Jayne Mansfield 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 1950s and early 1960s 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.
Jayne Mansfield was born Vera Jayne Palmer on April 19, 1933, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. She was the only child of Herbert William Palmer and Vera (Jeffrey) Palmer. Jayne spent her early childhood in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, At the age of 12, she took lessons in ballroom dance.
While in high school, Jayne took lessons in violin, piano and viola. She also studied Spanish and German. She consistently received high B’s in school (including mathematics). She graduated from Highland Park High School in 1950. 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 modeling 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 later went on to study Italian in 1963. 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.
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 1960s, 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 on June 29, 1967 at the age of 34.
- The Girl Can't Help It (1956)
- Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957)
- The Wayward Bus (1957)
- Too Hot to Handle (1960).
- Promises! Promises! (1963)
Click on the thumbnails to enlarge:
Back to "Sweater Girl Profiles" Main Page: