Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jayne Mansfield

Born: April 19, 1933
Died: June 29, 1967

Vera Jayne Palmer visited Hollywood for the first time when she was thirteen. After a tour of Twentieth Century Fox Studios, she and her mother went to the Brown Derby for lunch. Jayne spotted The Great Gildersleeve radio stars Dennis Day and Harold Peary, and asked for their autographs. "You know Mama," she said when she returned, "one day some other young girl is going to make her way across this room and ask for my autograph."
Jayne's desire to become a star was not ignited that day; the trip only fanned flames that had always burned within her. Her parents, Herbert and Vera, were witness to her enthusiastic performances at an early age. When she was five, Jayne was singing for anyone who would listen, including her gigantic collection of stuffed animals. At seven, she would stand in her driveway and play the violin for passers-by. Though her idols changed over the years- from Shirley Temple to Gene Tierney, Hedy Lamarr, and Jean Harlow- they were always movie stars.
A naïve and trusting child, Jayne's innocence often resulted in touching anecdotes. Once, Jayne's Sunday school teacher told the children that God was always with them. That night, Jayne fell out of bed several times "making room for God." When Jayne learned that a family living down the street had fallen on hard times, she helped them out in whatever way possible. Disturbed because their little girl had no winter coat, Jayne traded her jacket to the girl in exchange for an old baby bottle. Jayne's parents were upset, but she never regretted the trade.
Though Jayne's kind heart enabled her to touch the lives of many, it made her extremely vulnerable. When she was three, her father died suddenly. That morning, at a physical, he was declared healthy, but several hours later he had a heart attack. Jayne, who had been a daddy's girl, was stunned. "Something went out of my life," she said. Years later, she remembered how she would sit on his lap while he stroked her long curly hair. "My earliest memories are the best. I always try to remember the good times when Daddy was alive."
Fortunately, Vera was able to support the family by working as a school teacher. Not long afterward, she met and married Harry "Tex" Peers, and they decided to move from Phillipsburg, New Jersey to Dallas. Jayne was fond of Harry, a firm but loving man, and appreciated the discipline he brought as they became a "family" again. Harry also cultivated Jayne's love for barbecuing. Outgoing and personable, Jayne would invite anyone to join their weekly barbecues. Years later, on their custom-built double pink marble-topped barbecue, she and husband Mickey Hargitay cooked for the entire San Francisco Giants baseball team.
At a party on Christmas Eve, 1949, Jayne met Paul Mansfield. Handsome and studious, Paul treated Jayne with genuine respect. They fell in love, and were married on January 28. After a difficult labor, Jayne Marie Mansfield was born on November 8, 1950. Well aware of his wife's Hollywood ambitions, Paul thought becoming a mother would distract her. He was wrong. Though she was thrilled with the birth of her daughter, Jayne had not faltered in her dream to become a star. The war in North Korea started, and Paul had to leave for Army reserve duty. Before leaving, he relented and promised her that when it was over, the family would move to Hollywood. Two years later, the Mansfield family started out for California. Paul would stay only four months. They divorced and he went back to Dallas. Nonetheless, Jayne kept the name Mansfield because she thought it sounded illustrious.
Jayne flourished in Hollywood. She took a job at a movie theater but was soon accepting work as a model. Gene Lester, a well-known photographer, recalled her first professional shoot for General Electric. "Jayne was one of the girls I used. She was way over to the left side of the picture. General Electric notified me that they had to cut her out of the picture because she looked too sexy for 1954 viewers."
Hollywood publicity agent Jim Byron saw her potential. "Jayne had a star quality," he said. "She was very much like a raw gem." During Christmas, they decided Jayne would visit newspapers and provide the overworked reporters with cheer-in the form of a spirited hug and kiss. Her appearances were a hit, and Jayne's picture was in newspapers all over the country. For Byron's next big event, he got Jayne a ticket to a press event in Florida for the RKO Pictures release of "Underwater," starring Jane Russell. On the plane, she was seated next to Daily Variety reporter Joe Schoenfeld. He found her so delightful that the following day their conversation consumed his column. Later, in a red bikini, it became obvious to everyone that she had control of the spotlight. Headlines from that weekend announced, "Jayne Out-Points Jane." That same year, after starring in the Broadway hit "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter," the headlines read, "Jayne Signs Studio Contract With Fox."
Jayne was on her way to becoming a celebrity when she attended a Mae West performance at the Latin Quarter. After the show, Jayne was also on her way to falling in love-with 1956 Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay, who was working as one of Mae's musclemen in the show. As their relationship developed, Mae became irate at the loss of Mickey's affections, and called a press conference where she ordered him to denounce his relationship with Jayne. Her plan backfired. Instead of reading the scripted statement, Mickey said, "Jaynie and I are very much in love, and we have seriously discussed marriage plans in the future." On January 13, 1958, amid family, friends and a flurry of press in Palos Verdes, California, the pair married. Theirs was very much a storybook love, of which Jayne later said, "We were into something so beautiful. Mickey and I had a grasp of life that most people never know anything about." Both Jayne and Mickey loved children, and were ecstatic each time Jayne became pregnant. The couple had three children together, Micklos, Zoltan and Mariska, whom they regularly brought on location for performances. "We take our children everywhere we go," she said in a Star Weekly magazine interview. "I don't believe in having them and then leaving them to someone else to bring up."
Meanwhile, Jayne's career had continued to prosper. In 1956, she starred in "The Girl Can't Help It," a successful film that satisfied the public's demand for anything rock and roll related. The musical talent of Little Richard, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, Fats Domino, The Platters and Julie London accompanied Jayne and her co-stars, Tom Ewell and Edmond O'Brien. When she earned the lead in "The Wayward Bus," based on John Steinbeck's best-selling novel, Jayne captured the persona of her character and the critics took notice. Next, Jayne took her Broadway role as Rita Marlowe to the big screen in the film version of "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" Once again, "Rock Hunter" was a success, and so was Jayne. Fox then placed her in "Kiss Them For Me" alongside Cary Grant, whom she found to be "one of the most marvelous men I've ever met." During this time she purchased a Mediterranean style mansion on Sunset Boulevard. In keeping with her distinct decorative taste, the mansion would soon become known as "The Pink Palace."
Before she left to film "The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw" in England, Jayne and her family spent four weeks in Las Vegas. She had been asked to appear in nightly performance at the Tropicana, where she sang, danced and joked with the audience, and could not refuse the offer of $25,000 a week. Jayne loved being able to personally interact with her fans, and the Tropicana loved the crowd she drew. Her performance brought in a packed house every night. It was the beginning of a long-standing, highly successful nightclub career for Jayne. Several years later she returned to Las Vegas, this time at the Dunes Hotel, where her weekly salary was raised to $35,000. Though she began touring with her act, Jayne's stage performances were not limited to nightclubs. She renewed her involvement in the theater, most notably in an acclaimed production of "Bus Stop." "As the chanteuse being abducted by the lonesome cowboy, Miss Mansfield can hardly help stealing scenes," said a critic. "But oft times the scenes are earned rather than turns out the lady is endowed with a comedic talent." She also dabbled in television, with cameo appearances on "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," "Jack Benny Program," "Burke's Law" and "The Steve Allen Show." Ultimately, Jayne juggled a career that encompassed almost every media facet. Unfortunately, as so often happens in Hollywood, Jayne and Mickey's relationship had become strained. They decided to divorce in August 1964, but always remained good friends.
In 1967, Jayne's life was still moving at full speed. "I will never be satisfied," she said in an interview. "Life is one constant search for betterment for me." Her time was split between a Southern nightclub tour and the production of "Single Room, Furnished," a drama that would become her last film. "Furnished" was directed by Matt Cimber, who Jayne met on the set of "Bus Stop" and later married. On June 29, Jayne was riding in front with Ronnie Harrison and lawyer Sam Brody on the way from a Mississippi nightclub engagement. Her children, Mickey Jr., Zoltan and Mariska sat in the back. As they rounded a curve on a dark stretch of road, the car slammed into a slowed semi. Though the children survived with minor injuries, everyone sitting in the front was killed instantly.
The world was stunned. Jayne's personality was so vibrant, her career so vivacious, that it was impossible to believe she was gone. At 34, she had already earned a special place in the hearts of millions, and with her death came a deep void that will never be filled.
Jayne was laid to rest in Fairview Cemetary in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania. There is also a centograph dedicated to her in the Hollywood Forever Memorial Park in Hollywood, California.



The leader of a jazz band and his fellow musicians try to stand up to a gangster who's extorting them for agent's fees in prohibiton era Kansas City.

ILLEGAL (1955)

Ambitious D.A. Victor Scott zealously prosecutes Ed Clary for a woman's murder. But as Clary walks "the last mile" to the electric chair, Scott receives evidence that exonerates the condemned man.


A cop framed for a murder he did not commit hunts the San Francisco waterfront for the Mob racketeers who are responsible.


A down-and-out gangster hires an alcoholic press agent to make his blonde bombshell girlfriend a recording star in 6 months. But what is he going to do when he finds out that she has no talent? And what is going to happen when the two fall in love?


A blonde actress is murdered across from a bar. An off-duty cop has been getting pleasantly sloshed, but becomes worried about his innocence when he finds out he was seen leaving the establishment with a blonde, but doesn't remember.


A fascinating film based on the John Steinbeck novel of a bus driver and his passengers and their adventures as they get detoured and sidetracked...both on the bus and in life.


A striving-for-the-top ad-man tries to land a beautiful, bombshell movie-star to endorse his lipstick account as a way of moving up the ladder at his agency. Soon, however, success becomes more than he can handle.


Three navy war heroes are booked on a morale-building "vacation" in San Francisco. Once they manage to elude their ulcerated public relations officer, the trio throw a wild party with plenty of pretty girls.


A rogue cop tries to get his hands on a valuable stolen necklace in the hands of a trio of burglars.


A proper English gentleman, traveling in the American West, inadvertently stops an Indian attack on the stagecoach in which he is a passenger.


While Hercules is away, his people and the woman he loves are killed by the king of Ecalia. Hercules goes to Ecalia to revenge his dead.


In London's Soho, Johnny Solo runs the Pink Flamingo Club. He's tough to intimidate. So when he starts getting threats and demands for protection, he fights back. Behind the takeover plot is a competitor, Diamonds Dielli.


Billie and Kristy lead a gang of armed robbers who steal from banks, armoured cars, and the like. When Billie's lover, Jim, gets caught by the police after stashing a large amount of money, they wait for him to get out of jail.


Story follows the rise of George Raft from a Hell's Kitchen crooner to a Hollywood star who befriended many mobsters and as many women.


Set at the time of the first modern Olympic Games, a famous sexpot actress agrees to marry the winner of the Marathon though her comparatively plain maid has other ideas.


After a drunken spree on a cruise ship, two women discover that they're pregnant, and set out to find who the fathers are.


Evelyne, an American singer is traveling to Hamburg by ship. She is followed by an Elvis-like American pop star.

DOG EAT DOG (1964)

Three thieves rip off a shipment of used money being sent back to the US. As they are escaping the robbery, they wind up on an island in a hotel with an apparently crazed manager and a building full of demented residents.


A producer seeking to make a flop in order to use it as a tax write-off hires a washed up film star for the lead role, and then, surprise to everybody, it becomes a huge hit.


A strange Italian sex comedy, concerning two bungling hotel bellhops that will do anything to sneak a peek at one their new guests.

THE FAT SPY (1966)

Off the coast of Florida, a nearly-deserted island is rumored to have the fountain of youth. A boatload of teenage kids are headed there for a scavenger hunt.


When Woodrow Wilson Weatherby, a Tennessee wood hauler, inherits a Las Vegas casino from his uncle, he goes to investigate the property, only to find that it comes with a $38,000 debt and a couple of persistent creditors.


Robert Morse and Walter Mathau are friends. Though both are married, Mathau discovers Morris is fooling around. When asked about it, Morse passes on the oral history and guide to fooling around without your wife finding out.


This documentary on the nightlife of Las Vegas features musical numbers performed by the film's stars. "Spree" also includes scenes of gambling casinos and boxing.


Long considered a cult classic, "Mondo Hollywood" captures the underside of Hollywood by documenting a moment in time (1965-67), when an inquisitive trust in the unknown was paramount, hope for the future was tangible and life was worth living on the fringe.


Produced in the last year of her life, a camera crew follows Jayne as she visits gay bars in Paris, attends a drag ball in New York and generally has glamour fits all over the place.


Johnie is married, but her husband deserts her when she becomes pregnant. She changes her name to Mae and takes a job as a waitress.


"We eat a lot of lean meat and fresh vegetables.. You are what you eat, you know. When I'm 100 I'll still be doing pin-ups."
"I like being a pin-up girl. There's nothing wrong with it."
"A woman should be pink and cuddly for a man."
"I don't want to get involved in the racial situation at the expense of losing fans. I wouldn't say anything too strong but I do know that God created us equal and we're not living up to it."
"A forty-one inch bust and a lot of perseverance will get you more than a cup of coffee-a lot more. But most girls don't know what to do with what they've got."
"It is the most wonderful feeling in the world, you know, knowing you are loved and wanted."
"If you're going to do something wrong, do it big, because the punishment is the same either way."
"Carrying a baby is the most rewarding experience a woman can enjoy."
"I will never be satisfied. Life is one constant search for betterment for me."
"She had no desire to be second at anything, and in striving to be first she learned the value of hard work."
-- Raymond Strait, Jayne's press agent
"Jayne Mansfield is making a career of being a girl."
-- Walter Winchell, reporter
"I could hold this golden little woman here forever."
-- Mickey Hargitay's father, when Jayne and Mickey visited them in Budapest.

Television work

 As an actor

 As herself

  • The Bob Hope Show, Hope Enterprise, Season 17, Episode 4 (A Bob Hope Comedy Special, December 1966)
  • The Ed Sullivan Show (also named Toast of the Town), CBS, Season 10, Episode 35 (May 1957)
  • The Ed Sullivan Show, CBS, Season 10, Episode 46 (August 1957)
  • The Jack Benny Program, J&M Productions, Season 7, Episode 8 ("Talent Show", December 1956)
  • The Jack Benny Program, J&M Productions, Season 14, Episode 9 ("Jack Takes Boat to Hawaii", November 1963)
  • The Tonight Show, NBC, ("The Jack Paar Tonight Show", January 1962)
  • The Tonight Show, NBC, (April 1962)



  • Jayne Mansfield Busts up Las Vegas (20th Century Fox, 1962)
  • Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky & Me (MGM, 1964)
  • I Wanna Be Loved By You (Golden Options, 2000)
  • Dyed Blondes (Recall Records, 2002)
  • Too Hot to Handle (Blue Moon, France, 2003)


  • That Makes It (The Las Vegas Hillbillys)
  • Too Hot to Handle (Too Hot to Handle)
  • Little Things Mean a Lot
  • As The Clouds Drift By (with Jimi Hendrix, A-side)Suey (with Jimi Hendrix, B-side)You Were Made for Me
  • Wo Ist Der Mann (Homesick for St. Pauli)
  • Snicksnack-Snucklchen (Homesick for St. Pauli)
  • I'm in love (also known as the Lullaby of Love; Promises! Promises!)
  • Promise her anything (Promises! Promises!)
  • It's a Living

 Theater performances

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