Jayne Mansfield

Guest Post by Imogen Reed
Blonde ambition - Jayne Mansfield
The Original Pink Princess
The story of the life of Jayne Mansfield (originally Vera Jayne Palmer) is filled with both the glamour and tragedy that seem to be ubiquitous to the vintage Hollywood starlet. Born in 1933, she lead a reasonably normal and stable childhood, coming from a fairly affluent family and spending her early years in the town of Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Mansfield’s first bout of tragedy came to her quite young, at only 3 years of age; Jayne and her parents were traveling in their car, when her father suddenly suffered a serious heart attack, which lead to his untimely death. Three years after the death of her father, Jayne’s mother remarried, upped-sticks and moved the remaining family unit to a new home in Dallas, Texas, where Jayne was then known locally as Vera Jayne Peers.
From Bookish to Buxom
Young Jayne, pre-peroxide
It was here her love for acting grew, and she attended the University of Dallas to study dramatics. It is an often over-looked fact that Jayne was an exceptionally bright woman; she reportedly had an IQ of 163 and was fluent in 5 languages, not to mention her artistic talents also leant themselves to her being an accomplished pianist and violinist. However, Jayne’s real passion was for acting, yet this otherwise unassuming and somewhat meek young lady was smart enough to know that at that time, her brunette hair and bookish demeanor were never going to get her into Hollywood, no matter how gifted her skills as an actress.

After a number of failed auditions, and disgruntled by the industry’s attempts to over-look her talents and intelligence in favor of more provocative and alluring actresses, Jayne thus worked on her self reinvention as the typical blonde bombshell associated with that era of Hollywood.

Utilizing her Assets the Hollywood Way
Once she dyed her brunette locks to match the blonde desired by the industry, Jayne then started to utilize her looks along with her intelligence (for example, she was notorious for setting up sexy publicity stunts for the media) to garner more auditions and roles. Jayne had the quintessential starlet look; she was young, beautiful, curvy and was well known for her more than ample bosom, as noted in the infamous photograph of Sophia Loren observing Jayne’s cleavage over a table in Romanoff, Beverley Hills. This apparently telling photograph of Loren’s supposed jealousy of Mansfield’s physique, was, of course, yet just another inspired publicity stunt set-up by Mansfield herself, gaining her worldwide attention through the media.

Sophia Loren's eyes are inexorably drawn to Jayne Mansfield's  assets
Jayne was quite modern in her philosophy of how to market her “talents”, she had no qualms about exposing her body to further her fame and notoriety, and seemed quite comfortable taking part in roles which including nudity (she was the first major US starlet to appear nude on screen in Promises! Promises! 1963) and also allowing herself to be photographed as a centerfold for “Playboy” in 1955.

The Pink Palace
Muscle man Mickey Hargitay -1955
Jayne was incredibly glamorous and feminine in her tastes, and along with her abundance of income from her career, created what has to be one of the most stunning and unique houses in history. 1957, Jayne snapped-up a giant 40-room mansion on Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, and subsequently decorated the house with a whole manner of what is now deemed insanely kitsch fixtures and fittings, finally painting almost every surface within the house a soft baby pink, which was clearly Jayne’s favorite color. 

This lead to Jayne’s house being known as “The Pink Palace” which was indeed no understatement, and wherever possible, Jayne also added heart-shaped furniture and fittings to symbolize the union between herself and new husband, former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay. From a huge, pink leather sofa, pink bathrooms featuring fluffy walls, ceilings and floors, to heart-shaped fireplaces and a heart shaped BBQ area with matching heart-shaped swimming pool (which had “I Love You Jaynie” tiled into the floor) Jayne’s Pink Palace was an extraordinary symbol of both her career success and the love shared with her second husband Hargitay.
Mickey Hargitay and Jayne Mansfield's unique Pink Palace, once the home of crooner Rudy Vallee
However, Jayne’s marriage to Mickey Hargitay lasted only 5 years, and it was during this time that her career was taking a downturn. Jayne struggled to find major roles in Hollywood films, and turned to Europe for work, leading to her meeting her final husband, Italian-American Director Matt Cimber. Jayne’s many marriages garnered her quite a large family, as Jayne was also mother to 5 children; Jayne from her first marriage, Miklos, Zoltan and Mariska from her second marriage and lastly Antonio from her marriage to Cimber.

So Hollywood - Jayne Mansfield in full glamour mode
A Tragic End to a Tumultuous Career
Jayne’s wild and sometimes chaotic life came to a tragic end on June 28th, 1967. She had been suffering from alcoholism, and the only work she could find included engagements singing in clubs and on the small stage. On June 28th Jayne was taking-part in such an engagement, singing for the patrons at the Gus Stevens Supper Club, Biloxi, Mississippi. After the show had finished, Jayne proceeded to travel across country for her next appointment, accompanied by her then-lover Sam Brody, her driver, Ronnie Harrison, and three of her children Miklos, Zoltan and Mariska. The car they were all traveling in eventually ran into the back of a large tractor-trailer, killing Jayne, Sam and Ronnie. Her three children, whom were situated on the back seat of the car, all survived.

Jayne will be forever known as one of the true blonde bombshells of the vintage Hollywood movie industry, and it’s just a shame that her intelligence was never given a chance to shine through without her having to “dumb down” her demeanor and achievements to obtain notoriety. If your interest has been piqued by the life of Jayne Mansfield, it is suggested you try to source a copy of the perhaps a little lame, but nonetheless entertaining and kitsch made for TV biopic entitled “The Jayne Mansfield Story” – if only for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role as Mr. Universe, Mickey Hargitay.