe.[2][3] She was also known for her well-publicized personal life and publicity stunts, such as wardrobe malfunctions.[4][5]

While Mansfield's film career was short lived, she had several box-office successes and won a Theatre World Award and a Golden Globe. She enjoyed success in the role of fictional actress Rita Marlowe, both in the 1955–1956 Broadway version and the 1957 Hollywood film version of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?. Her other major movie performances were for The Girl Can't Help It (1956), The Wayward Bus (1957), and Too Hot to Handle (1960). In the sexploitation film Promises! Promises! (1963), she became the first major American actress to have a nude starring role in a Hollywood motion picture. Mansfield's professional name came from her first husband, public relations professional Paul Mansfield. In 1967, Mansfield was killed in a car crash at the age of 34, along with two others.

Early life and education

Jayne Mansfield was born Vera Jayne Palmer on April 19, 1933, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She was the only child of Herbert William Palmer (1904–1936), who was of German and English ancestry, and Vera (Jeffrey) Palmer (1903–2000), of English origin.[6] She inherited more than $90,000 from her maternal grandfather Thomas ($739,000 in 2016 dollars)[7] and more than $36,000 from her maternal grandmother, Beatrice Mary Palmer, in 1958 ($296,000 in 2016 dollars).[8][9][Notes 1]

She spent her early childhood in Phillipsburg, New Jersey,[11] where her father was an attorney practising with future New Jersey governor Robert B. Meyner. In 1936, her father Herbert William Palmer died of a heart attack while driving a car with his wife and daughter. In 1939 Vera married sales engineer Harry Lawrence Peers, and the family moved to Dallas, Texas,[12] where she was known as Vera Jayne Peers.[13][14]

As a child she wanted to be a Hollywood star like Shirley Temple, as did many other young girls of her time.[15][16][17] She graduated from Highland Park High School in 1950.[18][19][20][21] At the age of 12, she took lessons in ballroom dance.[22] While in high school, Palmer took lessons in violin, piano and viola. She also studied Spanish and German.[23][24] She consistently received high B's in school, including mathematics.[25]

She married Paul James Mansfield on May 10, 1950. Their daughter, Jayne Marie Mansfield, was born on November 8, 1950. After marriage, Mansfield and her husband enrolled in Southern Methodist University to study acting.[26][27][28] In 1951, she moved to Austin, Texas, with her husband, and studied dramatics at the University of Texas at Austin, until her junior year.[19][20][21][27] There she worked as a nude model for art classes, sold books door to door, and worked as a receptionist of a dance studio.[29][30][31] She also joined the Curtain Club,[30] a popular campus theatrical society that featured Tom Jones, Harvey Schmidt, Rip Torn, and Pat Hingle among its members of that time.[30][32][33]

In 1952, she moved back to Dallas and for several months was a student of actor Baruch Lumet, father of director Sidney Lumet and founder of Dallas Institute of Performing Arts.[34][35][36] Lumet called Mansfield and Rip Torn his "kids", and provided her private lessons.[19][37] Then she spent a year at Camp Gordon, Georgia (a US Army training facility) when Paul Mansfield served in the United States Army Reserve in the Korean War.[31]

They moved to Los Angeles in 1954, where Mansfield studied Theater Arts at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) during the summer,[19][20] and returned to Texas to spend the fall quarter at Southern Methodist University.[1] She managed to maintain a B grade average, between a variety of odd jobs, including selling popcorn at the Stanley Warner Theatre, teaching dance,[38] vending candy at a movie theater,[26] modeling part-time at the Blue Book Model Agency,[39] and working as a photographer at Esther Williams' Trails Restaurant.[1][27][34]

Early career

Jayne Mansfield
Playboy centerfold appearance
February 1955
Preceded by Bettie Page
Succeeded by Marilyn Waltz
Personal details
Measurements Bust: 40 in (102 cm)[40]
Waist: 21 in (53 cm)[40]
Hips: 35 in (89 cm)[40]
Height 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m) (5 ft 8 in, according to her autopsy)

While attending The University of Texas at Austin, Mansfield won several beauty contests, including: Miss Photoflash, Miss Magnesium Lamp, and Miss Fire Prevention Week. The only title she refused was Miss Roquefort Cheese, because she believed it "... just didn't sound right."[41] Mansfield accepted a bit part in a B-grade film titled Prehistoric Women (produced by Alliance Productions, alternatively titled The Virgin Goddess) in 1950.[31] In 1952, while in Dallas, she and Paul Mansfield participated in small local-theater productions of The Slaves of Demon Rum and Ten Nights in a Barroom, and Anything Goes in Camp Gordon, Georgia. After Paul Mansfield left for military service, Mansfield first appeared on stage in a production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman on October 22, 1953, with the players of the Knox Street Theater, headed by Lumet.[1]

While at UCLA, she entered the Miss California contest (hiding her marital status), and won the local round before withdrawing.[31] She also won many small and local beauty pageants, including Miss Photoflash, Miss Magnesium Lamp, Miss Fire Prevention Week, Gas Station Queen, Miss Analgesin, Cherry Blossom Queen, Miss Third Platoon, Miss Blues Bonnet of Austin, Miss Direct Mail, Miss Electric Switch, Miss Fill-er-up, Miss Negligee, Nylon Sweater Queen, Miss One for the Road, Miss Freeway, Hot Dog Ambassador, Miss Geiger Counter, Best Dressed Woman of Theater, Miss 100% Pure Maple Syrup, Miss July Fourth, Miss Texas Tomato, Miss Standard Foods, Miss Orchid, Miss Potato Soup, Miss Lobster, Miss United Dairies and Miss Chihuahua Show.[42][43][44]

Early in her career, her prominent breasts were considered problematic, and led to her losing her first professional assignment—an advertising campaign for General Electric that depicted young women in bathing suits relaxing around a pool.[45] Emmeline Snively, head of the Blue Book Model Agency, sent her to photographer Gene Lester, which led to her short-lived assignment in the General Electric commercial.[34] In 1954, she auditioned at both Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. for a part in The Seven Year Itch, but failed to impress.[1] She also auditioned at Paramount for Joan of Arc—a project that was never completed—and failed again.[46][47] That year, she landed her first acting assignment in Lux Video Theatre, a series on CBS (An Angel Went AWOL, October 21, 1954).[1] In the show, she sat at the piano and delivered a few lines of dialogue for $300 ($3,000 in 2016 dollars[7]).[48]

She posed nude for the February 1955 issue of Playboy, modelling in pajamas raised so that the bottoms of her breasts showed. This increased the magazine's circulation and helped launch Mansfield's career.[49][50][51] Playboy had begun publishing from publisher–editor Hugh Hefner's kitchen in 1953, but became popular in the first decade of publication—riding on the popularity of its early Playmates like Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page and Anita Ekberg.[52][53] Beginning in February 1955, she formed a long-standing relationship with Playboy. Shortly afterward, she posed for the Playboy calendar covering her breasts with her hands. Playboy featured Jayne every February from 1955 to 1958, and again in 1960.[51]

In August 1956, Paul Mansfield claimed custody of their daughter, claiming Jayne was an unfit mother because she appeared nude in Playboy.[54] In 1964, the magazine repeated the pictorial.[51] Photos from that pictorial were reprinted in a number of Playboy issues, including: December 1965 ("The Playboy Portfolio of Sex Stars"), January 1979 ("25 Beautiful Years"), January 1984 ("30 Memorable Years"), January 1989 ("Women of the Fifties"), January 1994 ("Remember Jayne"), November 1996 ("Playboy Gallery"), August 1999 ("Playboy's Sex Stars of the Century"; Special edition), and January 2000 ("Centerfolds of the Century"). In the week following her first Playboy appearance, Mansfield caught Hollywood and media attention by dropping her bikini-top at a press junket for the Jane Russell film Underwater! (RKO, 1955).[55]

Film career

Career beginnings (1954–1955)

Mansfield's first film part was a supporting role in Female Jungle, a low-budget drama completed in ten days while she was still a student at UCLA. Her part was filmed over a span of just a few days, and she was paid $150 ($1,000 in 2016 dollars[7]).[47] The film was released unofficially in early 1955. In February 1955, James Byron, her manager and publicist, negotiated a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers, who were intrigued by her publicity antics.[56] The contract initially paid her $250 a week ($2,000 in 2016 dollars) and landed her two films—one for an insignificant role and another unreleased for two years. She filed for separation from Paul Mansfield that January.[55][56] Mansfield was given bit parts in Pete Kelly's Blues (1955), starring Jack Webb, and Hell on Frisco Bay (1955), starring Alan Ladd. She acted in one more movie with Warner Brothers—another small, but significant role opposite Edward G. Robinson in the courtroom-drama Illegal (1955).[57] Dissatisfied with the Warner contract, she hired attorney Greg Bautzer to get out of it.[56]

Then her agent, William Shiffrin, signed her to play fictional film star Rita Marlowe in the Broadway play Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? with Orson Bean and Walter Matthau. It became her first major performance, garnering her critical attention, although not always positive, and public popularity.[58] After securing the part in the show, she accepted producer Louis W. Kellman's offer to play a dramatic role in The Burglar (1957), director Paul Wendkos's film adaptation of David Goodis' novel.[59] The film was done in film noir style, and Mansfield appeared alongside Dan Duryea and Martha Vickers. The Burglar was released two years later, when Mansfield's fame was at its peak. She was successful in this straight dramatic role, though most of her subsequent film appearances were either comedic or capitalized on her sex appeal.[60] It was Kellman's first major venture, and he claimed to have "discovered" Mansfield.[61]

Film stardom (1955–1958)

Mansfield in the trailer for Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)
Mansfield in Kiss Them for Me (1957) with Cary Grant and Suzy Parker.

Mansfield returned to Hollywood on May 3, 1956, wearing a $20,000 mink coat ($174,000 in 2016 dollars[7]) but without any work.[28] Twentieth Century-Fox immediately signed a six-year contract with her in an effort to mold her as a successor to the increasingly difficult Marilyn Monroe,[62] their resident blonde bombshell, who was separated from the studio at the time. Mansfield was still under contract to Broadway and continued playing Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? on the stage.

Mansfield received her first starring film role as Jerri Jordan in the Frank Tashlin's The Girl Can't Help It (1956).[63] The film, originally titled Do-Re-Mi, featured a high-profile cast of contemporary Rock-n-Roll and R&B artists including Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino, The Platters, and Little Richard.[64] The Girl Can't Help It was released in December 1956 and became one of the year's biggest successes, both critically and financially. Fox thereby bought Mansfield out of her Broadway contract for $100,000 ($872,000 in 2016 dollars[7]) and shut the production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? down after 444 performances.[65][66] Soon afterwards, Fox started promoting Mansfield as "Marilyn Monroe king-sized", in an effort to threaten Monroe to return to the studio and finish the contract she had committed to.[67]

Mansfield then played a dramatic role in The Wayward Bus (1957) adapted from John Steinbeck's novel. In this film, she attempted to move away from her "blonde bombshell" image and establish herself as a serious actress. It enjoyed moderate success at the box office, and Mansfield won a Golden Globe in 1957 for New Star of the Year (beating Carroll Baker and Natalie Wood) for her performance as a "wistful derelict". It was "generally conceded to have been her best acting", according to The New York Times, in a fitful career hampered by her flamboyant image, distinctive voice ("a soft-voiced coo punctuated with squeals"), voluptuous figure and limited acting range.[68]

In 1957, Tashlin cast Mansfield in the film version of the Broadway show Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?[26] reprising her role of Rita Marlowe alongside co-stars Tony Randall and Joan Blondell. Fox launched their new blonde bombshell with a forty-day sixteen-country tour of Europe for the studio. She attended the premiere of film (released as Oh! For a man in the UK) in London, and met the Queen of England as part of the tour.[69][70][71]

Mansfield's fourth starring role in a Hollywood film was in Kiss Them for Me (1957), for which she received prominent billing alongside Cary Grant. However, in the film itself she is little more than comic relief; Grant's character prefers a sleek, demure redhead played by fashion model Suzy Parker. Kiss Them for Me was described as "vapid" and "ill-advised", and was a critical and box office flop. The film was Mansfield's final starring role in a mainstream Hollywood studio film.[72] It also marked one of the last attempts by 20th Century-Fox to publicize her.[73]

The continuing publicity surrounding Mansfield's physical appearance failed to sustain her career.[74] Fox gave her a leading role opposite Kenneth More in The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958), a western comedy filmed on location in England. In the film Mansfield sang three songs, but the studio had her voiced dubbed by singer Connie Francis. When the film was released in the United States in 1959, it was Mansfield's last mainstream film success. Mansfield was offered a part opposite James Stewart and Jack Lemmon in the romantic comedy Bell, Book and Candle (1958), but had to turn it down because of her pregnancy.[75][76] Thereafter, Fox attempted to cast Mansfield opposite Paul Newman in Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1958), his ill-fated first attempt at comedy. After intense lobbying by Newman and Joanne Woodward, however, she was replaced by Mansfield's Wayward Bus co-star Joan Collins.[77]

Career decline (1959–1963)

Mansfield in Too Hot to Handle (1960)

With decreased demand for big-breasted blonde bombshells and an increased negative backlash against her excessive publicity, she became a box-office has-been by the early 1960s,[1] but she remained a popular celebrity, continuing to attract large crowds outside the United States by way of lucrative and successful nightclub acts.

Despite her publicity and popularity, Mansfield had no quality film roles after 1959. She was also unable to fulfill a third of her time contracted to Fox because of her repeated pregnancies. Fox stopped viewing her as major Hollywood star material, and started loaning her out to foreign productions until the end of her contract in 1962. She was first loaned out to English studios and then to Italian studios for a series of low-budget films, many of them obscure and some considered lost.[78][79]

In 1959, Fox cast her in two independent gangster films filmed in the United Kingdom: The Challenge and Too Hot to Handle. Both films were low-budget, and their American releases were delayed.[80] Too Hot to Handle was not released in the United States until 1961 (as Playgirl After Dark), and The Challenge in 1963 (as It Takes a Thief). In the United States, censors objected to a scene in Too Hot to Handle where Mansfield, wearing silver netting with sequins painted over her nipples, appeared nearly nude.[81]

Nude in Promises! Promises! (1963)

When Mansfield returned to Hollywood in mid-1960, 20th Century-Fox cast her in It Happened in Athens (1962). She received first billing above the title, but only appeared in a supporting role. It Happened in Athens starred Trax Colton, a handsome newcomer and an unknown whom Fox was trying to mold into a heartthrob. This Olympic Games-based film was shot in Greece in fall 1960, but was unreleased until June 1962. It was a box office failure, and Mansfield's 20th Century-Fox contract was dropped.

In 1961, Mansfield signed on for an above-the-title billing minor role in The George Raft Story. Starring Ray Danton as Raft, the film showcased Mansfield as a glamorous film star in a small part. Soon after the release of The George Raft Story, Mansfield returned to European films. Over the next few years she appeared primarily in low-budget foreign films such as: Heimweh nach St. Pauli (1963, Germany), L'Amore Primitivo (1964, Italy), Panic Button (1964, Italy) and Einer frisst den anderen (1964, Germany).

In 1963, Tommy Noonan persuaded Mansfield to become the first mainstream American actress to appear nude in a starring role in the film Promises! Promises!. Nude photographs of Mansfield on the set were published in the June 1963 issue of Playboy, which resulted in obscenity charges against Hugh Hefner in Chicago city court.[82] Promises! Promises! was banned in Cleveland, but enjoyed box-office success elsewhere. As a result of the film's success, Mansfield landed on the Top 10 list of box-office attractions for that year.[83]

Final years (1964–1967)

Soon after her success in Promises! Promises! Mansfield was chosen from many other actresses to replace the recently deceased Marilyn Monroe in Kiss Me, Stupid, a 1964 romantic comedy that would co-star Dean Martin. She turned the role down due to her pregnancy with daughter Mariska Hargitay (known best for her role as Detective Olivia Benson on the television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), and was replaced by Kim Novak. That same year, Mansfield appeared in a salacious-for-its-time pinup book called "Jayne Mansfield for President: the White House or Bust," which was promoted on billboards; the photographs were taken by commercial and fine art photographer David Attie.[84] In 1966 Mansfield was cast in Single Room Furnished, directed by then-husband Matt Cimber. The film required Mansfield to portray three different characters, and was her first starring dramatic role in several years. It was briefly released in 1966, but did not enjoy a full release until 1968, almost a year after her death.

After Single Room Furnished wrapped, Mansfield was cast opposite Mamie Van Doren and Ferlin Husky in The Las Vegas Hillbillys (1966), a low-budget comedy from Woolner Brothers. It was her first country and western film, and she promoted it through a 29-day tour of major U.S. cities, accompanied by Ferlin Husky, Don Bowman, and other country musicians. Before filming began, Mansfield said she would not "share any screen time with the drive-in's answer to Marilyn Monroe," meaning Van Doren. Though their characters do share one scene, Mansfield and Van Doren filmed their parts at different times, later edited together.[85]

Mansfield's wardrobe relied on the shapeless styles of the 1960s to hide her weight gain after the birth of her fifth child.[86] Despite career setbacks, Mansfield remained a highly visible celebrity during the early 1960s, through her publicity antics and stage performances. In early 1967, Mansfield filmed her last film role: a cameo in A Guide for the Married Man, a comedy starring Walter Matthau, Robert Morse, and Inger Stevens. Mansfield is listed as one of the technical advisers, along with other popular stars in the opening credits.[87]

Stage career

Mansfield acted both on stage and in films. She was a student of acting, theater arts and dramatics in college and with Baruch Lumet. She started acting with campus clubs and summer stock theatre. Her first big break was on Broadway with Will success spoil Rock Hunter, for which she won a Theatre World Award as the most promising actress. In her later career she was more busy on stage, performing and making appearances with her nightclub acts, club engagements and performance tours. By 1960, she made personal appearances for everything from supermarket promotions to drug store openings, at $10,000 per appearance ($80,000 in 2016 dollars[7]).[88]


During her tenure at Dallas, she and Paul Mansfield participated in a number of local theater productions. Between 1951 and 1953 she acted in The Slaves of Demon Rum, Ten Nights in a Barroom and Anything Goes. Her performance in an October 1953 production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman in Dallas, Texas, attracted Paramount Pictures to audition her.[89] Lumet trained her for the audition.[19] In 1955, she went to New York and appeared in the Broadway production of George Axelrod's comedy Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, also featuring Orson Bean and Walter Matthau. She starred as Rita Marlowe (a wild, blonde Hollywood starlet a la Monroe) in the musical spoofing Hollywood in general and Marilyn Monroe in particular. Her wardrobe in the play, namely a bath-towel, caused a sensation.[90][91][92] Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times described the "commendable abandon" of her scantily clad rendition of Rita Marlowe in the play as "a platinum-pated movie siren with the wavy contours of Marilyn Monroe".[93] She performed in 450 shows of the play between 1955 and 1956.[94] She was considered one of the biggest Broadway-to-Hollywood success stories.[27]

In 1964, she performed in stage productions of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at Carousel Theater and Bus Stop at Yonker Playhouse. Both co-starred Mickey Hargitay and were well-reviewed.[95][96] Mansfield toured small towns in the US alternating between the two plays.[97] In 1965, she performed in another pair of plays – Rabbit Habit at Latin Quarter and Champagne Complex at Pabst Theater. Both were directed by Matt Cimber and were poorly reviewed.[97][98]


Poster for French Dressing

In February 1958, Tropicana Las Vegas launched Mansfield's striptease revue The Tropicana Holiday (produced by Monte Proser, co-starring Mickey Hargitay) under a four-week contract that was extended to eight.[99][100][101] The opening night raised $20,000 for March of Dimes ($164,000 in 2016 dollars[7]). She received $25,000 per week for her performance as Trixie Divoon in the show ($205,000 in 2016 dollars[7]), while her contract with 20th Century Fox was paying her $2,500 per week ($21,000 in 2016 dollars).[102][103][104] She had a million-dollar policy with Lloyd's of London in case of Hargitay dropping her as he whirled Mansfield around for the show.[105][106] When her film offers disappeared, Mansfield turned to Las Vegas again. In December 1960, Dunes hotel and casino launched Mansfield's revue The House of Love (produced by Jack Cole, co-starring Hargitay). She received $35,000 a week as her salary ($280,000 in 2016 dollars), which was the highest in her career.[107][108]

Her wardrobe for the shows at Tropicana and Dunes featured a gold mesh dress with sequins to cover her nipples and pubic region.[94][99][109] That controversial sheer dress was referred to as "Jayne Mansfield and a few sequins".[102] In early 1963, she performed in her first club engagement outside Las Vegas, at Plantation Supper Club in Greensboro, North Carolina, earning $23,000 in a week ($178,000 in 2016 dollars), and then at Iroquois Gardens in Louisville, Kentucky.[110] She returned to Las Vegas in 1966, but her show was staged at Fremont Street, away from the Strip where Tropicana and Dunes were.[99] Her last nightclub act French Dressing was at Latin Quarter in New York in 1966, also repeated at Tropicana.[108] It was a modified version of the Tropicana show, and ran for six weeks with fair success.[111]

Her nightclub career became inspirations for films, documentaries, and a musical album. 20th Century Fox Records recorded "The House of Love" for an album entitled Jayne Mansfield Busts Up Las Vegas in 1962. She played the roles of burlesque entertainer Midnight Franklin in Too Hot to Handle (1960) and Las Vegas show girl Tawni Downs in The Las Vegas Hillbillys (1966).[80][86][112] In 1967, independent documentary Spree (alternative title Las Vegas by Night) on the antics of Las Vegas entertainers was released. The film, narrated as a part of a travelogue of Vic Damone and Juliet Prowse, featured Mansfield, Hargitay, Constance Moore and Clara Ward as guest stars. Mansfield strips and sings "Promise Her Anything" from the film Promises! Promises!.[113][114][115] A court order prohibited using any of the guest stars to promote the film.[116][117]

Television career

Mansfield and Barry Coe in Follow the Sun (1961)

Mansfield's first leading role on television was with NBC's Sunday Spectacular "The Bachelor" in 1956.[118] In her first appearance on British television in 1957 she recited from Shakespeare (including a line from Hamlet)[Notes 2] and played piano and violin.[119][120] Her notable performances in television dramas included episodes of Burke's Law, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Red Skelton Hour (three episodes), Kraft Mystery Theater and Follow the Sun. Mansfield's performance in her first series Follow the Sun ("The Dumbest Blonde"; Season 1, Episode 21; February 4, 1962; produced by 20th Century Fox Television) was hailed as the advent of "a new and dramatic Jayne Mansfield".[121] She appeared on a number of game shows including Talk it up, Down You Go (as a regular panelist in),[122] The Match Game (one rare episode has her as a team captain), and What's My Line? (as a special mystery guest).

She performed in a number of variety shows including The Jack Benny Program (on which she played violin), The Steve Allen Show and The Jackie Gleason Show (during the mid-1960s, when the show was the second-highest-rated program in the U.S.).[123] In November 1957, she was portrayed in one of her nightclub acts in a special episode of The Perry Como Show (Holiday in Las Vegas), which created "a situation" for the audience according to NBC, the television network that broadcast the show.[124] She was a guest on three episodes of The Bob Hope Show touring team. In 1957, she toured United States Pacific Command areas of Hawaii, Okinawa, Guam, Tokyo and Korea with Bob Hope for the United Service Organizations for 13 days appearing as a comedian;[125] and in 1961, toured Newfoundland,[126] Labrador and Baffin Island for a Christmas special.[127] Her talk show career includes a large number of appearances. She appreciated the publicity and appeared frequently in the talk format. .[120] One of her more notable appearances on a variety show was on The Ed Sullivan Show (Season 10, Episode 35; May 26, 1957) right after her success with Rock Hunter. In the show she played violin with a six-person back-up.[128] After the show she exclaimed, "Now I am really national. Momma and Dallas see the Ed Sullivan show!"[129]

By 1958, she charged $20,000 per episode for television performance ($164,000 in 2016 dollars[7]).[130] In 1964, Mansfield turned down the role of Ginger Grant on the up-and-coming television sitcom Gilligan's Island. Although her acting roles were becoming marginalized, Mansfield rejected the part as it epitomized the stereotype she wished to rid herself of.[131] The part eventually went to Tina Louise. A widespread rumor that Jayne Mansfield had a breast-flashing dress mishap at the 1957 Academy Awards was found baseless by Academy researchers.[132] Ten days before her death, she read To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time, a poem by Robert Herrick about early death on The Joey Bishop Show (Mansfield's last television appearance).[133][Notes 3]

As late as the mid-1980s, Mansfield remained one of the biggest television draws.[134] In 1980, The Jayne Mansfield Story aired on CBS starring Loni Anderson in the title role and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mickey Hargitay. It was nominated for three Emmy Awards. She was featured in the A+E Networks TV series Biography in an episode titled Jayne Mansfield: Blonde Ambition.[135][136] The TV series won an Emmy Award in outstanding non-fiction TV series category in 2001.[137] A&E again featured her life in another TV serial, Dangerous Curves, in 1999.[138] In 1988, her story and archival footage was a part of TV documentary Hollywood Sex Symbols.[139]

Music career

Jayne Mansfield
Genres Country, pop
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Violin
Years active 1954–1967
Labels 20th Century Fox Records, MGM Records, London Records, Polydor Records,

Mansfield had classical training in piano and violin. She sang in film soundtracks, on stage for her theatrical and nightclub performances, and had singles and albums published. After her death, Mansfield became an inspiration for punk-rock musicians.


Mansfield sang in English and German for a number of her films, including The Girl Can't Help It ("Ev'rytime" and "Rock Around the Rock Pile"), Illegal ("Too Marvelous for Words"), The Las Vegas Hillbillys ("That makes it"), Too Hot to Handle ("Too Hot To Handle", "You Were Made For Me", "Monsoon" and "Midnight"), Homesick for St. Pauli ("Wo Ist Der Mann" and "Snicksnack Snuckelchen"), The Challenge ("The Challenge of Love"), The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw ("Strolling Down The Lane With Billy" and "If The San Francisco Hills Could Only Talk"), and Promises! Promises! ("I'm in Love", alternative title "Lullaby of Love"). In The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw she lip synced to the voice of Connie Francis for "In The Valley Of Love", while signing two other songs.[140]

Live performances

In 1958, an orchestra was recorded for the 31st Academy Awards ceremony with Jack Benny on first violin, Jayne Mansfield on violin, Dick Powell on trumpet, Robert Mitchum on woodwind, Fred Astaire on drums and Jerry Lewis as conductor; however, the performance was canceled.[141] She played violin with a six-musician back-up ensemble on The Ed Sullivan Show,[142] and sang "Too Marvelous for Words" for The Jack Benny Program ("Jack Takes Boat to Hawaii"; Episode 9, Season 14; November 26, 1963). She sang in her club performances regularly featuring songs like Call Me, This Queen has her aces in all the right places, Plain Jane, Quando-Quando, Besame Mucho, and the song made famous by Marilyn Monroe Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend.[143][144]


Jayne Mansfield discography
Studio albums 2
Singles 6

In 1962, 20th Century Fox Records released an album titled Jayne Mansfield Busts Up Las Vegas, which was a recording of her Las Vegas revue The House of Love. In 1964 MGM Records released a novelty album called Jayne Mansfield: Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky & Me, in which Mansfield recited Shakespeare's sonnets and poems by Marlowe, Browning, Wordsworth, and others against a background of Tchaikovsky's music. The album cover depicted a bouffant-coiffed Mansfield with lips pursed and breasts barely covered by a fur stole, posing between busts of Tchaikovsky and Shakespeare.[145] The New York Times described the album a reading of "30-odd poems in a husky, urban, baby voice". The reviewer went on to remark that "Miss Mansfield is a lady with apparent charms, but reading poetry is not one of them."[146]


Jimi Hendrix played bass and added lead in his session musician days for Mansfield in 1965 on two songs ("As The Clouds Drift By" and "Suey"), released as a 45-rpm single released by London Records in 1966.[147][148] Ed Chalpin, the record producer, claimed that Mansfield played all the instruments on the singles.[149] According to Hendrix historian Steven Roby (Black Gold: The Lost Archives Of Jimi Hendrix, Billboard Books), this collaboration occurred because they shared the same manager.[150][151] Wo ist der Mann sung in German and released by Polydor Records in Austria was much in demand immediately after its release in August 1963. The A-side featured Hans Last's Scnicksnack-Snuckelchen.[152] Two original soundtracks from The Las Vegas Hillbillys That Makes It (an answer to The Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace" )on side-A and Little Things Mean a Lot on side-B — was released in 1964 on the Original Sound label.[153]

Personal life

Film critic and exploitation movie expert Whitney Williams wrote of Mansfield in Variety in 1967 that "her personal life out-rivaled any of the roles she played".[154] Mansfield was married three times, divorced twice, and had five children. She was (reportedly) intimately involved with numerous individuals, including Claude Terrail (owner of the Paris restaurant Tour d'Argent),[155] Robert F. Kennedy,[156] John F. Kennedy,[157] Brazilian billionaire Jorge Guinle,[158] her attorney Samuel S. Brody, Las Vegas entertainer Nelson Sardelli, and producer Enrico Bomba. She met John F. Kennedy through his brother-in-law Peter Lawford at Palm Springs, California in 1960, before he had his alleged affair with Marilyn Monroe, but the alleged affair did not last.[159][160][161] At her death, Mansfield was accompanied by Sam Brody, her lawyer and alleged lover at the time.[162][163]

She had a daughter with her first husband, public relations professional Paul Mansfield. She was the mother of three children from her second marriage to actor/bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay. She also had a son with her third husband, film director Matt Cimber.

First marriage

Jayne met Paul Mansfield, a popular student at Highland Park High School, Dallas, at a party on Christmas Eve of 1949.[164] On May 6, 1950, they married in Fort Worth, Texas. At the time of their marriage, Jayne was 17, and three months pregnant. Paul Mansfield was 20.[165][166][167] While most major biographies put the date at May 6, some sources say the marriage was on May 10, 1950.[168][169][170] According to biographer Raymond Strait, she had an earlier "secret" marriage on January 28, after which she conceived her first child.[171][172] On November 8, 1950, Mansfield gave birth to their daughter, Jayne Marie Mansfield.[1] Some sources cite Paul Mansfield as the father of her child,[165][166] while others allege the pregnancy was the result of date rape.[168][173][174]

Paul Mansfield hoped the birth of their child would discourage her interest in acting. When it did not, he agreed to move to Los Angeles in late 1954 to help further her career.[175] In 1952, she juggled motherhood and classes at the University of Texas. Early in 1952, Paul was called to the United States Army Reserve for the Korean War.[176] While he served in the army, she spent a year at Camp Gordon, Georgia. Her life became easier with Paul's army allotment.[177] Coming back from the Korean War in 1954, he took a job with a small newspaper in East Los Angeles, California, and lived in a small apartment in Van Nuys, Los Angeles, with Jayne and her pets — a Great Dane, three cats named Sabina, Romulus, and Ophelia, two chihuahuas, a poodle dyed pink, and a rabbit.[38][178][179][180] While in California, she left Jayne Marie with her maternal grandparents[31] and spent the summer semester at UCLA.[19][20]

After a series of marital rows around Jayne's ambitions, infidelity, and animals, they decided to annul the marriage.[178][179] It was a long process. In February 1955, Jayne filed for separate maintenance, and in August 1956, Paul filed for custody of their daughter Jayne Marie.[181] Jayne divorced Paul Mansfield in California on October 21, 1956. Paul Mansfield divorced her in Texas on March 16, 1957, on the grounds of mental cruelty. They finally received their divorce papers on January 8, 1958.[182] After the divorce, she decided to keep "Mansfield" as her professional name.[183] Paul Mansfield remarried, settled into the public relations business and moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee—but failed to win custody suits over Jayne Marie or restrain her from traveling abroad with her mother.[184][185]

Two weeks before her mother's death in 1967, 16-year-old Jayne Marie accused her mother's boyfriend at that time, Sam Brody, of beating her.[68] The girl's statement to officers of the Los Angeles Police Department the following morning implicated her mother in encouraging the abuse, and days later a juvenile court judge awarded temporary custody of Jayne Marie to Paul's uncle William W. Pigue and his wife Mary.[165][186][187] Following her 18th birthday, Jayne Marie complained that she had not received her inheritance from the Mansfield estate or heard from her father since Jayne's death.[188][189]

Second marriage

Mansfield and husband Mickey Hargitay dancing at the Candy Stik Lounge, 1962

Mansfield met her second husband Mickey Hargitay at the Latin Quarter in New York on May 13, 1956, where he was performing as a member of the chorus line in Mae West's show.[69] Hargitay was an actor and bodybuilder who had won the Mr. Universe competition in 1955.[190] Mansfield immediately fell for him, which subsequently resulted in a squabble with West.[28][191] In the ensuing row Mr. California, Chuck Krauser, beat up Hargitay. Krauser was arrested and released on a $300 bond ($3,000 in 2016 dollars[7]).[192]

Hargitay proposed to Mansfield with a $5,000 10-carat diamond ring on November 6, 1957 ($211,000 in 2016 dollars[7]), right after she returned from her 40-day European tour.[193][194] On January 13, 1958, days after her divorce from Paul was finalized, Mansfield married Hargitay at the Wayfarers Chapel in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. The unique glass chapel made public and press viewing of the wedding easy. Mansfield wore a sensational pink skintight wedding gown made of sequins with a 30-yard flounce.[195][196]

Hargitay's first film appearance with Mansfield was a bit part in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?.[197] The couple became a popular publicity and performing team touring widely in stage shows, wherein Jayne's leopard-spot bikini became a topic of discussion and newspaper coverage.[79][198][199] Hargitay's tossing her around his waist and spinning her in wide circles as a highlight of her shows made more headlines.[200][201] On screen, he was Mansfield's male lead in her Italian ventures—The Loves of Hercules and L'Amore Primitivo, and a major supporting character in Promises! Promises!. On stage, he was the male lead in The Tropicana Holiday, The House of Love, French Dressing and other nightclub acts.

They were also popular for their personal appearances in television shows such as Bob Hope Christmas Specials.[79] Mansfield and Hargitay had a number of business holdings, including the Hargitay Exercise Equipment Company, Jayne Mansfield Productions, and Eastland Savings and Loan.[202] She co-wrote the autobiographical book Jayne Mansfield's Wild, Wild World with Hargitay. The book also contained 32 pages of black-and-white photographs from the film on glossy paper.[203]

Mansfield's son Zoltan was in the news when a lion named Sammy attacked him and bit his neck while he and his mother were visiting the theme park Jungleland USA in Thousand Oaks, California on November 23, 1966. He suffered from severe head trauma, underwent three surgeries at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California, including a six-hour brain surgery, and contracted meningitis. He recovered. Mansfield's attorney Sam Brody sued the theme park on her behalf for $1,600,000 ($11,374,000 in 2016 dollars[7]).[69][204][205] The negative publicity led to closure of the theme park.[206]

In 1962, she had a well-publicized affair with Enrico Bomba, the Italian producer and production manager of her film Panic Button.[207][208][209] Hargitay accused Bomba of sabotaging their marriage.[210][211] In 1963, she had another well-publicized relationship with singer Nelson Sardelli, whom she said she planned to marry when her divorce from Mickey Hargitay was finalized.[212] The couple divorced in Juarez, Mexico, in May 1963, where Nelson Sardelli accompanied Mansfield in her legal preparations.[83] She had previously filed for divorce on May 4, 1962, but told reporters "I'm sure we will make it up."[213] Their acrimonious divorce had the actress accusing Hargitay of kidnapping one of her children to force a more favorable financial settlement.[214]

Between marriages

After their divorce, Mansfield discovered she was pregnant. Since being an unwed mother would have killed her career, Mansfield and Hargitay announced they were still married. Mariska was born January 23, 1964, after the actual divorce but before California ruled it valid.[215] Mariska later became an actress, best known for her role as Olivia Benson in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. After her birth, Mansfield sued to get the Juarez divorce declared legal and won. The divorce was recognized in the United States on August 26, 1964.[216] Shortly after Mansfield's funeral, Mickey Hargitay sued his former wife's estate for more than $275,000 ($1.96 million in 2016 dollars[7]) to support the children whom he and his third (and last) wife, Ellen Siano, would raise.[216] Hargitay was appointed the guardian of Micky, Zoltan and Mariska by a court decree in June 1967, though they went on living with their mother.[217] He married airline stewardess Ellen Siano in 1968,[218] who accompanied him to New Orleans when he went to pick up his three children with Mansfield after her death.[219] In January 1969, he lost his claim of $275,533 from Mansfield's estate to support the three children ($1,781,000 in 2016 dollars[7]).[220] Towards the very end of her life and some time after her divorce with Hargitay, Mansfield told her ex-husband, on a television talk show, she was sorry for all the trouble she gave him.[221]

Third marriage

Jayne Mansfield with Sam Brody, Germany, 1967

Mansfield became involved with her third husband Matt Cimber (a.k.a. Matteo Ottaviano, né Thomas Vitale Ottaviano), an Italian-born film director, when he directed her in a well-reviewed stage production of Bus Stop in Yonkers, New York costarring Hargitay.[222][223] She married him on September 24, 1964, in Mulegé, Baja California Sur, Mexico. The couple separated on July 11, 1965, and filed for divorce on July 20, 1966.[224] Cimber took over the management of her career during their marriage, and guided her through a series of increasingly tawdry projects like Promises, Promises and The Las Vegas Hillbillys.[26] Her marriage to Cimber began to collapse in the wake of Mansfield's alcohol abuse, open infidelities and her disclosure to Cimber that she had only been happy with her former lover, Nelson Sardelli. Work on Mansfield's film, Single Room Furnished directed by Cimber (1966) was suspended.[225]

Mansfield at the time had descended into alcoholism, drunken brawls and cheap burlesque shows.[3][163][226] By July 1966, Mansfield started living with her attorney Sam Brody, who had frequent drunken brawls with her and mistreated her eldest daughter Jayne Marie. Sam's wife Beverly Brody filed a divorce suit naming Mansfield as the "41st other woman" in Sam's life.[31][227][228] Cimber's divorce from the actress was pending when she was killed. The couple had one son, Antonio Raphael Ottaviano (a.k.a. Tony Cimber, born October 18, 1965). Mansfield's youngest child, Tony was raised by his father, Matt Cimber and his third wife, dress designer Christy Hilliard Hanak, whom he married on December 2, 1967.[31][227][228] Tony Cimber later worked as an announcer for Married... with Children and a producer for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.


She was a major Hollywood sex symbol of the 1950s and early 1960s and 20th Century Fox's alternative to Marilyn Monroe. She came to be known as the "Working Man's Monroe".[2][3] She was one of Hollywood's original blonde bombshells,[229] and, although many people have never seen her movies,[230] Mansfield remains one of the most recognizable icons of 1950s celebrity culture.[230]

According to Hollywood historian and biographer James Robert Parish, Mansfield's hourglass figure (she claimed dimensions of 40-21-35), unique sashaying walk, breathy baby talk and cleavage-revealing costumes made a lasting impact on popular culture.[31] According to Hollywood historian Andrew Nelson, she was seen as Hollywood's gaudiest, boldest D-cupped B-grade actress from 1955 until the early 1960s.[3]

Frequent references have been made to Mansfield's very high IQ, which she claimed was 163.[231] In addition to English, she spoke four other languages. She learned French, Spanish, and German in high school, and she studied Italian in 1963.[232] Reputed to be Hollywood's "smartest dumb blonde", she later complained that the public did not care about her brains: "They're more interested in 40–21–35," she said.[3][28]


A natural brunette, Mansfield had her hair bleached and colored platinum blonde when she moved to Los Angeles,[233] and became one of the early "blonde bombshells", along with Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable and Mamie Van Doren.[234][235][236][237] In 1958, she also had her eyebrows dyed platinum.[42] Following Jean Harlow (who started the trend with her film Bombshell),[238][239] Monroe, Mansfield, Van Doren and Diana Dors helped establish the stereotype typified by a combination of curvaceous physique, very light-colored hair and a perceived lack of intelligence.[240] A review of English-language tabloids shows it to be one of the most persistent blonde stereotypes—along with busty blonde, and blonde babe.[241]

Mansfield, Monroe and Barbara Windsor have been described as representations of a historical juncture of sexuality in comedy and popular culture.[242] Academics also added Anita Ekberg and Bettie Page to the list of catalysts of the trend of exaggerated female sexuality, besides Mansfield and Monroe.[243][244] M. Thomas Inge describes Mansfield, Monroe and Jane Russell as personification of the bad girl in popular culture.[245] Monroe, Mansfield, Judy Holliday and Goldie Hawn are also identified to have established the stereotype of the "dumb blonde",[246] typified by their combination of overt sexuality and apparent inability to understand everyday life.[247] Instead of the asexualized and virginal "nice girls" of earlier films, the pneumatic blonde bombshells took over the screen in the 1950s to become a cult that has been consistently emulated from that era onward.[248][249] Social historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg described the 1950s as "an era distinguished by its worship of full-breasted women" and attributes the paradigm shift to Mansfield and Monroe.[250] Patricia Vettel-Becker made that observation more specific by attributing the phenomenon to Playboy and the appearance of Mansfield and Monroe in the magazine.[251]


Throughout her career, Mansfield was compared by the media to the reigning sex symbol of the period, Marilyn Monroe.[29] 20th Century Fox groomed her, as well as Sheree North, to substitute Monroe, their resident "blonde bombshell", while Universal Pictures launched Van Doren as their substitute.[252] The studio launched Mansfield, their new bombshell, with a grand 40-day tour of England and Europe from September 25 to November 6, 1957.[253] She adopted Monroe's vocal mannerisms instead of her original husky voice and Texan speech,[254] performed in two plays that were based on Marilyn Monroe vehicles Bus Stop and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,[255] and her role in The Wayward Bus was strongly influenced by Monroe's character in Bus Stop.[97]

Other studios also tried to find their own version of Monroe. Columbia Pictures tried it with Cleo Moore, Warner Bros. with Carroll Baker, Paramount Pictures with Anita Ekberg, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with Barbara Lang,[256] while Diana Dors was dubbed as England's answer to Mansfield.[257] Jacqueline Susann wrote, "When one studio has a Marilyn Monroe, every other studio is hiring Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren."[258] The crowd of contenders also included Sheree North, Kim Novak, Joi Lansing, Beverly Michaels, Barbara Nichols and Greta Thyssen, and even two brunettes Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Russell.[259][260][261] Mamie Van Doren, Diana Dors and Kim Novak also acted in various productions of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.[262] Even when Mansfield's film roles were drying up she was widely considered Monroe's primary rival; Mansfield considered Mamie Van Doren her professional nemesis.[263] At one point, Monroe, Mansfield, and Mamie were known as The Three M's.[264][265]


Because of her striking figure, newspapers in the 1950s routinely published her body measurements, which once led to evangelist Billy Graham exclaiming, "This country knows more about Jayne Mansfield's statistics than the Second Commandment."[230] Mansfield claimed a 41-inch bust line and a 22-inch waist when she made her Broadway debut in 1955, though some scholars dispute those figures.[254] She was known as the Cleavage Queen and the Queen of Sex and Bosom.[266]

Mansfield's breasts fluctuated in size, it was said, from her pregnancies and nursing her five children. Her smallest bust measurement was 40D (102 cm), which was constant throughout the 1950s, and her largest was 46DD (117 cm), measured by the press in 1967.[267] According to Playboy, her vital statistics were 40D-21-36 (102-53-91 cm) on her 5'6" (1.68 m) frame.[40] According to her autopsy report, she was 5'8" (1.73 m).

It has been claimed that her bosom was a major force behind the development of the 1950s brassieres, including the whirlpool bra, cuties, the shutter bra, the action bra, latex pads, cleavage-revealing designs, and uplifted outlines.[268][269] R. L. Rutsky[270] and Bill Osgerby[271] have claimed that it was Mansfield, along with Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot, who made the bikini popular. Drawing on the Freudian concept of fetishism, British science fiction writer and socio-cultural commentator J. G. Ballard commented that Mae West, Mansfield and Monroe's breasts "loomed across the horizon of popular consciousness."[272] But, as the 1960s approached, according to Dave Kehr, the anatomy that had made her a star turned her into a joke.[254] In this decade, the female body ideal shifted to appreciate the slim waif-like features popularized by supermodel Twiggy, actress Audrey Hepburn and others, demarcating the demise of the busty blonde bombshells.[249][273][274]


Mansfield's publicity drive was one of the best in Hollywood. For publicity she gave up all privacy, keeping her doors always open to photographers.[88][275] In 1954, the day before Christmas she walked into publicist James Byron's office with a gift and asked him to supervise her publicity.[88] From that time till the end of 1961, Byron shaped much of her publicity.[107] Byron appointed most people in her team — William Shiffrin (press agent), Greg Bautzer (attorney) and Charles Goldring (business manager),[276] and constantly planted bits of publicity material in the media.[275] She appeared in about 2,500 newspaper photographs between September 1956 and May 1957, and had about 122,000 lines of newspaper copy written about her during this time.[230]

Because of the successful media blitz, she quickly became a household name. In 1960, Mansfield topped press polls for more words in print than anyone else in the world, made more personal appearances than a political candidate,[88] and was regarded as the world's most-photographed Hollywood celebrity.[94] She made news on a regular basis, from dresses falling off, to clothing that burst strategically at the seams, to low cut dresses worn without a bra.[275][277] Things started to get over the top, even by her standards, when she took charge of her own publicity without advice. According to Shiffrin, "She became a freak."[278] James Bacon wrote in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner in 1973, "Here was a girl with real comedy talent, spectacular figure and looks and yet ridiculed herself out of business by outlandish publicity."[279]

Mansfield received her first truly negative publicity when she and Hargitay pleaded poverty when Mary Hargitay requested additional child support for Tina Hargitay in September 1958. Mary was Mickey's first wife, divorced on September 6, 1956, and Tina his nine-year-old first child. Mansfield said that she slept on the floor of her mansion, was unable to buy furniture, and spent only $71 on Jayne Marie ($1,000 in 2016 dollars[7]).[280][281][282] During this marriage she had three children, Miklós Jeffrey Palmer Hargitay (born December 21, 1958), Zoltán Anthony Hargitay (born August 1, 1960), and Mariska Hargitay (born January 23, 1964).

Publicity stunts

Sophia Loren and Jayne Mansfield, seated at a restaurant table
Sophia Loren (left) with Mansfield (right) at Romanoff's in Beverly Hills[283]

In January 1955 Mansfield appeared at a Silver Springs, Florida, press junket promoting the film Underwater!, starring Jane Russell. Mansfield purposely wore a too-small red bikini, lent to her by photographer friend Peter Gowland. When she dove into the pool for photographers, her top came off, creating a burst of media attention. The ensuing publicity led to Warner Bros. and Playboy approaching her with offers.[165][230][284][285] In June 8 of the same year, her dress fell down to her waist twice in a single evening —once at a movie party, and later at a nightclub.[286] In February 1958, she was stripped to the waist at a Mardi Gras party in Rio de Janeiro.[28][287][288] In June 1962, she shimmied out of her polka-dot dress in a Rome nightclub.[289][290] In the three years since making her Broadway debut in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, Mansfield had become the most controversial star of the decade.[277]

In April 1957, her breasts were the focus of a notorious publicity stunt intended to deflect media attention from Sophia Loren during a dinner party in the Italian star's honor. Photographs of the encounter were published around the world. The best-known photo showed Loren's gaze falling on the cleavage of the American actress (who was seated between Loren and her dinner companion, Clifton Webb) when Mansfield leaned over the table, allowing her breasts to spill over her low neckline and exposing one nipple.[291] The Jayne Mansfield-Sophia Loren photo inspired a number of later photographers. The photograph of that episode was a UPI sensation, appearing in newspapers and magazines with the word "censored" hiding the actress's exposed bosom.[292]

At the same time, the world's media were quick to condemn Mansfield's stunts. One editorial columnist wrote, "We are amused when Miss Mansfield strains to pull in her stomach to fill out her bikini better; but we get angry when career-seeking women, shady ladies, and certain starlets and actresses...use every opportunity to display their anatomy unasked".[45] By the late 1950s, Mansfield began to generate a great deal of negative publicity because of repeated exposure of her breasts in carefully staged public "accidents". Richard Blackwell, her wardrobe designer (who also designed for Jane Russell, Dorothy Lamour, Peggy Lee and Nancy Reagan), dropped her from his client list because of those accidents.[293] In April 1967, Los Angeles Times wrote, "She confuses publicity and notoriety with stardom and celebrity and the result is very distasteful to the public."[294]

Signature color

Front of the Pink Palace in 1997

Mansfield adopted pink as her color in 1954 and was associated with pink for the rest of her career.[1][295] Her original choice was purple, but she thought it too close to lavender, Kim Novak's signature color.[1] "It must have been the right decision," she said, "because I got more column space from pink than Kim Novak ever did from lavender."[295] For her wedding to Hargitay she wore a tight-fitting gown of pink lace with a flounce of 30 yards of pink tulle (designed by a 20th Century-Fox costume designer),[296] and at the reception she had Hargitay drink pink champagne.[297] In November 1957 (shortly before their marriage), Mansfield bought the 40-room Mediterranean-style mansion (formerly owned by Rudy Vallée) at 10100 Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Much of the money to buy the house came from her inheritance from Elmer Palmer, her maternal grandfather.[79][298] Mansfield had the house painted pink, with cupids surrounded by pink fluorescent lights, pink fur in the bathrooms, a pink heart-shaped bathtub and a fountain spurting pink champagne; she then dubbed it the "Pink Palace". Hargitay (a plumber and carpenter before taking up bodybuilding) built the pink heart-shaped swimming pool. The year after reconstructing the "Pink Palace" as a "pink landmark", she began riding a pink Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible with tailfins, then the only pink Cadillac in Hollywood.[299][300][301] Though Elvis Presley's Pink Cadillac came about in 1955, it was in Memphis, Tennessee.


In August 1963, Jayne Mansfield decided to convert to Catholicism.[98][302] Although she never actually converted, she did attend Catholic services when she was in Europe,[303] and followed Catholic practices when she was involved with a Catholic partner (including Hargitay, Sardelli and Cimber).[304][305]

In May 1967, her performance at the Mount Brandon Hotel in Tralee, Ireland, was canceled because Catholic clergy condemned it.[306] She wanted to marry Cimber in a Catholic ceremony, but was unable to find a priest who would perform the ceremony.[307] While involved with Brody, she also showed interest in Judaism.[98]

In San Francisco for the 1966 Film Festival, Mansfield visited the Church of Satan with Sam Brody (her lawyer and boyfriend) to meet Anton LaVey, the church's founder. LaVey awarded Mansfield a medallion and the title "High Priestess of San Francisco's Church of Satan". The media enthusiastically covered the meeting and the events surrounding it, identifying her as a Satanist and romantically involved with LaVey.[308][309][310] That meeting remained a much-publicized and oft-quoted event of her life, as well as the history of the Church of Satan.[311][312] Additionally, Karla LaVey confirmed in a 1992 interview with Joan Rivers that Mansfield was indeed a practicing Satanist and that she had a romantic relationship with Anton LaVey.[313] Her funeral ceremony was conducted by a Methodist minister.[98]


Gravestone at Fairview Cemetery (Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania)
Mansfield's cenotaph (with incorrect birth year) at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood

Mansfield was in Biloxi, Mississippi, for an engagement at the Gus Stevens Supper Club. After two appearances the evening of June 28, 1967, Mansfield, her lover Sam Brody, their driver Ronnie Harrison (age 20), and three of Mansfield's children – Miklós, Zoltán and Mariska – departed Biloxi after midnight in Stevens' 1966 Buick Electra 225. Their destination was New Orleans, where Mansfield was scheduled to appear on WDSU's "Midday Show" at noon the next day. At approximately 2:29 a.m., on U.S. Highway 90 east of the Rigolets Bridge (at approximately 30°05′26″N 89°46′54″W / 30.09056°N 89.78167°W / 30.09056; -89.78167) the Buick crashed at high speed into the rear of a tractor-trailer that had slowed behind a truck spraying mosquito fogger and which was shrouded in the insecticide fog. The three adults in the front seat were killed instantly. The children, who were asleep in the rear seat, survived with minor injuries.[314]

Reports that Mansfield was decapitated are untrue, although she suffered severe head trauma.[315] The urban legend was spawned by the appearance in police photographs of a crashed car with its top virtually sheared off, and what resembled a blonde-haired head tangled in the car's smashed windshield. However, this was a wig Mansfield was wearing and possibly parts of her actual hair and scalp.[316] The death certificate stated that the immediate cause of Mansfield's death was a "crushed skull with avulsion of cranium and brain".[317] After her death, the NHTSA recommended requiring an underride guard (a strong bar made of steel tubing) on all tractor-trailers, although the trucking industry was slow to adopt this change. This bar is known as a "Mansfield bar", or an "ICC bar".[318][319]

Mansfield's funeral took place on July 3 in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania. It was conducted by Rev. Charles Montgomery, a pastor of the Zion Methodist Church (which was later destroyed by fire in February 1970 and rebuilt as Grace United Methodist Church).[320] The funeral was private, a service held at the chapel of the Pullis Funeral Home.[321] Of her three husbands, only Mickey Hargitay was present at the funeral.[322] She is interred in Fairview Cemetery, southeast of Pen Argyl, beside her father Herbert William Palmer.[323] Her heart-shaped gravestone reads, "We Live to Love You More Each Day". A cenotaph was placed in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood by the Jayne Mansfield Fan Club, but incorrectly cites her year of birth as 1938 (Mansfield tended to provide incorrect information about her age). In 1968, two wrongful-death lawsuits[324] were filed on behalf of Jayne Marie Mansfield and Matt Cimber, the former for $4.8 million ($40.5 million in 2016 dollars[7]) and the latter for $2.7 million ($22.8 million in 2016 dollars[7]).


Jayne Mansfield's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Mansfield's star on Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6328 Hollywood Boulevard.[325] (photographed in 2011)


Mansfield left behind five children, three ex-husbands, a crumbling estate[335][336][337] including the Pink Palace, a large number of followers, and a lasting impact on popular culture. The L.A. Guns song "The Ballad Of Jayne" is about Mansfield and her untimely death.


After Mansfield's death, Hargitay, Cimbers, Vera Peers (Jayne Mansfield's mother), William Pigue (Jayne Marie's legal guardian), and Charles Goldring (Jayne Mansfield's business manager), as well as Bernard B. Cohen and Jerome Webber (both administrators of the estate) filed suits to gain control of her estate without success.[338][339][340] Mansfield's estate was appraised initially at $600,000 ($3,512,000 in 2016 dollars[7]), including the "Pink Palace" estimated at $100,000 ($585,000 in 2016 dollars), a sports car sold for $7,000 ($41,000 in 2016 dollars), her jewelry, and Sam Brody's $185,000 estate left to her by his last testimony ($1,083,000 in 2016 dollars).[341][342] In 1971, Beverly Brody sued the Mansfield estate for $325,000 ($1,902,000 in 2016 dollars) worth of presents and jewelry given to Jayne by Sam Brody, which was settled out of court.[343][344][345] However, four of her elder children (Jayne Marie, Mickey, Zoltan and Mariska) went to court in 1977 to find that approximately $500,000 in debt that Mansfield had incurred ($2,926,000 in 2016 dollars), including $11,000 for lingerie ($64,000 in 2016 dollars), $11,600 for plumbing of the heart-shaped swimming pool ($68,000 in 2016 dollars), and litigation had left the estate insolvent.[346]

The Pink Palace was sold. Its subsequent owners included Ringo Starr, Cass Elliot and Engelbert Humperdinck.[347] In 2002 Humperdinck sold it to developers, and the house was demolished in November of that year.[348] What remained of her estate subsequently came under the management of CMG Worldwide, an intellectual property-management company.[349]


Several entertainers have been dubbed as the "new Jayne Mansfield", including Italian actress Marisa Allasio and professional wrestler Missy Hyatt.[350][351][352] Actress, model and Playmate of the Year (1993) Anna Nicole Smith was dubbed "a Jayne Mansfield for the '90s"[353][354] because of her physical resemblance to Mansfield, similar desperation, and a mix of glamour and tragedy.[355][356][357][358] Drag queen and actor Divine was selected by film maker John Waters to parody Mansfield in Mondo Trasho.[359]

By the mid-1950s, there were many Jayne Mansfield fanclubs in United States and outside.[360] The Jayne Mansfield Fan Club, headed by Sabin Gray, was very active in the 1980s, and was cited by Los Angeles Daily News as one of the major fan clubs for a Hollywood star.[361] In 1992, a second fan club named Simply Davoon was founded by Mike DiGiacomo, which lent its picture collection to Jocelyn Faris to illustrate Jayne Mansfield: A bio bibliography.[1] Frank Ferruccio, head of Mansfield's Online Fan Club, lent his collection of Mansfield memorabilia to Slate Belt Heritage Center in Bangor, Pennsylvania, wrote two books on her, and organized a large fan gathering on her 75th birthday at Fairview Cemetery.[5][362] Farruccio and the Online Fan Club has been visiting her grave in Pen Argyl with a fans to commemorate her birth and death anniversaries since the mid-1990s on her birthdays.[363]

See also


  1. Vera Jeffrey's father, Thomas H. Palmer, was from the largely Cornish area of Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania,[10] where he was involved with the slate industry.[8]
  2. Original text from Hamlet (Act I, Scene II):
    "O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
    Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew."
  3. Original text of To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick:
    "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
    Old Time is still a-flying;
    And this same flower that smiles today,
    Tomorrow will be dying."


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Faris 1994, p. 3
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