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Jayne Mansfield

Jayne Mansfield Documentary

Jayne_MansfieldMansfield in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

Jayne Mansfield (born Vera Jayne Palmer; April 19, 1933 – June 29, 1967) was an American actress in film, theatre, and television. She was also a nightclub entertainer, a singer, and one of the early Playboy Playmates. She was a major Hollywood sex symbol of the 1950’s and early 1960’s and 20th Century Fox’s alternative to Marilyn Monroe who came to be known as the “Working Man’s Monroe.” She was also known for her well-publicized personal life and publicity stunts, such as wardrobe malfunctions. She was one of Hollywood’s original blonde bombshells, and, although many people have never seen her movies, Mansfield remains one of the most recognizable icons of 1950s celebrity culture.

Mansfield became a major Broadway star in 1955, a major Hollywood star in 1956, and a leading celebrity in 1957. 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 1955–56 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).

With decreased demand for big-breasted blonde bombshells and an increased negative backlash against her over-publicity, she became a box-office has-been by the early 1960’s, but she remained a popular celebrity, continuing to attract large crowds outside the United States and in lucrative and successful nightclub acts. 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, with whom she had a daughter. She was the mother of three children from her second marriage to actor–bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay. She had a son with her third husband film director Matt Cimber. In 1967, Mansfield died in a car accident at the age of 34.

Early life and Education

full-jayne-mansfieldJayne Mansfield was born Vera Jayne Palmer on April 19, 1933, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She was the only child of Herbert William (1904–1936), of German ancestry, and Vera Jeffrey Palmer (1903–2000), of English descent. Vera Jeffrey’s father, Elmer E Palmer, was from the largely Cornish area of Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, where he was involved with the slate industry. She inherited more than $90,000 from her maternal grandfather Elmer ($736,000 in 2014 dollars) and more than $36,000 from her maternal grandmother Alice Jane Palmer in 1958 ($294,000 in 2014 dollars). Jayne spent her early childhood in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, where her father was an attorney who practiced with future New Jersey governor Robert B. Meyner. In 1936, when Jayne was three years old, Herbert William died of a heart attack while driving a car with his wife and daughter. Following his death, Jayne’s mother worked as a teacher. In 1939 Vera Palmer married sales engineer Harry Lawrence Peers and the family moved to Dallas, Texas, where Jayne was known as Vera Jayne Peers. As a child she wanted to be a Hollywood star like Shirley Temple, as did many other young girls of her time. At the age of 12, she took lessons in ballroom dance.

Jayne graduated from Highland Park High School in 1950. While in high school, Jayne took lessons in violin, piano and viola. She also studied Spanish and German. She consistently received high Bs in school (including in mathematics).[27] She married Paul James Mansfield on May 10, 1950. Their daughter, Jayne Marie Mansfield, was born on November 8, 1950. After marriage, Jayne and Paul enrolled in Southern Methodist University to study acting, where, lacking finances to afford day care, they carried around their daughter Jayne Marie. In 1951, she moved to Austin, Texas, with Paul Mansfield, and studied dramatics at the University of Texas at Austin, until her junior year. While attending the University of Texas, she worked as a nude model for art classes, sold books door-to-door, and worked in the evenings as receptionist of a dance studio. While studying and trying to earn a living, she joined the Curtain Club and was active at the Austin Civic Theater. The Curtain Club was a popular campus theatrical society at that time and featured Tom Jones, Harvey Schmidt, Rip Torn, and Pat Hingle among its members.

In 1952, she moved back to Dallas, and for several months became a student of actor Baruch Lumet, who was father of director Sidney Lumet and founder of the newly founded and now defunct Dallas Institute of Performing Arts. Lumet called Jayne and Rip Torn his “kids”, and seeing her potential, provided her private lessons. Then she spent a year at Camp Gordon, Georgia (a US Army training facility) while Paul Mansfield served in the United States Army Reserve in the Korean War.They moved to Los Angeles in 1954, where Jayne studied Theater Arts at UCLA during the summer, and returned to Texas to spend the fall quarter at Southern Methodist University. She managed to maintain a B grade average, between a variety of odd jobs, including selling popcorn at the Stanley Warner Theatre, checking hats, teaching dance, vending candy at a movie theater (where she caught the eye of a TV producer), part-time modelling at the Blue Book Model Agency (where Marilyn Monroe was first noticed), and working as a photographer at Esther Williams’ Trails Restaurant. At Trails she earned $6 plus 10% of her sales ($53 in 2014 dollars each evening taking pictures of patrons. Frequent references have been made to Mansfield’s very high IQ, which she claimed was 163. She spoke five languages, including English. She spoke French and Spanish, German that she learned in high school, and she studied Italian in 1963.[43] 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.

Early Career

jayne-mansfield-jayne-mansfield-30524395-624-452Height 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.” Mansfield accepted a bit part in a B-grade film titled Prehistoric Women (produced by Alliance Productions, alternatively titled The Virgin Goddess) in 1950. 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.

While at UCLA, she entered the Miss California contest (hiding her marital status), and won the local round before withdrawing. 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.

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. 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. In 1954, she auditioned at both Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. for a part in The Seven Year Itch, but failed to impress. She also auditioned at Paramount for Joan of Arc—a project that never completed—and failed again. That year, she landed her first acting assignment in Lux Video Theatre, a series on CBS (An Angel Went AWOL, October 21, 1954). In the show, she sat at the piano and delivered a few lines of dialogue for $300 ($3,000 in 2014 dollars).

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. 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 Paige and Anita Ekberg. 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.

In August 1956, Paul Mansfield claimed custody of their daughter, claiming Jayne was an unfit mother because she appeared nude in Playboy. In 1964, the magazine repeated the pictorial. 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).

Film Career – Career Beginnings (1954–55)

640px-Jayne_Mansfield_Barry_Coe_1962Mansfield and Barry Coe in Follow the Sun (1961)

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 2014 dollars). 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. The contract initially paid her $250 a week ($2,000 in 2014 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. 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). Dissatisfied with the Warner contract, she hired attorney Greg Bautzer to get out of it.

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. 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. 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. It was Kellman’s first major venture, and he claimed to have “discovered” Mansfield.

Film Stardom (1955–58)

240px--Will_Success_Spoil_Rock_Hunter_trailer.ogvMansfield in the trailer for Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)

FracturedjawMansfield in The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1959)

Mansfield returned to Hollywood on May 3, 1956, wearing a $20,000 mink coat ($173,000 in 2014 dollars) but without any work. 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, their resident blonde bombshell, who was separated from the studio at the time. However, she 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). 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. 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 ($867,000 in 2014 dollars) and shut the production of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? down after 444 performances. 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.

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.

In 1957, Tashlin cast in the film version of the Broadway show, co-starring Tony Randall and Joan Blondell. She reprised her role of Rita Marlowe in the film version of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?. 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.

Mansfield’s fourth starring role in a Hollywood film was in Kiss Them for Me (1957), in 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. It also marked one of the last attempts by 20th Century-Fox to publicize her.

The continuing publicity surrounding Mansfield’s physical appearance failed to sustain her career. She 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. In 1958, Fox gave Mansfield the lead role as Kate opposite Kenneth More in the western spoof The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw. Although it was filmed in 1958, it was not released in the United States until 1959. The film required Mansfield to sing three songs, but since she was not a trained vocalist, the studio dubbed Mansfield’s voice with that of singer/actress Connie Francis. When released in the United States, it became her last mainstream film success. Thereafter, Fox attempted to cast Mansfield opposite Paul Newman in Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys!, his ill-fated first attempt at comedy. After intense lobbying by Newman and Joanne Woodward she was replaced by Mansfield’s Wayward Bus co-star Joan Collins.

Career Decline (1959–63)

Jayne_Mansfield_Playgirl_after_DarkMansfield in Too Hot to Handle (1960)

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.

In 1959, Fox cast her in two independent gangster films in England: The Challenge and Too Hot to Handle. Both films were low-budget, and their American releases were delayed. 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. ℗ is your source to learn about the broad and beautiful spectrum of our shared History.