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Jayne Mansfield

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Jayne Mansfield

Jayne Mansfield (April 19, 1933June 29, 1967) was an American actress and sex symbol.

She was born Vera Jane Palmer in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, the only child of Herbert William Palmer (1904-1936) and Vera Jeffrey Palmer (1903-2000).

It is not clear if her parents, both Palmers, were distant cousins. The maiden name of Jayne's maternal grandmother was Jeffrey. When Jayne was three years old, her father, a lawyer, suddenly died of a heart attack. After his death, her mother worked as a school teacher to support them. In 1939, Vera married Harry Lawrence "Tex" Peers (1916-1997), and the family moved to Dallas, Texas. Jayne could play the violin by the time she was seven, and would stand in the driveway of her home playing for passersby. She also enjoyed singing, and would give enthusiastic performances. After discovering fan magazines, she would cut out the glamorous photographs of movie stars and hang them in her bedroom.

Jayne attended Highland Park High School in Dallas. Then, at seventeen, she married her first husband, Paul Mansfield, and moved to Austin. She studied dramatics at Southern Methodist University and the University of Texas. While attending the University of Texas, she won several beauty contests, with titles that included "Miss Photoflash," "Miss Magnesium Lamp" and "Miss Fire Prevention Week." In 1954, they moved to Los Angeles and she studied dramatics at UCLA.

With tunnel vision, Mansfield wanted to be a movie star. She won several more beauty contests. The only title she ever turned down was "Miss Roquefort Cheese," because she believed that it "just didn't sound right." For her efforts, she was rewarded with walk-ons on television. She was always willing to make appearances and do practically anything for publicity. She was rumored to have gotten her first TV job by slipping a note to the producer that read "36, 22, 35."

Her movie career began with bit parts. She had a small role in The Female Jungle (1954). She then went to Warner Bros. and did a small role in Pete Kelly's Blues starring Jack Webb, which brought her favorable attention. In January 1955, she was part of a publicity drive for Howard Hughes' RKO movie Underwater! starring Jane Russell. In February 1955, Mansfield was "Playmate of the Month" in Playboy, a men's magazine she would pose for several times over the ensuing years.

After two more movies at Warners, she went to New York and starred in the role of siren Rita Marlowe in the Broadway production of George Axelrod's comedy Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1955). Wearing only a towel, she would rise to answer the telephone, flaunting as much of her big breasted, voluptuous physique as she could. The part brought her a great deal of attention and she rode the waves of stardom on "The Great White Way." She received the Theatre World Award of 1956 for her performance.

Back on the West Coast, she appeared on TV game shows and played her scene-stealing role of Jerri Jordan in the movie The Girl Can't Help It (1956). And on May 3, 1956, she signed a long-term contract with 20th Century Fox. After a couple more movies, she reprised her role of Rita Marlowe in the 1957 movie version of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? co-starring Tony Randall.

Mansfield won a Golden Globe in 1957 for Most Promising Newcomer - Female, along with Carroll Baker and Natalie Wood. And she won a Golden Laurel in 1959 for Top Female Musical Performance for the comedy Western The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958).

She formed Jayne Mansfield Productions. But she became mired in the breathless, prototypical dumb blonde with sexy high-pitched squeals and was rarely able to shake the stereotype. She would play similar roles throughout the remainder of her career. She was invariably compared, usually with disfavor, to Marilyn Monroe, the most famous blonde sex symbol of the era. Mansfield, Monroe and Mamie Van Doren were sometimes referred to as the "3 M's."

Her marriage to Paul faltered when she began a romance with muscleman and Mr. Universe of 1955, Mickey Hargitay, who was then in a nightclub act starring Mae West and himself married. West angrily held a press conference on June 6, 1956, to announce Hargitay's dismissal. Hargitay, however, showed up early, to quit prior to being fired, and got into a fight with another strong man in the act, who gave Hargitay a black eye. Mansfield and Hargitay were married the same day her divorce became final.

Mansfield had three husbands, Paul Mansfield (married May 10, 1950-divorced 1958); actor and bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay (married January 13, 1958-divorced 1964); and director Matt Cimber (married September 24, 1964-divorced 1966).

She and Paul had one child, Jayne-Marie Mansfield (born November 8, 1950); she and Mickey had three children, Miklós Jeffrey Hargitay (born December 21, 1958), Zoltan Anthony Hargitay (born August 1, 1960) and Mariska Magdolina Hargitay (born January 24, 1964); and she and Matt had one child, Antonio Raphael Ottaviano Cimber (or Anthony Richard) (born October 18, 1965).

One biographer quotes Jayne as saying that Paul was not Jayne-Marie's father, but that she married him rather than getting an abortion as she was personally opposed to it. Actor Nelson Sardelli claims to have fathered Mariska. But Hargitay apparently never questioned the girl's paternity and raised her as his own.

Jayne-Marie was a Playboy centerfold in July 1976; and Mariska has become an actress with a list of movie and TV credits that would undoubtedly make her mother proud.

In October 1957, Mansfield went on a sixteen country tour of Europe for 20th Century Fox. She was presented to Queen Elizabeth on November 4. "You are so beautiful," she said to the Queen, who replied, "So are you."

After they married, she and Hargitay bought a 40-room Mediterranean-style mansion formerly owned by Rudy Vallee at 10100 Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills for $75,000. Mansfield turned it into her famous "Pink Palace." It was painted pink, had pink decorations, a bed with heart-shaped canopy and marble cupids above the bedstead that was surrounded by pink fluorescent lights, pink fur on the floors of the bathrooms, a pink heart-shaped bathtub, a fountain spurting pink champagne, and a large pink heart-shaped swimming pool, hand-built by Hargitay.

Singer Engelbert Humperdinck bought the Pink Palace in the 1970s. In 2002, he sold it for about $4,000,000 to developers and it was torn down in November of that year.

Mansfield also headlined in Las Vegas with her own nightclub act, toured military bases with Bob Hope for the USO and released a live album titled Jayne Mansfield Busts Up Las Vegas. She did a number of guest spots on television, which included guest spots on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Jack Benny Show, The Steve Allen Show and Burke's Law. Mansfield also appeared as a guest panelist on the game shows Down You Go and The Match Game.

Despite the monumental publicity she received as a sex symbol, by the mid-1960s her movie career was in steep decline. She appeared in low-budget productions, mostly in Europe, often opposite Hargitay. It is said that she turned down the role of Ginger Grant in the TV sitcom Gilligan's Island.

When her marriage to Hargitay broke up, she married Matt Cimber, who had directed her in a stage production of Bus Stop in Yonkers, New York. Cimber took over the management of her career during their brief marriage.

Some allege that she became involved with the International Church Of Satan, founded in 1966 by Anton LaVey, and that she had an affair with LaVey. The truth apparently is that a meeting between Mansfield and LaVey was arranged as a publicity stunt. According to Jayne's press agent, Ray Strait, "The biggest backfire of a press stunt that she ever pulled." LaVey was apparently smitten with the actress, who was not interested. Mansfield, who made no secret of her many affairs, denied being intimate with LaVey and no associate of hers ever confirmed any such romance. In an interview, Mansfield said, "He had fallen in love with me and wanted to join my life with his. It was a laugh." So, it appears that her involvement with the Church of Satan was no more than another photo-shoot. And LaVey's public claims of an affair with her apparently began only after her death.

In 1967, her life was moving at full speed. Her time was split between a Southern nightclub tour and the production of Single Room, Furnished, a drama directed by Cimber. She died before the movie was completed. After an engagement at the Gus Stevens Supper Club in Biloxi, Mississippi, Mansfield, her boyfriend, lawyer Sam Brody, and her driver, Ronnie Harrison, along with Mickey Jr., age eight, Zoltan, age six, and Mariska, age three, headed to New Orleans, where she was to appear on a TV interview later that day.

On June 29 at approximately 4:07 a.m., Mansfield died in a car accident on U.S. Highway 90 in rural Hancock County, Mississippi. She was riding in the front seat of the 1966 Buick Electra with Harrison and Brody, and her children were sleeping in back, as the roadway became obscured by a white haze from a distant mosquito fogger, which prevented Harrison from discerning the presence of a slow-moving tractor-trailer ahead. They crashed into the truck and slid under it as the top of her car was sheared back. Though all three children survived with minor injuries, as they were cushioned from serious harm, the adults were instantly killed, as was Mansfield's pet Chihuahua.

Erroneously, it was said that Mansfield was decapitated in the accident. This is not true, though she did suffer severe head trauma. This urban legend was possibly spawned by the fact that her blonde wig flew off her head and was seen in police photographs.

Her private funeral service, attended by her family and second husband, Hargitay, was held on July 3, 1967 at Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, officiated by a Methodist minister. She is interred in Fairview Cemetery, just southeast of Pen Argyl. Though her remains are in Fairview Cemetery, with a large and beautiful heart shaped monument, and the graves of her mother and stepfather are beside hers, a memorial cenotaph is in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, California, in her honor.

Jayne Mansfield has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6328 Hollywood Boulevard.

Contents

Filmography

Documentaries

Trivia

External links

fr:Jayne Mansfield nl:Jayne Mansfield sv:Jayne Mansfield tr:Jayne Mansfield


Preceded by:
Bettie Page
Playboy Playmate
February 1955
Succeeded by:
Marilyn Waltz

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