HER SWINGIN' '60s CREDENTIALS: This light-weight top-heavy Cleavage Queen used a slight film career and an ample publicity campaign to challenge Marilyn's title as reigning Sex Goddess of the late '50s-early '60s.
CATEGORIES OF SWINGIN' CHICK: Movie Star, TV Star, and Songbird.
BIRTH: Jayne was born in '33, so she was only 34 when she died. Her exotic birthplace: Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Her moniker at birth: Vera Jane Palmer.
IMPACT ON THE '60s: Instantly memorable for the most dramatic curves this side of a Swiss road, for the biggest guns this side of Navarone, for the biggest peaks this side of the Rockies ... you get the point. Her impact might've even been longer lasting if she'd accepted the role of Ginger on "Gilligan's Island," but she turned it down and Tina Louise got it. Still, there's no denying that Jayne was a certifiable legend: In January '99 Playboy published its list of "The 100 Sexiest Stars of the Century," and Jayne came in second right between two Swingin' Chicks of the '60s -- Marilyn and Raquel (two-dozen other Swingin' Chicks of the '60s made that list, including Anita Ekberg at #14, Stella Stevens at #29, and Julie Newmar at #88).
CAREER IN THE '60s: Her late-'50s successes like The Girl Can't Help It and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? didn't carry over to the '60s, but she managed to sustain a career of B-movie roles through the decade. Most prominent were her scandalous near-nude appearance in Promises, Promises in '63 and a memorable cameo in A Guide for the Married Man with Linda Harrison and Inger Stevens in '67. Unfortunately, when Jayne's friend Marilyn died in '62, the classic platinum-blonde sex-siren look died with her. Jayne's roles became more and more cartoonish, and her movies slipped down the alphabet from "B" titles to "C" and worse. By mid-decade her movie career was downright embarrassing (see The Las Vegas Hillbillys in '66, in which she appeared with Mamie Van Doren). Not to be denied an audience, Jayne performed in one fashion or another all decade long, right up until her sudden death in '67. She had her own Vegas show in the early '60s, toured military bases with Bob Hope, released a live album called Jayne Mansfield Busts Up Las Vegas, traveled the nightclub circuit, and when all else failed made personal appearances for any organization or supermarket that would have her. Sadly, for some of these appearances she wasn't even paid in cash to show up at a meat-packing plant, she once received 250 pounds of meat. Jayne Mansfield tragically died in '67 on the way to a nightclub appearance when her car slammed into the back of a truck on a fog-shrouded highway near New Orleans, Louisiana. She was killed instantly, as was lawyer Sam Brody and her driver, but the three kids asleep in the back all lived. Jayne wasn't decapitated, in contrast to wide-spread rumors, it was a wig that flew out of the car.
HER CAREER OUTSIDE THE '60s: As a young girl she covered her room with glamour photos from movie magazines. While attending the University of Texas she won several beauty contests in the early '50s Miss Photoflash, Miss Fire Prevention Week then went to Hollywood to try to fulfill her movie-star dreams (the only title she rejected was "Miss Roquefort Cheese" because she thought it "just didn't sound right"). When she hit Hollywood, she brazenly called Paramount Studios and said she wanted to be a movie star, but the operator said, "We already have a movie star." Her goal in Hollywood, as quoted in Jayne Mansfield and the American Fifties: "To feel satisfied with myself; to know that I have arrived. To be a good actress. To be liked. To be a big personality. The real stars are not actors or actresses. They're personalities. The quality of making everyone stop in their tracks is what I work at." The rumor is that she got her first TV job by slipping a note to the producer that read "36, 22, 35." The first studio to sign her was Warner Bros., but after three minor roles in minor movies, they released her and in '55 she went to Broadway to star as Rita Marlowe in Will Succes Spoil Rock Hunter?. Other bit parts in mid-'50s movies led to appearances on TV game shows and her scene-stealing roles in The Girl Can't Help It in '56 and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? in '57.
TALENT: It's amazing how far she got considering how limited her acting range was; basically she only ever played herself, parlaying her breathy voice, sexy squeaks, and voluptuous looks into a twelve-year career. She did convey a sympathetic vulnerability unexpressed by other bombshells of the era, such as Anita Ekberg. Jayne won the Golden Globe as the Most Promising Newcomer of '57. Unfortunately, audiences in the '60s never accepted her as the serious actress she longed to become. Surprisingly, she also played the violin. One talent that hid pretty well was her intelligence some bios credit her with an IQ of 163, though she wasn't a great student with exceptional grades.
HER '60s LOOK: The platinum hair, the heavy makeup -- she and Marilyn defined the lusty busty Sex Goddess look that has been imitated ever since. A natural brunette, she started bleaching her hair in '52; by the mid-'60s she was "out" and audiences no longer bought her act, so she tried a makeover with dark hair and conservative clothes, but that didn't last long. From Jayne Mansfield and the American Fifties: "If I didn't have a large bosom, people would talk about my small one. So what's the difference. I'm glad I have a large one." Sex appeal was "just knowing what to do and then doing it with a lot of naivete ... if a girl has curviness, exciting lips and a certain breathlessness, it helps, and it won't do a bit of harm if she has a kittenish, soft cuddly quality. Men want women to be pink, helpless and do a lot of deep breathing." At the time of her death, her measurements were reported to be an inspiring 40-21-35.5, and in her prime her waist size was supposedly only eighteen inches, which is four inches less than Twiggy's waist. Actor Aldo Ray once said about her: "Where Jayne Mansfield went wrong was entering the movie business. With melons like that, she should have entered the circus." Popular as she was, Mr. Blackwell put her on his Worst-Dressed List in '62, and in fact created a new category for her, Worst Undressed. However, she was curvy enough to be a Playboy Playmate in February '55, showing off her biggest assets. Her husband at the time, Paul Mansfield, filed for divorce because of the Playboy pics, upset over the exposure. Her Playboy appearance in '58 was the magazine's biggest-selling issue to date. Her nude scenes in the film Promises, Promises in '63 led to a famous Playboy pictorial in what was the magazine's biggest seller to that time, and she appeared in Playboy every February from '57-'64 as their "Valentine girl."
LIFESTYLE: "Men are those creatures with two legs and eight hands," said Jayne. She claimed in one interview that she started dating at eleven, but other sources discount that and say she was almost considered a wallflower into her high school years at Highland Park High in Dallas. She got married at sixteen to 24-year-old Paul Mansfield, whose name she kept after their eight-year marriage ended in '58. She eloped with him in May '50, married him in a Dallas Baptist church, and gave birth to a daughter, Jayne Marie, in November. With her husband of the early '60s, muscleman Mickey Hargitay, she had three kids, though the third was rumored to be the daughter of actor Nelson Sardelli. When she met Hargitay, he was Mr. Universe of '55 and dubbed by Mae West as "the most perfectly built man in the world." He gave Jayne a ten-carat diamond, and they married in Palos Verdes, California, with Jayne wearing a pink lace gown. Jayne divorced Hargitay in '64, married director Matt Cimber a month later, within two years she had his kid, was chronically unhappy, alcohol-dependant, and separated from him. When she died, she was driving with yet another lover, lawyer Sam Brody, who died in the car crash with her. She also probably had affairs with JFK, novelist Henry Miller, director Nicholas Ray, actor Richard Egan, and fashion designer Oleg Cassini, all of them older men, in some cases much older. She was rumored to have slept with JFK in the White House on three separate occasions. Of her taste in husbands, she said, "I'm a big girl, and I have to have a big guy."
EXTRAS: Her childhood idol was Shirley Temple ... her father died of a heart attack when she was three, leaving a void where a father figure should've been ... some say she always searched for that father figure ... in the Will Success movie we see an ad showing Rita in an actual Jayne Mansfield movie, The Wayward Bus, which came out the same year as Will Success ... a popular novelty of the '50s was the Jayne Mansfield hot-water bottle shaped like her ... she was arrested for indecent exposure during her nightclub act in Burlington, Vermont in '63 ... her daughter Mariska Hargitay played a hooker at the bar in '95's Leaving Las Vegas ... Jaynes's trademark color: pink ... her trademark object: anything heart-shaped ... after she married Hargitay in '58, they built the massive "pink palace" on Sunset Blvd. in L.A. and decorated it in pink -- it had a fountain spurting champagne, pink fur on the floor of the bathrooms, a pink heart-shaped bathtub, a pink heart-shaped pool that piped underwater music, and a bed surrounded by pink fluorescent lights, with a heart-shaped canopy and marble cupids above the bedstead ... the home also had a zoo with thirty dogs, an elephant, monkeys, donkeys, ocelots, and dozens of cats ... her six-year-old son Zoltan was mauled by a lion at a party held at Jungleland in Thousand Oaks, California ... the car she died in sold at auction to a collector in '99 for $8000 ... when she was buried in her Pennsylvania hometown, thousands of fans came to pay respects.